22nd June 2014 – Pest Productions
China is not a nation known for its metal scene, but lately there has been an increase in exposure for bands from the region, which seems to have coincided with more bands from outside of the country playing in major areas.
Bands such as Zuiraake, Yn Gizarm, and Tengger Cavalry have been representing China’s black metal subculture in recent years, but there is another new band plying their trade in the scene: Ghost Bath, from Chongqing City.
Their self-titled EP released last year grabbed some label attention, and their full length debut album Funeral saw release this past February. It was subsequently picked up by Pest Productions, and re-released through them in June.
It is pretty clear what drives this band: their name refers to an act of suicide by submerging in a body of water. Funeral is, through and through, a depressive/suicidal black metal album. As a genre it is a difficult thing to do, because it can end up being extremely uninteresting given the reliance on repetition and atmosphere. On Funeral, however, Ghost Bath avoid these clichés and instead have crafted an extremely interesting, and refreshing take on the genre. Rather than relying on repetition and dreay atmosphere, it is almost uplifting and positive in a way, except for tiny things here and there that twist it into a hideously unsettling work of depressive art. For example, the opening guitar part for the song “Funeral” is almost a nice pleasant clean arpeggio, except for some notes getting de-tuned ever so slightly, just enough to turn it into an extremely eerie sounding passage.
Comparison should be made to the Georgian band Psychonaut 4, who are a more riff-based depressive black metal band, which is what Ghost Bath seem to be. However, where Psychonaut 4 feel drugged out and woozy, Ghost Bath call the natural world to assist, invoking a more forested feeling. There are some very pretty melodies in here, laced over with haunted sorrowful howls, and the notes used are very unexpected in places, breaking away from tired old clichés.
Compositio ally, Funeral feels like an immense journey – almost like a concept album. The songs flow together and form a narrative of sorts, starting with a tortured depressed soul, seeing them end their own life, a burial and mourning period for them, then the perspective of their tormented spirit as it moves on into the afterlife, and finally on to a final death. The song “Afterlife” is complete silence, and the album ends with choking sounds on the song “Forever” which is a bit cliched, but is a fitting way to end the music.
The mixing and production here is really well done. The only way to describe it would be ‘the feeling of complete freedom and liberation of the spirit’. In a genre where ‘oppressed and claustrophobic’ is the norm, Funeral is a wonderful breath of fresh air.
Depressive black metal is probably the most difficult genre to break new ground in, and most bands that delve into the genre rarely manage an output of more than one or two albums. Ghost Bath’s debut is a powerful and haunting take; one that makes new roads while acknowledging the old ones. Whilst some tracks are almost disturbing in their tone, others are much more pleasant, and the overall effect is an album that creates a dark, harrowing journey through sorrow, self-hate, and the final release of death. There are shades of Psychonaut 4 and perhaps even Shining, but Ghost Bath have truly created a sound all their own.
Best songs: “Burial” | “Dead” | “Calling”