Ghastly – Death Velour (2018) REVIEW

To treat ‘Death Velour’ as a surprise would foully overlook the inspired beginnings, and excellent first album, of this Finnish death metal project born from members of progressive doom metal lords Garden of Worm. Initially entirely performed by Garden of Worm drummer Ian J. (Micke Suvanto) with vocals by longtime collaborator Gassy Sam (Sami Harju) Ghastly have added a second guitarist/vocalist and morphed what was initially Celtic Frost influenced death/doom metal on their ‘Death is Present’ demo in 2011 to a fully transcendental exit from reality. Set atop a snarling Morbus Chron empowered bout of psychedelia-festooned Finnish death metal, ‘Death Velour’ is a conceptually ripe blend of peak Autopsy chic guitar work and progressive rock-ambled pacing that builds upon the legacy of Finnish death metal’s early 90’s modus of the outlandish and unexpected.

Ghastly’s debut full-length ‘Carrion of Time’ had already exerted a similar state of shock in 2015, invoking a menacing old school psychedelic death metal record that was a leap beyond the standardized Finnish death metal of their 2013 7″ EP ‘Serpentine Union / The Divine Fire’. Ghastly hadn’t lost their Tom G. Warrior meets ‘Mental Funeral’ vibe on that first LP but I wouldn’t be surprised if some part of it’s oozing, slightly trippy style was inspired by the relative excitement surrounding ‘Sweven’. ‘Carrion of Time’ was an excellent record that, for whatever reason, didn’t collect the amount of hype that groups like Stench and Temisto did with similar conception. It’s a shame to miss any release from Me Saco Un Ojo Records, so if you’re already spinning and grinning at ‘Death Velour’ track down a copy of ‘Carrion of Time’ as well.

I try to be as vocal as possible about this, because it really matters in terms of giving underground music a ‘best foot forward’, but every death metal record should have strong visuals, artistic direction, and graphic design that is as polished and appealing as ‘Death Velour’. One of death metal’s most enduring artistic legacies is detailed commissioned hand-painted artwork and the detailed beauty adorning Ghastly‘s second album is the best possible introduction to the ebullient seas of graven death metal within. At it’s heart ‘Death Velour’ is a refinement of traditional Finnish death metal’s doom-bound aggression set alight with the mystic curse of Phlegethon‘s ‘Neutral Forest’ and the cryptic hollowness of Depravity‘s ‘Remasquerade’. Yet as much as I’d like to talk about bands like Xysma and Funebre all day Ghastly deserves mention alongside more obvious space-cadet companions like Execration and the now defunct Stench.

Whereas the unbridled aggression of ‘Carrion of Time’ lead to manic bursts of rage that clashed with sleepy, drip-fed escapism ‘Death Velour’ weaves it’s snake-like ‘Mental Funeral’ howled rants throughout Obliveon-esque otherworldly space. Plucked from the desiccated corpse of ‘Sweven’ and carved into fetishes to the gods of watery death, the harassment offered in the form of the far-out Ghastly death riff was readily familiar upon first listen. My first impressions bled out slowly as any associations with Swedish prog-death contemporaries died by direct comparison. Still, ‘Death Velour’ will fit snugly in the hands of establish fans of this style of crypt born and void-launched death metal.

The struggle of reviewing an album that I’m so enamored with is remaining objective to it’s inherent place in history or at least considering what reason any fan might have to be dismissive of it. It’s appeal didn’t manage to wane in my ears. There is no gross incompetency or stylistic mishap compelling me to knock an inch off Ghastly‘s accomplishment here. Without hesitation, ‘Death Velour’ is a perfect vision of death metal that finds appeal easily in it’s stoic appreciation for the Finndeath ancients as the band’s carefully modern ‘progressive’ exposition impresses throughout. There is an ease in it’s righteous outpouring that could only be born from a restlessness created by the limits of Garden of Worm‘s doom. It simply flows as joyously as the first pee after your third beer of the night.

Were I to start recommending tracks this’d turn into even more of an obtuse rant but I would say the most essential clinchers here are “Whispers Through the Aether”, and “Scarlet Woman” as each offers an extended listen with memorable passages throughout. To leave out any song feels like a mistake, though, as “Velvet Blue” and the reworked early demo track “Violence For the Hell of It” are equally memorable. There is simply no downside to this record’s tracklist, and it’s uniquely harrowing atmosphere is unrivaled in it’s modern vision of heaviness. My personal reaction to this record across several weeks has been equal to when I discovered Entombed‘s ‘Clandestine’ in the mid-90’s: I marveled at it’s art, it’s rhythms, and it’s riffs as if I’d been showered with several hundred dollar bills. I might be the perfect mark for Ghastly‘s style, though. Recommended it to fans of Morbus Chron‘s ‘Sweven’, Stench‘s ‘Venture’, Xysma ‘Yeah’, and more recent Horrendous records.

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Artist Ghastly
Type Album
Released April 20, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on 20 Buck Spin’s Bandcamp! Follow Ghastly on Facebook
Genres

Awakened by death. 5.0/5.0

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