Like Attending an Atmospheric Funeral
For a band that inadvertently and incorrectly marketed themselves as being a part of the Chongqing, China metal scene, Ghost Bath managed to sell their sound properly as a mixture of black metal and shoegaze. The mishap with their locale was partially due to their first full-length, Funeral, coming out on China-based label Pest Productions, but mainly due to band members choosing not to correct media for the incorrect designation.
When looked at as part of China’s metal scene, Ghost Bath stood out, in a sense. Their shrill yet brooding, “days spent mourning” style of black metal was slightly different than other acts in that category. However, as a band that is actually from small town North Dakota, Ghost Bath’s productions are akin to bands like Deafheaven, or, to a lesser extent, Asira. What they’d previously established with Funeral and its follow-up Moonlover, their newest release strays onto a more brash path.
In a way, Starmourner does complete the Ghost Bath trilogy established by the band’s former two albums, as it kicks off beautifully with the gazey piano instrumental “Astral.” More aligned with the predominant sounds on Moonlover, the track is entirely too peaceful for the songs that supersede it.
“Seraphic” quickly assaults as one of the “heavier” songs on the album, but it mostly establishes Starmourner’s incredible powerviolence influence among other genre splicing. Riffs are sped up and drum beats blast through in punk-ish style, but, sonically, the sound is still thin. Where there’s more than enough room to pack instrumentation, Ghost Bath instead extend tracks much longer than necessary, causing the overall feel to get real old real quick. “Celestial” and “Ambrosial” both have runtimes of over eight minutes, which wouldn’t necessarily be bad if they didn’t sound so similar. Piercing, unintelligible vocals are signature throughout, but make the middle chunk of songs sound all as one.
Starmourner’s lead single “Thrones” perfectly encapsulates what Ghost Bath likely intended to do with the rest of the album, tightly blending black, power and shoegaze metal mechanically in the light-to-dark, loud-quiet-loud song style. Album closer “Ode” does almost the same while heavily incorporating the same piano elements with which the album started.
Ghost Bath’s past comparisons to black metal and “blackgaze” were fair at the time, but Starmourner doesn’t necessarily live up to the contrasted hype. It has its strong moments collectively, but the near robotic and extended repetition of song elements knock it down a few spots on Ghost Bath’s discographical list.