It’s been nearly 5 years since the last full length release from Creepsylvania’s splatterthrshing maniaxe, and I can say right off the bat it has been worth the wait.
For those unfamiliar with Ghoul, they play thrash metal laced with gore, that is about as subtle as a kick in the nuts, and just as effective. Imagine if someone locked Municipal Waste and Exhumed in a garage full of beer and told them to write a metal soundtrack for The Toxic Avenger, that is what Ghoul sound like.
For those who are familiar with the previous albums, and for whatever reason are worried that Ghoul might have grown up and slowed down, perhaps thrown in a couple of ballads? well rest assured that Dungeon Bastards is as much proof as you could ever need that that will never happen. From the first riff it’s clear that this is business as usual.
Saying business as usual implies that there are no surprises here and whilst in some respects that is pretty much the case, there are some noticeable changes that I will get into later. But overall these songs sound more or less exactly like you expect Ghoul songs to sound, but that is in no way a bad thing, after all the words “Thrash” and “Gore” don’t exactly belong in the same sentence as the words “New” and “Progressive”. These guys came to party old school, and that’s exactly what they have done.
Getting down to what is different about this outing, the one big difference to the previous efforts that immediately sticks out to me is the production. After the great intro sample, from the moment the first riff punches out the speakers its clear to my ears that this is a much beefier and higher quality production than the band has previously had, which is a big improvement to the overall sound. It’s still nice and raw and not over polished, but with a real nice low end crunch on the guitars, pounding drum sound and crisp vocals, it just seems to have a lot more balls to it than I have come to expect, and that is a change that is very welcome.
Along with the beefier tones, I found that this album has more of the old school death metal edge to it than previous efforts, with some sections showing the band wearing their classic Carcass influences on their sleeves, and again this is a welcome change, and is very well implemented in that it is nowhere near death enough to alienate their die hard thrash fan base, but is just enough that it will almost certainly turn some old school death metal fans onto this album.
Aside from these changes I have to say that to me the main difference has to be that the album is just… well… for lack of a better word, it’s just better. The sound is better, the songs are better, the pacing is better, overall it’s just a better album in pretty much every respect than any of the previous ones in my opinion.
Ghoul have always had a strong comical element, and with tracks like “Ghoulunatics” and “Guitarmageddon” that element is still as prominent as ever, it just feels with this one that they have tightened up all the other elements of the band and are taking the musical side of things more seriously.
To sum up, in my opinion this is the best thing Ghoul have put out to date. If you are already a dedicated Ghoulunatic then there is no question you will love this album and should pick it up. If you have never checked out Ghoul before, then this album is the perfect point to get on board.
(8.5/10 Mark Gleed)