Words by Frank Nelson
Artist – Ghost:Hello
Album / Label – The Color of Sound in Space / Unsigned
Rating – 7 / 10
Ghost:Hello doesn’t tell you; they make you feel The Sound of Color in Space.
I feel this review requires a slight disclaimer. Stoner rock and metal have always been somewhat intimidating for me, being a person that cannot partake in that sweet leaf. The only experience I have is when my old roommate brought home Dopesmoker by Sleep, which is an hour and fifteen-minute album containing two songs. I still cannot take part in the stoner part of stoner rock, so I had to get creative to get in the right headspace for this.
So, I did what any reasonable person would do; I took two extra strength Nyquil, waited about half an hour, lit a few candles, and threw the album on my speakers. And I have to say, it was certainly different than the other four times I had listened to it throughout my week.
This entire album is best experienced. There is no modifier to that, I just mean the album should not be casually listened to. At least not the first time. This was the mistake I made, and it didn’t really click with me. Then I got rid of all outside stimuli, sat down with the album, and finally experienced it. And it took me on a journey. The Sound of Color in Space may seem like nonsense until you realize the band is trying to convey a feeling that can’t properly be explained. It is just that, a feeling. This whole record feels like the sound of color in space, and I wish I had a better way to articulate that.
Luckily, Ghost:Hello has written an entire album about it.
The first five minutes contain no vocals. Alcubierre Metric, which takes its name from the theory of warp-speed space travel, is an atmospheric decent into what feels like a void. The same three notes echo above waves of electronic soundscape. It sounds like what I would imagine floating in zero gravity would feel like. The gentle yet somewhat eerie repetition bounces around for a little under two minutes, surrounding you completely until it slowly fades out as quickly as it came.
Then you are thrust into the groove of Fingerstache. The song sounds like it is being played through sludge. It feels like it should be faster paced than it is, but it simply won’t allow itself to, and that tension only heightens the appeal. The drums start very crisp, in stark contrast to the bass. Everything feels like it’s about to fall apart, then they reach equilibrium, and the heavily distortion is replaced with a clean guitar played over a lighter drum track. Synths begin lilting above the whole song, once again giving it an otherworldly aura. Everything begins to wane until the only thing to be heard is the distant cymbals, which lead directly into the next song.
Perfect is the first track to feature any vocals, and they are heavily altered to continue the ethereal and interstellar themes. The synth pulses through again, this time feeling a little more upbeat. They pick up the pace a little bit, but not enough to relieve the tension that they could at any point ramp it up. Things get right to the edge near the end of the song, with an assaulting bass riff that seems to never stop. They then grind to almost a complete stop as the line “I’m perfect in all ways” repeats while the instruments trudge along, sucking you back into that void.
The echoes of Perfect haven’t even completely disappeared before you are punched by The Mouth of the Gift Horse. This was a high point of the album for me, because it felt like the moment they had been building towards for the last three songs, and they were finally able to let loose. There’s still a healthy amount of chugging bass and Theremin, but it feels like the highest energy song on this stoner rock voyage through which the listener is taken. Only three lines of lyrics are found here. Right out of the gates, “I want to lick your wounds!” is screamed, followed by the dirty bass that has been found on every other track, but it feels the most at home here. Next is a call to action, “I want to feel you move.” A few bars more of the pounding riffs of the opening seconds, then a lead into the more atmospheric bridge. Finally, “I want to look into your soul, and see your doom.” Following this visceral image, the song slogs its way to the end, letting the final note tail off into the distance.
Bardo State again contains no lyrics from the band, this time opting for sound bites of speeches and interviews regarding religion, money, black magic, and more. All this is interlaced with a smooth drum line and a throbbing electronic beat. Bardo is a term from Buddhism, which means a transitional period between death and rebirth, so this songs placement in the middle of the album must be deliberate. It is a much calmer reprieve from the previous song, though the repetition of the same beat can begin to be unsettling. This is feeling of unease is amplified by the dissonance of the drums become slightly off beat with the electronic track. Some of the spoken audio has also been edited to glitch or skip, or it will loop at the end of a sentence, heightening this feeling.
Nemesis is the biggest departure from the rest of the album, and it comes at the perfect time. Combined with Bardo State, it breaks up the album to keep it from getting stale. The lyrics are excerpts from an H.P. Lovecraft poem of the same name, which explains the eeriness. Imagine for a moment you’ve awoken in the universe of Dune. You wander into a cave, and you hear tribal drumming and electronic sounds. As you move further in, you see a group of people huddled around a person who begins to chant/sing a story of the old world. They tell a story about where they have been, and the things they have seen. This is the sensation Nemesisbrings. The drum plays the same few bars through the whole song, and the sound of the synth crossing from one side to the other, floating in and out of the song seemingly at random.
Burnout picks right back up with the crunchy bass, snapping you back into the reality of the first four songs. Then the vocals come in. The heavily altered voice soars about the deep bass and drum, and it sounds like its coming directly from space. “We all burnout eventually,” the voice proclaims. The band drones on, until suddenly everything quickens like a chase scene. They rush toward something, though not sure what. Everything becomes chaotic, as though without the astral voice, the wheels are starting to fall off. Then it scrapes to a halt right before the end, allowing for one more deep riff to bring the song out.
The intro to Spit of Stars feels like whiplash after the up and down of Burnout. It comes out swinging and settles in very quickly. The vocals are back to a somewhat normal sound, bringing the listener closer still to reality after the journey through the cosmos of the last three songs. That isn’t to say the feeling of the cosmos is not present, it simply feels like a logical coming down point of an album that takes you all the way to another realm and back again. Just as the song feels like it will end, another synth driven riff pounds back in and we follow this quick minute of pure groove back into the final track, Poison Swan.
Poison Swan seems distant, and it creeps slowly toward an end. Everything sounds like its coming from somewhere far away, and every time you try to move closer, it simply moves with you. It is very calm, instruments fade in and out of the song as it gets slower and further away. Then it swells about halfway through as though it is suddenly right on top of you. The abrupt change startles you out of the false sense of security the first few minutes created. Some notes seem to be cut off prematurely, some seem to hang in the air longer than they should. Then it fades again, not quite reaching the calm lullaby of the beginning, but still subdued. The song swells once more in an unhinged fashion. It sounds like you’re surrounded by wind and the only thing you are sporadic drums and synths. Then it all falls away, and you are left with the remnants of the original riff, far away in the distance. It feels like someone closed the door to where the music was coming from as the album ends, leaving you wondering if there was something more you’ll never hear.
Ghost:Hello takes you on a journey to find The Sound of Color in Space and it is incredible that they can do so and tell a story with so few lyrically driven songs. The feeling of this album is encapsulated in every song, one way or another. It is a journey through time and space, that again, needs to be experienced, not simply listened to. You cannot fully appreciate this album by just listening to it on the bus or while you’re at the gym. You need to set about thirty-seven minutes of your day aside to properly feel the album. You will be taken to other planets, the void of space, the deserts of a far-off land, and back again, all in thirty-seven minutes.
I hope to be able to experience Ghost:Hello live soon, because I have no doubt it will only add another layer to this album.
- Alcubierre Metric
- The Mouth of the Gift Horse
- Bardo State
- Spit of Stars
- Poison Swan
Ghost:Hello – Spit of Stars