Mind-altering sludge metal with menacing superiority, Born A Ghost’s haunting EP pushes the atmospheric limits of abrasion and experimentation.

Release date: January 2, 2023 | Independent | Facebook | Bandcamp

When digging deep into the post-metal stratosphere, you often come across some hidden talents that linger far too much in an obscure vacuum, making waves amongst more niche circles. Artists like this tend to encompass many unique musical and performative traits that could easily compete with similar, more widely recognised artists within the scene. A perfect example of a band that are fitting this bill right now is Tacoma, Washington’s Born A Ghost. Encapsulating the eerie and harsh droning grooves of bands like Cult of Luna, Neurosis, Oranssi Pazuzu, and Mizmor, Born a Ghost create haunting and capricious doom-laden sounds that borrow from many other genres such as psychedelic metal, black metal, post-hardcore, and stoner doom, constructing various layers of sonic malevolence.

Often described with some material as short and to the point, the band’s discography features a number of crushing singles like “Shun the Believer”, as well as a releasing two studio albums with their first 2020 extended EP SGNLS and 2021’s full feature-length follow-up The Beginning To An Ending. Born A Ghost have certainly shown their ability to produce fantastically constructed music in a short amount of time, and with their latest EP Stairway to an Empty Room, the look to be channelling this direct approach that highlights some of the most intoxicating, brutal, doom-infested music out there.

As the record begins, much of the atmospheric parts (particularly in the bass and synth sections) work to create a rather strange and outlandish feeling of unease; these sections work well when inviting the pummelling distorted riffs into the mix and the menacing vocal presence. “43”, for instance, amplifies the experimentation on this weird and disordered ambience, some distinctive melodies play around with harmonic minor scales to formulate a mysterious interval that is responded by abrasive chugging bass and guitar parts and hostile vocal lines. The rhythmic side of things seems very direct and fierce in its delivery, getting to the brunt of things with searing crash cymbals and marching phrases, “Halls of Disrepair” promises a nightmarish experience for the listener through deep, Neurosis-inspired atmospheres and the use of slow, trudging riffs.

This blend between the lurid psychedelic ambiences that evoke confusion and disarray and the crushingly sludgy refrains is somewhat alluded to as a catalyst for something more profound on this record, as it attempts to deal with themes of addiction, suicide, and spiritual consciousness. The title track “Stairway to an Empty Room” exemplifies this fusion between the two sonic characteristics by means of signifying a harsh sense of reality when dealing with the challenging nature of depression and suicide as it’s passed down through generations. The lyric ‘The seed will only relive the abuse, in his hands is a loaded gun, a passed down gift from father to son‘ really drives the conscious message of suffering and hopelessness home, and with the equally enhanced sense of desperation in the apprehensive instrumentation, you can really understand the song on a more profound level.

In a similar fashion, “When the Light Fades Again” offers a chilling interpretation on these issues in the unison chanting vocals that sing ‘wherever the path leads so shall you follow, wherever the path leads, there’s only sorrow‘ that resembles a dire state of being for one that follows spiritual slavery instead of freedom. A combination of eerie, inaudible voice samples are also added to effect here that works as a nice accompaniment for the dissonant guitar and bass refrains.

Certainly, a band to be keeping tabs of in the next few years. Born A Ghost have proven in a short space of time that they are more than capable of being one of the more interesting and experimental bands to break out of the post-metal underground. Their wistful blend of bewildering psychedelia and to-the-point sludge metal creates a unique catacomb of noise that allows the listener to become entrenched in a series of darkly enlightening sonic experiences that send you into a state of both confusion and reverence.

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