Ghoul meld thrash metal to just about every heavy-handed subgenre imaginable, from squealing pig-fuck to death metal to hardcore. And while a seasoned Forced Entry/Exhorder/Death/Megaforce/Carcass/etc. enthusiast will recognize the Nods To The Gods the quartet throw out there, it would interesting to find out what newbies think of this simmering brew. I remember sleeve-tatted kids going nuts over Himsa’s mix of the old and the new (I should mention that’s where the connection between the two bands ends); will Ghoul get the same level of recognition? In any event, they should; Transmission Zero holds gold-standard value for anyone remotely receptive of metal-based products.
Did I ever think I was going to mention Forced Entry in a review again, except to possibly make fun of them and their forbearers? Absolutely not, but it gives me more pleasure than any of you could possibly know to be doing so. Not just because quirky, thrashy, trashy-yet-sinister, quasi-mystical metal is flat-out a lot of fun, but because Ghoul manage such exciting explorations of it that I find myself having little break-throughs while I’m listening to them (or, more accurately, viewing them through the Palantír that is Transmission Zero). Best of all, the onslaught is absolutely relentless. One thing Ghoul do not believe in is silence, or build-up, or even foreshadowing. It’s all systems GO-FUCKING-GO (motherfucker!), guitar riffs twisting like spiral staircases, vocals smacking of satan, and drums pounding and pummeling. We’re even treated to an odd synth or two, a practice not at all as frowned-upon as it once was.
Let us not forget the lyrics; they are scare-larious, notable both for passages like “Ritual candles anointed/ With the blood of a sacrificed cock,” “Writhing and moaning, puddles of red/ Slitting their throats to ensure they were dead,” and “Now your mind has come unglued/ And your trust fund balance is down the tubes/ There’s only one thing you can do/ Commit yourself, submit yourself … Enslave yourself and save yourself” — and the fact that, unlike SO MANY second-tier metal vocalists of any age, the vocals all fit perfectly within the delicate pocket afforded them by the instrumentals. There’s no ranting, no lines that feel jammed into a tight space because the lyricist didn’t want to take the time to smooth everything over. (You’d be amazed how common that is in metal, in general.) Moreover, Digestor (that’s the singer’s name… ?) flits between vocal styles skillfully, and when his bandmates join in it only enhances the flavor. Occasionally something might slip through the cracks — a hiccup here, a misstep there — but for the mighty majority Ghoul manage to render their compositions shocking, compelling, and HEAD-BASHING in equal measure.
That the LP is accompanied by 3D glasses and images, gatefold cover complete with full lyrics, insane cover art smacking of Morbid Angel and Mad Magazine, a poster, and a Joe Meek-/psych-style back cover only betrays how much forethought goes into Ghoul’s presentation. While labels like ‘cosmic’ or ‘sci-fi metal’ don’t apply to them as they do to fellow up-and-comers like Servile Sect, they do attain a certain spiritual quality when they detour from splitting heads and decapitating baby ducks. Those are the moments I enjoy most of all, yet it’s never a drag when the engine revs up again, as it always indubitably does.