Self-Released (supposedly about to be rereleased on Goatowarex)
At this point I simply can not remember where I first heard about this band. It must have been on a message board or through some friend or by hearing about a connected group of musicians, etc. They didn't submit this to Erebus unasked, I remember that part...in any case, this promo CD-R is welcome in my CD player no matter where it originated from or what circumstances led it to arrive in my cramped little mailbox. Ghastly play a "traditional" form of '80s-influenced black thrash that often is more melodic than their Australian origin would lead you to believe possible (that is, if your musical comprehension or ability to trace stylistic paradigms skated along solely on stereotypes) - in fact pleasantly so - but which leaves more original, smoothly idiosyncratic territory on the third song here (fourth in the index, the intro being unlisted on the insert), "Black Demon", for an outright German/American thrash crossover, this being a Running Wild cover. So it would seem Ghastly do you, intrepid listener, the gratuitous favor of appointing influences to trace back into the mists of time with slide rule and riff charts/calculator, although - the way I see it - the cover is as much a bow towards their forerunners as it is a display of how far they have come from first inspirations and excitements. Fourth track, fifth on the index, "The Gateway Beyond", sounding like a cover song for all intents and purposes because of its differences from the first two songs here, "A Morbid Moon" (ear-pleasingly expert in its updating of '80s motifs with enough black metal in the vocals to suit this old soul) and "Haunting the Mortuary" (whose lyrics clash with the infectious, none-too-cruel blitheness of the riffing, but it's minor only in a matter of degree to the demo opener), a more conservative verse and chorus throwback than any of the other three save the Running Wild nod, with lyrics that make me think of Fulci's "The Beyond". If it is a cover and my metal knowledge fails me at this point, I can feel only a sort of dyspeptic half-remorse, the excellent punkish beginning lancing through echoing guitars and beating skins, anthemic all the while, rolling thunder chromatic transitions (just the tiniest hint of the black) at 1:29-1:58 towards a beautiful section at 2:55 that rides on the muffled double bass and a very slight dissonance in the guitars back up to militaristic march-style again, the core/meat of this song. Simplistic but effective songwriting.
"Morbid Moon' remains my favorite, however, even though it is clumsily-titled (you know, the whole Morbid/Dead/Freezing Moon/Mayhem unintentional - maybe - reference), the naive consonance once again throwing one's mind back to the '80s before irony and been-there-done-that faux-sophistication allowed the metal scene to show enthusiasm instead of ambiguity laced inside sarcasm inside self-referential labyrinths, everyone afraid of conforming to standards that disappear like sugar in water, over a cliff every millisecond...but no, "Morbid Moon" having the cojones to step up to the plate with a slow echoing proto-melody and then launch itself a first structure riff that is half-every band you've ever heard linked into hopelessly primordial thrash (Sodom filtered through Aura Noir on the edge of death by alcohol poisoning, one last lick flickering through an eclipsed mind), or it could just be Darkthrone again. Once again, simple yet effective. My favorite riff is the leading motif that launches "Haunting the Mortuary" (one's mind just wants to change "mortuary" into "chapel", doesn't it?), because it seems to promise so much with its fulgent nostalgia (listen to how it connects into its darker, older brother, the second verse melody, and prefigures the sledgehammer blow of the percussive rhythm at 2:21 and even more intense slice of death finishing at 3:45), but...one riff does not make a song, even in the '80s.
Ghastly will only improve. I certainly approve of their direction right now...