Ghoul is one of those acts that have earned considerable acclaim within the underground scene, but still remain a relatively unknown cult act to most, due in part to limited coverage, being on a smaller label (All of the band’s three previous full-length releases were released through Razorback Records) and the band’s take on humour and horror over a death/thrash/grindcore musical template.
After five years of virtual inactivity from the band, the four piece Creepsylvania (Romania) based outfit (By way of Oakland, California, U.S.) broke their silence by signing up with underground label Tankcrimes, and announcing their follow-up to 2006’s ‘Splatterthrash’ with ‘Transmission Zero’.
Ghoul (Who comprise of Impaled guitarist/vocalist Sean ‘Digestor’ McGrath, vocalist/guitarist Dan ‘Dissector’ Randall, Impaled vocalist/bassist Ross ‘Cremator’ Sewerage and vocalist/drummer Dino ‘Fermentor’ Sommese) have often been seen as nothing more than a parody act, albeit one that knows how to string together some strong riffs and melodies. In other words, Ghoul has always been a band of substance, rather than image (Although their image has always been a strong part of their horrific/humour shtick). And for the most part, ‘Transmission Zero’ sees the band maintaining that high standard of musical accomplishment before image. But in saying that, while Ghoul have managed to maintain a high standard, ‘Transmission Zero’ does show some cracks in the band’s foundation in places, which makes for a solid, but ultimately inconsistent new release from the band.
The opening instrumental ‘The Lunatic Hour’ is an early highlight on the album with its meaty mid-paced thrash riffs mixed with classic ‘80’s speed induced crossover sounds, while the follow-up track ‘Off With Their Heads’ picks up where the former track trails off in perfection, with the tongue in cheek horror lyrics balanced nicely with a sound that veers more towards a modern death/thrash sound, with just a hint of black metal mixed with crossover thrash on the vocal front.
Although far from amazing, the groovier and melodic ‘Destructor’ is a solid and likeable track that features enough riffing to keep things from sounding too generic and forgettable (Although the occasional use of Cylon (‘Battlestar Gallactica’) effects on the vocals is kind of unnecessary), while the punkish blast of ‘The Mark Of Voodoo’ is a welcome blast of sheer bludgeoning horror thrash.
Both ‘Brain Jerk’ and ‘Blood Feast’ bring to mind latter day Exodus with their mid-paced tempos and gang vocals, which isn’t so much a bad thing, and works in its own way, while the faster paced title track ‘Transmission Zero’, the savage and more grindcore influenced ‘Tooth And Claw’ and the infectious ‘Metallicus Ex Mortis’ are examples of where the band really hit the mark in terms of writing some truly outstanding tunes, without losing any of their trademark humour.
Unfortunately, not everything on the album is quite so inspired. The metallic rockabilly vibe of the rather short ‘Death In The Swamp’ is fairly predictable and lacklustre at best, and the lengthy ‘Morning Of The Mezmetron’ is really a struggle to get through with its dooming musical approach, and the band’s attempts to project a creepier atmosphere with what adds up to nothing more than b-movie atmospherics and clichés.
‘Transmission Zero’ isn’t a terrible album – in fact it’s far from it. But with the inclusion of a couple of less than stellar efforts, Ghoul’s latest doesn’t eclipse the greatness of their former efforts.
Despite that, if you like Horror/humour that does offer something a little more credible on the musical side of things to almost all parody acts; you could do a whole lot worse than this.
© Justin Donnelly