Ghost Bath is a band of many contradictions; a nameless vocalist & numerous lyric-less songs for a band making a name for themselves, piano pieces that serve as bookends for a work of black metal, themes of depression and sorrow with some uplifting, almost anthem-like songs. Then again, perhaps these are not so much contradictions as they are examples of dynamics of a band that is further pushing the envelope in a third wave of black metal.
Remember wave 1 included the likes of Venom and Bathory. Wave 2 included Mayhem and Darkthrone. Wave 3, as I identify it is marked by bands such as Alcest, An Autumn for Crippled Children and of course, Ghost Bath among others. These characteristics include more of a shoegaze element, memorable song structures and frequently uplifting melodies.
Starmourner is the new album released by Ghost Bath on Nuclear Blast. It serves as the second in line for a trilogy. The dynamic of Ghost Bath is further shown by black and death metal elements, various tempo changes (without over-doing it or going into “math metal”), harsh screams with the occasional delicate guitar and piano parts. Starmourner is an incomparable piece of work from an unapologetic (and rightfully so) band. They are humble gentlemen with a colossal sound. This is Ghost Bath. It’s really that simple.
We had the chance to interview the Nameless vocalist from Ghost Bath and this is what follows:
1. There appeared an article on Metal Underground that stated “Starmourner explores joy instead of sorrow, paradise instead of purgatory and the cosmos instead of earth. Most importantly, it explores ecstasy instead of tragedy and its basic human emotion.” I’ve personally noticed that the music is more uplifting, even anthemic at times. Why did you decide to take this direction with “Starmourner?”
GB: As the second part in the trilogy, I wanted to take a different approach. Instead of just writing Moonlover part 2, I had other ideas I wanted to explore both conceptually and musically. Although both albums explore different aspects of basic human emotions (tragedy, ecstasy, ect…) I think there is a common theme of depression and sorrow in both. Even with all of the “happy” sounding riffs and parts, I would definitely not call it a happy album; I still find it dark.
2. The first wave of black metal was characterized with bands like Venom and Bathory. Wave two included bands like Darkthrone and Burzum. It’s my theory that there is a third wave presently happening with characteristics like memorable song structures, more melody, even a shoegaze like effect. Such bands might be like Alcest, Autumn for Crippled Children, maybe even Ghost Bath. How do you feel about that theory and how you guys might fit in?
GB: I can see your thinking. My only additional comment would be to ask when does something become an entirely different genre or subgenre? Do subgenres count as a wave? I would add Germ, Austere, Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room, Silencer, Gallowbraid, ect…there are too many to name.
3. Please discuss the meaning behind the name “Starmourner.” Is this in reference to the direction to write about the cosmos as opposed to the earth?
GB: Yes. I’ve had the names of all three albums in the trilogy picked out before I recorded Moonlover. I think they are able to capture different aspects of being. Moonlover is from the perspective of someone on earth admiring the moon (I thought of this while wandering the graveyard across the street from my house in the middle of the night.) Starmourner is from the perspective of someone in an infinite dream where they can’t tell if they are awake or not in reality and find themselves extremely lonely. (The parables you can find on ghostbath.com help explain the narrative)
4. Are there any tracks off of the new album that might have been therapeutic to write but are so personal or painful that you refuse to play them live?
GB: I don’t think it really works for me that way. When I write the songs, I am certainly in a depressed state of mind. But they act as more of an escape than therapy. I wish for them to be cathartic but I find that they seem to help others through tough times more so than myself. If I had to pick a most painful part that I can remember writing, it would be the lullaby at the end of Elysian.
5. I read an article that said “Nameless vocal delivery doesn’t contain a single word to be interpreted.” Why was this a decision? Was the desired effect to use the voice more as an instrument or on an emotional level rather than simply lyrical?
GB: Exactly. I take inspiration from Sigur Ros (Iceland) for that idea. I love how they allow the listener to interpret their music however they wish. At the time of writing Moonlover, I felt that writing actual lyrics would only take away from the experience I wanted to put out there, so I didn’t write any. In Starmourner, I do have lyrics. They can be found as dialogue within the parables I wrote for each track.
6. Let’s say I stole each and every one of your guys’ Ipods. What sort of eclectic music would I find on each of them that may influence what Ghost Bath does?
GB: Personally, I’ve been getting into both death metal (mostly melodic) and vaporwave, hypnagogic, dark ambient stuff. Some recent things I’ve been listening to are: Cannibal Corpse, Pissgrave, Blood Incantation, Horrendous, Artificial Brain, 2814, Vektroid, Esprit, Macross 82-99, and 骨架的.zip (skeleton)….oh, and Van Halen.
I know our guitarist enjoys dark ambient stuff and death metal, but stuff more like Meshuggah, Hate Eternal, and Lustmord. Our other guitarist likes High on Fire, Uncle Acid…so does our bassist. Idk, I’d say we have a wide range of taste that is constantly changing.
7. When working on any of your albums, do you start off with the goal of creating an image based predominantly off of the music and secondarily the lyrics? In other words, if you were doing a show and your vocalist suddenly lost his voice, would you still like the listener to walk away with the same imagination or message?
GB: I think the vocals really help with contrast in our songs. I think the message would totally be changed. I am exploring human emotion and without a very essential human part, the voice, I think the experience would be much different.
8. Take 3 of the tracks off of Starmourner that are perhaps the most poignant to you and let the readers know the concept behind them.
GB: Elysian: I would say it is the most “Storytelling” track. The beginning starts of with a massive drum fill that I thing sort of acts like the rev of an engine to take you on the journey of this track. It is melodic, but I also think it’s pretty heavy. The parable I wrote along with it is about a human named Existence pondering why they deserve to live. And even with the stars themselves calling out to them, they choose to allow themselves to perish.
Cherubim: This track is not black metal at all. I wrote it to be very melodic and nostalgic. The riffs are reminiscent of popular melodies and other songs. The concept was a Cherub in heaven trying to get into the higher levels of paradise, but to do so he must send every other angel of his kind to hell, a tragedy of sorts.
Principalities: I made this to be the only instrumental track with the full band. The beginning is essentially a long build up and then release. The concept was an angel (a principality as the name implies) who had never pondered free will. She then makes the choice to cross the river of the planet that her sect of angels reside. This leads her to be separated from them forever.
9. Many years down the road, a long distant relative locates an old box in the attic of an old house. The box is labeled “Starmourner.” Inside the box is a copy of the album and something to play it on. What do you want them to know about the album and the legacy of your work?
GB: That is a very cool concept. I think that is the perfect situation in which to listen to this album. They would have nothing but the paintings, stories, and music to go off of -like some ancient religious text. I wish I could experience it in that way, I would be curious to see what I thought of such a thing.
10. The final word is yours. I’d like to thank you for your time in answering these questions. And try to make it to St. Louis this year if you can!
GB: We will do our best! Thanks for the interview! If you want to see all of the artwork and read the parables, you can go to ghostbath.com!