Golden Number: Ghost Bath live in Kansas City, MO 07/20/16
Here’s an interesting question to ponder: in a post-Sunbather world, can post-black metal still flourish? Deafheaven’s monumental and underground-defining/dividing 2013 album changed the extreme metal landscape and it seems the groups that took particular influence from the album are now making their own ascent in the scene. Enter depressive/suicidal five-piece Ghost Bath, hailing from just about as north as one can get in North Dakota without being Canadian. To be clear though, Ghost Bath isn’t just some Deafheaven-worship band – on the contrary, most of the band’s sound comes from atmospheric and depressive black metal acts such as Austere, Woods of Desolation and even early Woods of Ypres. With three guitars and an occasional keyboard, Ghost Bath provided layer upon layer of black metal riffing to make for a loud-yet-effectively memorable show.
Ghost Bath took the stage to begin their set dressed in all white clothes, except for frontman Dennis Mikula, clad all in black. Launching into The Silver Flower (Parts 1 & 2), Mikula’s inhuman shrieks accentuated the back-and-forth musical style between softer, more atmospheric sections and raucous, riff-laden black metal that continued for their entire set. Happyhouse showcased Ghost Bath’s ability to slow things down and concentrate on mid-paced black metal, whereas Death And The Maiden was one of the band’s heaviest songs played that featured amazing blastbeat drumming – not an easy feat to pull off and keep in tempo in a live setting. A band like Ghost Bath relies on atmospherics as much as anything for their live shows, so luckily it was mixed near-perfectly for the Riot Room. No one instrument overpowered another and the vocals were audible enough, yet still in the background to give it a ghostly (pun intended) feel that worked wonders. The performance really hit its stride whenever the two guitarists flanking the stage would take a break from riffing and pull off a little more complicated guitar melodies – if only more bands could do it as well as Ghost Bath.
The penultimate song of the night was the sensational Golden Number which induced the most headbanging of the night and even some passionate singing along in the crowd, not particularly easy to do along with extreme music, let alone black metal. Accompanying the song was a chillingly-austere piano outro that served as the segue into the encore Burial, a track from Ghost Bath’s first album and probably the highlight of the entire night. A fitting capitulation that culminated in the audio equivalent of leaving a worn-down, lifeless body on stage after the performance of a lifetime. And really, unless Ghost Bath puts on a phenomenal show like this each night, who’s to say that’s not exactly what happened?
Opening the show were a trio of extremely impressive groups, each bringing something of their own to the stage. Local openers Aprilmist started off the night and were probably the most similar in sound to Ghost Bath, although the local foursome took more pages from atmospheric black metal than anything resembling shoegaze. The output was fantastic black metal with a cascadian feel but retaining all the riffs required. Honestly, Aprilmist is one of the most refreshing bands to come along in Kansas City’s burgeoning metal scene in a while, and that’s truly saying something. Seattle’s He Whose Ox Is Gored was the only group of the night that didn’t explicitly incorporate black metal into their sound – they were more of a mashup of technical/progressive metal with elements of stoner, sludge and metalcore – and it was a breath of fresh air and one of the greatest opening sets from a touring band in quite some time. Vocalist Lisa Mungo operated keyboards with dials and switches while screaming and singing her lights out while the rest of the band just went absolutely nutso. Three bands that came to mind during their set – Torche, Windhand, Kylesa. Like those three? You need to check this group out. Direct support fell to California’s Underling and were honestly the most straight-up, no-frills black metal band of the night. Riffs upon riffs upon riffs, but the band wasn’t afraid to throw in some slower, heavier parts that had everyone headbanging. Although they were extremely loud (probably the loudest band of the night) their take on black metal while putting a modern spin on it went over extremely well.
1. The Silver Flower, Part 1
2. The Silver Flower, Part 2
5. Death And The Maiden
6. Golden Number