On the heavy music spectrum, Ghold sits somewhere between Ufomammut’s galaxy-sprawling hell sludge and Conan’s battle-ready doom metal.
Make no mistake, though: Ghold sits alone atop their own peculiar mountain.
And if you crank up PYR loud enough, so loud, so inhumanely loud that you forget that Electric Wizard ever released anything past Let Us Prey, your jaw will hit the floor and so will you. Then, as you come to, you’ll uncoil the slip of paper that slithered from between your lips while you were out, and it will read: “PYR, the album that just bludgeoned you to life, may one day be regarded as a sludge metal classic.”
The UK trio’s third LP, and first for guitarist Oli Martin, is filled to the brim with barbaric roars and screams, adventurous arrangements, inventive riffs that grind and plod and churn, tidal waves of bass, bone-cracking drummatics, and a healthy dose of noise, which is largely responsible for the album’s distinct, otherworldly feel.
“Collusion with Traitors” begins with a soft drone that gets wiped from memory once the band loses patience and drops in with the force of an exploding city. While this 11-minute garden of wicked delights is one hell of a warm-up, the best of PYR is yet to come.
With riffs like chomping rusty jaws and an alarm sound that snarls between the beats, “Blud” gets progressively faster until it locks into an awesome half-time groove. Then, seemingly unsure of what to do next, the band goes berserk like a malfunctioning machine, ending the 5-minute ditty with a disorienting clobberfest.
The first couple minutes of the nasty “CCXX” is a tar pit of tortured riffing. But hidden within is a simple blink-and-you’ll-miss-it drum fill that soon becomes the basis for the song’s most brutal excursion. An ominous, noodling bass line rises after a chorus of agonizing bellows, and a stark, mid-paced drum solo ties everything up with a nice black bow. Were PYR a three-song effort, “CCXX” would be its crown jewel.
But it ain’t. And so that honor belongs to last boss “Despert Thrang”—all 21 minutes of it.
Hopefully, your neck isn’t too sore by this point, because you’re about to get some heavy use out of it. While you’ll be treated to galactic ambience, medieval chanting, a rude jab of noise, and riffs forged with blood and thunder from the get-go, you’ll want to be prepared when the 8-minute mark rolls around—you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get there. Oh, and one more thing: good luck getting that chunk of sludge metal heaven out of your head.
As the madness subsides, a regal bass line carries you to the depths of some unearthly cavern, haunted by the wails of Rose Dagul. And just when you think Ghold is going to slip gently away into the shadows—if you’ve made it this far, you know they don’t stand for that kind of crap—they ratchet up the tension: the drums pound randomly and mercilessly away, and the bass looms like a malevolent mass, leaving you to chew your nails as you try to figure out what’s going to happen next. And then, boom—everything goes black.
Over 46 minutes that feels more like 30—time flies when you’re having fun—Ghold not only delivers one of the best albums of 2016, but turns the sludge metal genre on its big fat head. Glory be to Ghold.
Released: May 6, 2016
Label: Ritual Productions