When first discovering that Ghoul was releasing a new album, a friend of mine had this to say: “I didn’t realize Impaled… I mean, Ghoul, was still around.” Then, while phoning home recently, this was what my mother had to say about the new album: “Who in the fuck is Ghoul?” Whether surprised by the news of a new Ghoul release or not, one thing is for certain: my mom has a potty mouth. Little does she know that her foul mouth is the perfect condiment for this idiotic Ghoul sandwich. Combining death and thrash with the absurdities of GWAR, this California quartet has solidified themselves as the sewer-sucking morons of the “death metal” scene. That may sound harsh, but it’s actually a sincere compliment. Since first showing up on 2002’s We Came for the Dead!!!, Ghoul (the fictitious creatures) have had some exciting adventures in the silly town of Creepsylvania. But a new foe has been born and he has quite the love for war and supreme rule. Will Ghoul survive the idiotic shit about to occur? Will Creepsylvania be a smoldering crater once the smoke settles? Will Ghoul (the band) remember to focus more on the music than the story? Hmmm… Interesting questions indeed…
For those new to the band, the first mistake is to take Ghoul too serious. Do you want old-school death metal, brutal death metal, or some esoteric grind? Then stay away from the sewers of Creepsylvania. Ghoul is all about having fun and Creepsylvania is a sanctuary from all your worldly troubles. Just like that place Steel goes to when listening to Jørn [I was born in Jørn town. Gonna die in a Jørn town! – Steel Druhm]. Or that other place my daughter goes to when watching Paw Patrol. Creepsylvania is a silly little place that I enjoy absorbing myself into. The kooky lyrics, the slick riffs, the pummeling drums, and the barks, rasps, gang shouts, and hilarious whining; I love it all. And my appreciation for the band has not changed one iota since the first spin of Dungeon Bastards. It may not grab me the same was as 2003’s Maniaxe or 2006’s Splatterthrash, but Dungeon Bastards definitely trumps 2011’s Transmission Zero.
After the short narration of “Ghetto Blasters,” the band kicks the album into high gear. The remaining minute of the opener is a heavy, mid-paced, scene-setting chug. This is the kind of riffage that will be familiar to long-time fans as it represents Ghoul perfectly. From the opener to the closer, the band uses their death/thrash riffs to create a suitable environment for their ridiculous alter egos. Not all the riffs work, but at least they feel right within the album concept.
From here, we are exposed to the torrential downpour that is “Bringer of War” and “Shred the Dead.” The former is a stomping march that incorporates the band’s signature gruffs, rasps, and growls, while the latter unleashes Swashbuckle-esque gang-shouts and machine-gun riffs. Both are crushing but neither are capable of touching the ginormous thrasher, “Word is Law.” This track is like Splatterthrash‘s “Mutant Mutilator,” but heavier. To be quite honest, this might be the heaviest riff the band ever wrote, and its placement behind the mediocre “Blood and Guts” makes for one pleasant surprise. Plus it has the word “motherfucker” in it, so that’s cool.
Unfortunately, not everything works on Dungeon Bastards. The setup man (“Guitarmageddon”) and closer (“Abominox”) work, but the most of the album’s body is quite forgettable. I’ve listened to this more times than I care to mention, but the title track, “Ghoulunatics,” and “Blood and Guts” do not stick. They’re not shit, they’re just meh. But, surprising as it might seem—especially for a band dead-set on destroying your eardrums—the production has decent dynamics; allowing for a rather smooth transition from the heavy stuff to those eerie instrumentals. Said instrumentals may be missing those great Munsters-like surf riffs from Splatterthrash, but I think I’m the only one that liked them anyway.
But, if nothing from this review has piqued your interest, there is one final card up Ghoul‘s sleeve. The album includes a Creepsylvania board game. Yes, you heard me right and no, that band photo is not a joke. No clickbaiting, no bullshit. So, be sure to get yours today! Available while supplies last. Pick up that phone and call now!
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Tankcrimes Records
Websites: maniaxe.bandcamp.com | creepsylvania.com | facebook.com/ghoulunaticsasylum
Releases Worldwide: July 29th, 2015