Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Solitude Aeturnus. OK, nevermind. Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of Solitude Aeturnus. For those who know every album, every song, and every band member who ever filled the ranks of Solitude Aeturnus, how many of you remember drummer-turned-bassist Lyle Steadham? Like a metal version of VH1’s Where Are They Now?, let’s head out into the Texas night and see if we can’t find good ole Lyle. Shhhh… listen… do you hear him creeping about like the Fouke Monster? He stalks through the brush like an apparition of his former self. Once the bassist of the Texas doom legends, he’s now Count Lyle Blackburn: actor, author, and mainman of hellbilly/psychobilly/goth rock/Spaghetti Western-metal greats, Ghoultown. Few have incorporated Ennio Morricone’s flavorings into the goth rock sound of Danzig. Few have written theme songs for the Mistress of the Dark. Few have kept the attention of grumpy Doc Grier for as long as they have. And, when I say “few,” I mean “few.” Now that you know where Lyle is, shut the fuck up and let’s hear what he has to say.
I can’t quite explain why I’m so taken to Ghoultown. Be it their debut EP Boots of Hell or their last release, 2008’s Life After Sundown, I feel a strong connection to these undead cowboys. Perhaps it’s their schtick. Or, perhaps, it’s that Ghoultown sound—that sound that “sounds” like the Southwestern desert. In the end, it’s something that speaks to this wind-whipped Arizona boy. Their combination of isolation and fuck-it-all attitude kicks up dust, helps one push through the searing heat, and reminds you that there’s one place that remains cold in this godforsaken place. And it’s holding your beer. Ghoultown is that band you always want playing at the bar as you take a detour home. Ghoultown is a reminder that shit happens, shit people exist, and all the shit can fuck right off. Their newest album, like all before it, is here to help you put the middle finger to your day, to the weather, and to all those motherfuckers out there. But, Ghoultown fucks the world in a fun way.
“Apparition” gets the horse saddled with a short, instrumental mood setter. It has the band’s signature Western vibe and trumpet support; signaling the follow-up track to let loose. And let loose, it does. “Southern Son” takes off with all the typical, rocking representations of a Ghoultown opening track. Lyle’s chorus echoes across the tumbleweed-ridden main street, the galloping guitars toss dust at sun-parched bystanders, and the trumpets bring gunslinging zombies up from their graves. Then “Ghost of the Past” arrives as the uppercut to the “Southern Son” jab. “Ghost of the Past,” “Blood, Bullets, and Whiskey,” and “Stick to Your Guns” have everything the quick-drawing undead could want from a Ghoultown track. All have some serious groove, sing-along choruses perfect for a Texas saloon, and attitude enough to challenge the living dead to a drinking game.
While these three might be my favorite, as far as clenching fists and instigating barroom brawls are concerned, it’s the vibe and choruses of “Cuchillo,” “I Am the Night,” and “Black-Lung Revival” that have me hooked. “Cuchillo,” in particular, achieves the exact sound that comes to mind when one thinks of Ghoultown. Its riffs gallop across hopeless sand, dragging the trumpet along much like Tuco does with “Blondie.” It even has those background vocals so common to Morricone’s Spaghetti Western era. Though it may be the type of sound you expect from the band, they’ve never achieved it as well as they have here. “Black-Lung Revival” also has some uniqueness to it—using clean guitars to introduce it and lead it up a steep build to its explosive conclusion. That epic build, midway through, is like nothing I’ve heard from the band before. And without that melodic bass and driving drum work, it wouldn’t have been possible.
In and around these tracks, “Vanishing Riders” acts as the perfect bookend to the opener, filling it with galloping licks and Morricone whistling. And Dirty Sanchez returns for another round of silly innuendoes in the “Revenge of Dirty Sanchez.” The latter reliving its Give ‘Em More Rope glory days. While everything is catchy and just as lively as it was back in 2001, “Black on Black” and the ballady “Tombstone” fall flat on these ears. This is mostly due to their oversimplification and go-nowhere choruses. But eleven out of thirteen songs, that I can chill/rock-out to, ain’t fucking bad. Ghost of the Southern Son may be a notch below the filler-less Life After Sundown, but it’s a helluva a good time. Give it a few spins and, soon enough, you’ll be punching barbed-wire fence like its strands were made of yarn.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Angry Planet Records
Websites: ghoultown.bandcamp.com | ghoultown.com | facebook.com/Ghoultown.official
Releases Worldwide: April 25th, 2017