Pennsylvanian weirdos Rumpelstiltskin Grinder have been at the fringes of the retro thrash scene since their debut in 2002. The band has often been compared to old-schoolers such as DRI and SOD, or more recently Municipal Waste. As my last couple of reviews might have hinted, I have little patience for re-thrash at this point, and I was kind of dreading this album. Lucky for me, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder has more going on musically on their new album Ghostmaker than the label would imply.
What’s going on here is definitely rooted in good ol’ thrash metal, but RG (fuck you, I’m not typing it again) has broken the mold by bringing other influences to the table. Vocalist/bassist Shawn Riley’s voice has devolved into a blackened roar, inspired more by black metal than thrash. Props must also be given to guitarists Ryan Moll and Matt Moore for coming up with some inventive riffs here. They’re not overly technical, but they’re fast as fuck, and yet still groove and make you nod your head a little. The lead work on this album is also stellar, chock full of harmonized solos and squealy bits, recalling the likes of Chuck Schuldiner and/or Dimebag Darrell. I’m not sure what the division of labor was between Moll and Moore, but it’s safe to say that both these guys shred.
It’s a fun ride: opener “Those Who Are Unseen” is pure blackened thrash, and almost ridiculously fast. Mosh-worthy rhythms rear their head on the title track, “Fucking Wild” and “Get out of My Grave,” creating a hybrid of ‘80s mosh and ‘00s grimness. “Cold Haunting Death” recalls, well, Death, and album closer “Desert Goblins” reeks of Sons of Northern Darkness-era Immortal. These tunes may be dressed up in black metal clothing, but the skeleton beneath still has those old-school beats that’ll have you doing the Toxic Waltz in no time. Is RG from an alternate universe where über-kvlt black metal dudes throw keggers and know how to have fun? Are they really Pantera wearing corpsepaint? The world may never know. The fact that the riffs and vocal lines are catchier than herpes certainly doesn’t hurt either.
On a less positive note, the album has a strange mix to it, with Patrick Battaglia’s drums being especially buried. This is never a good thing. Giventhat members of RS have been hyping Ghostmaker as such a step up from the previous album in every possibly way, I find it curious that the sound quality is actually slightly shittier.
Overall, Ghostmaker is that rare album that actually makes good on those “it’s heavier/faster/better/etc” promises that every band makes when they release something. It’s also an interesting evolution for a band inspired by old-school thrash, especially considering that they were able blend various influences into something cohesive and relatively unique (and it’s certainly more interesting than listening to some band of shitheads try to remake Reign in Blood for the 400th time). So if you’re interested in checking out something fairly cool, don’t let the stupid band name put you off (seriously, what the fuck?), and give Ghostmaker a listen. [On behalf of all of us at AMG, I apologize for F.A.G.’s filthy potty mouth. Thrash gets him all verklempt. – Steel Druhm] [On behalf of all of us at AMG, I apologize for Steel Druhm’s sensitivity towards a little dirty language. Apparently, he’s actually a Mennonite. – AMG]