Please take a moment with me to enjoy the hell out of that album cover. It’s a thing of beauty, to be sure, and one can read many things into it about the music it might conceal: vibrant, complex, and eerie, to start with. And while the cover may not be A Feast for the Sixth Sense, it’s certainly a feast for the eyes. A Feast for the Sixth Sense is what Bay Area vets The Ghost Next Door want you to think their sophomore album is. Led by guitarist/singer Gary Wendt (who also founded 80s bands Sacrilege BC and Release, and played briefly with Skinlab), the band plays a thick, progressive, doomy style of stoner metal. Sounds like a lot to bite off, but it also sounds like a recipe for kick-assity.
What’s most interesting about Wendt isn’t his pedigree: it’s the fact that he was once a student of Joe Satriani. How do you go from Satriani to doom, especially when you hail from the Bay Area? That’s a great question, and one that The Ghost Next Door answered with aplomb on their 2015 self-titled debut. If I was reviewing on this hallowed site back in those olde days, I would have happily thrown a 3.5 out at that record. It was a progressive doom album that was strong front to back, with well-written songs, a strong vocal performance, and excellent musicianship. Now, fast forward a few years and Wendt & Co. have had a bit more time together to work out new material, and they pick up exactly where they left off. Opening tracks “Deadworld” and “Fodder for the Meat Grinder” are both powerful songs, practically vibrating with energy, highlighted by stellar guitarwork and explosive drumming.
“Doubt” and “Event Horizon” are similarly engaging, although more dynamic in their arrangements, with the former dropping into an acoustic interlude prior to a killer guitar solo (a dominant and welcome feature throughout) and the latter revisiting “Doubt’s” interlude. The band has delivered a stellar front half of an album, showcasing fantastic axemanship and a pummelling, powerful rhythm section. Sadly, the quality tapers off as we move along, with nondescript numbers such as “Behind the Mask” and “I am Become Death,” which don’t carry the same vitality as earlier songs, and “The Sacrifice Person,” with its annoying chants. These final cuts simply don’t kick you in the side of the head like the first five do. Still, this drop in quality isn’t the main issue.
Vocals are the weak spot here. Wendt is a guitarist first, vocalist second. He brings fury and heft to the lyrics, but the timbre of his voice, especially when in full-on rage mode, is abrasive. It’s hard to describe: at times it carries hints of Ozzy, at other times Alex Hurst (Boss Keloid), but just as often either. This issue is only exacerbated by the lyrics: A Feast for the Sixth Sense seems to be a protest album about how shitty the world is. To those of us who already know this and don’t want to be reminded while we listen to music, it’s off-putting after just a few songs. “Event Horizon” just might be my favorite track, but lyrics like “We make the rules, we pull the strings, figurehead presidents and fake kings” make me shake my head. Same goes for the chorus of “LCD:” “Take a hard look at who you are trying to impress, another ass-kissing phony, couldn’t care less.” This man is not happy, and he’s bringing us all down.
While A Feast for the Sixth Sense may not be as satisfying as The Ghost Next Door’s debut, the band has still crafted an enjoyable record. Fans of progressively-tinged stoner doom will find much to love, as will those of us craving sweet guitar tones and outstanding solos. The back half of the album lacks the impact of the front half, and Wendt’s rage-fuelled political rants may temper our enjoyment, but give this a listen anyhow: you may be pleasantly surprised.