Ghost Bath - Starmourner
Nuclear Blast
Atmospheric Black Metal
12 songs (71' 9")
Release year: 2017
Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Andy

Formerly-Beijing and now-North-Dakota outfit Ghost Bath has gotten high marks from me in the past, but that was before I read their infamous 2015 interview that revealed that they were, in fact, just ordinary American dudes who used the Chinese characters to keep their identity secret, and totally weren't just capitalizing on the mystique of being a kvlt Chinese black metal band. Now, like about 50% of the reviewers on the Internet, I will no doubt avenge their crushing of my expectations by castigating their latest album. Well, OK -- no. I liked them for their music before, and the songs on Starmourner, which reach past the gloom on the past couple albums to a more uplifting set of melodies than ever before, are still quite good, although I've heard enough comparisons to Deafheaven now to know that probably isn't going to be to everyone's taste.

The wordless (or near-wordless) screams, giving the impression that the singer is being skinned alive, are the same, but further down in the mix now. But the Iron Maiden influence that could be detected on Moonlover is now prevalent enough on Starmourner that even more snappy rock beats and two-guitar melodies mix in with the more familiar blastbeats and tremolo picking. Black metal fans who preferred the "purer" version of the Ghost Bath sound need have little fear that the band is softening more than is normal in post-black metal -- the appropriately-named Ambrosial refreshes the listener with a return to the form of old --, although the melodic build-ups are even more beautiful and high-flown than ever. Overall, the emotional palette of the album is definitely much less dark than before, with Alcest-style tracks in a major key such as Celestial and Luminescence.

Ghost Bath's strength as a band had always been the ability to create picturesque post-black atmospheres, and Starmourner throws more effort at that, too, with varying degrees of success. Thrones, one of my favorite songs on the album, melds the black metal with guitar lead riffs in the first half, then a tinkling piano is mixed in on top, resulting in a furious energy mixed with those newfound major-key riffs. The band experiments with different rhythms throughout, but with more confidence than previously. But just as on Moonlover, they indulge their love of instrumentals at times, once with a clean guitar, and once at the end with piano, which can occasionally get repetitious.

Starmourner is a step in a different direction that we started getting some hints about in Moonlover, but which now may be the new Ghost Bath style now that the band has revealed their identity. Increasing the complexity of an already superbly-produced sound, it doesn't have the same level of charm as their earlier albums, but a number of the songs are good and all are extremely easy on the ears.

Killing Songs :
Thrones, Principalities
Andy quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Ghost Bath that we have reviewed:
Ghost Bath - Moonlover reviewed by Andy and quoted 89 / 100
Ghost Bath - Funeral reviewed by Andy and quoted 90 / 100
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