Phoenix, Arizona is not exactly an area we would think to turn to for atmospheric black metal. Yet, it would be foolish to dismiss or overlook the debut EP from Ghost Horizon titled Astral Possession. Through only three tracks that are all relatively modest in length, especially given the genre at hand, Ghost Horizon manage to create a dynamic environment of sound that is truly captivating. It is an impressive emergence onto the scene through a brief collection of tracks that I have become thoroughly addicted to.
We open with “Pale Apparition”, which is the most haunting of the three. Opening with a drawn out, echoing guitar passage layered over a variety of vocal styles before Uræus propels the track upwards with harsh (yet crisp) barks, the EP takes no time showing its personality. From there, the track actually becomes a fairly quick listen. Punishing through the galloping percussion, yet melodic through the cleaner vocals layered beneath the growls, it escalates quickly — becoming an atmosphere of energy and aggression. And while these elements may be familiar melodic/atmospheric black metal, they also differ from the subsequent tracks in a few ways.
The following “Spectral Threnody” is far more uplifting, almost triumphant once you factor in the lyrics. It’s a track that is easier to listen to and will quickly inspire you to sing along with it, feeling each word as they are projected to the sky above.It is more even-paced with melodic leads, tamer rhythms, and added emphasis on cleaner vocals. Really, it is a gorgeous track that ends far too quickly and far too abruptly. Which brings us to the closing “Astral Possession (The Cold Year Unearthed)”, which holds the most diverse moments on the listen… perhaps overly so. A doomy, eerie, percussive introduction gives way to nicely piercing tremolo picking and an unrelenting rhythmic cadence from those same drums. But we don’t hold this personality for long. The energy changes regularly as semi-spoken lyrics (heavy in effects) are utilized with ambient backing vocal lines. We are even introduced to the only true guitar solo on the record — one that is unquestionably solid, but may depart from the rest of the track’s personality a bit too much. Basically, everything Ghost Horizon does on the closing song is done with quality, I just wonder if perhaps it is too ambitious. An almost insignificant concern once you step back and look at the big picture; the intentions of a debut EP.
Astral Possession is as enjoyable a debut from an atmospheric black metal band as we could ever hope for. There is not a moment on this EP that I do not enjoy at least on some level. Every minute, every passage, is filled with atmosphere and emotion — in the exact why music from this genre should be. Ghost Horizon does a tremendous job of generating a truly diverse landscape of sound that inspires a wide range of emotions and energies with their audience. It is filled with moments of darkness and sorrow as well as those of optimism and hope. Astral Possession is concise in all that it offers… a sampling of everything Ghost Horizon could potentially bring to the genre. And it is done so with sound production, impressive musicianship, creative songwriting, and without becoming overly disorganized. If this is what they can offer in a debut EP, there is only cause for excitement in anticipation for what may lie ahead.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”