You know that cliche in movies when someone is being approached by a huge, hirsute mean looking dude? Think Hells Angel stereotype circa Clint Eastwood’s Any Which Way… series in the 80s. They come stalking up, scowling, menacing score playing in the background…only to then offer to help with the groceries or to expound on some mathematical theory, thus laying on think the adage that you can’t judge a book by a cover? Case in point Ghastly Sound, and their walloping second EP in the span of a year The Bottom. Forget what the cover and logo are signaling to you: this is a stellar melange of hardcore, noise, and indie rock that isn’t afraid to mix passionate melodies with bone crunching riffs and waves of killer rock.
Comprised just vocals, bass, and drums, the Vermont trio came into focus earlier this year with their self-titled EP clearly signaling a penchant for driving riffs and melody similar to bands like Torche and the heavier dream rock moments of Open Hand. It’s the latter band that immediately struck me upon hearing the vocals of Tyler Gurwicz, who soars on opening track “The Worst,” moving from anguished howls to a sublime clean voice that carries the track along to a crashing conclusion. Resting on the restless foundation of Ryan Lewis and TJ Maynard on drums and bass, respectively, the second thought I had was how are they getting this great driving noise without guitars? The production is dense without being too bass-centric (frequency-wise) and leaves plenty of room for things to crash and move in an almost reckless abandon, leaving Gurwicz’s voice to tie the structure together. At four quick songs lasting about 13 minutes, the question was would whatever come next be more of the same, or would the format grow stale?
Not even a minute into “Waves” the opening track on The Bottom and that question was not only laid to rest, but obliterated. Ghastly Sound know EXACTLY how to pin you to the earth with an earthshaking riff, only to then rocket you into the atmosphere with a chorus that makes this easily one of the best songs of 2017. It is that damn good. The production feels a bit deep, the bass and drums clicking right into a stomping 90s groove opens like a damn rainbow when the chorus hits and Gurwicz hits that high note. Any fears of this getting too saccharine are quickly set aside by the massive bludgeoning that occurs immediately following the chorus. Heavy is a target on each of the tracks, whether it’s the sludgy, Soundgarden in a well of the title track that transforms in a frantic noise explosion or the vicious angular assault of “Sink” which closes the EP out. I’ve made no secret out of the fact the trio format is my favorite in rock, and Ghastly Sound’s ability to craft a mesmerizing cascade of sound within the format is incredible, each of the songs on The Bottom having a heft and grace bands with five members can’t replicate.
I’d be lying if I said The Bottom is a massive improvement over the band’s debut EP because the reality is both are fantastic records; if anything The Bottom cements Ghastly Sound’s status as a remarkably tight and exciting presence that in two short EPs has me ridiculously excited for whatever they put out next.