Reviews Old Ghosts Crow

Old Ghosts


These last few weeks I've started to notice that the creases in my forehead are deepening. It's a subtle change to my face, but it's progressively becoming more noticeable. My pores are becoming more visible as well, and my skin doesn't have the same spongey, moist quality to it that I remember it having in my early twenties. And of course the other day my partner swears she noticed a grey hair. I asked her to pull it out to show me. She demurred. Pretty emphatically. Like she had accidentally divulged some state secret and when asked to provide proof of her claim, she proceeded to deny all knowledge of the aforementioned facts as they were alleged. That's alright. I could find it myself if I felt so inclined. There will be more to come. I'm entering the downhill slide of life. And as I grumble and shamble towards middle age, I finally feel compelled to comment on my own mortality and the feelings associated with being trapped in a body that is losing its luster. Here it is, my thesis: It's weird but I'll tolerable it.

Old Ghosts are a Buffalo hardcore band who are managing to age much more gracefully than myself. Comprised of a core membership of vocalist Derek Dale and drummer Josh Heatly, they've been around for close to a decade, churning out an EP or a split every two-three years while they experimented with their style. Their 2012 LP Caskets had rough, Ten Yard Fight brawler quality to it its dark, melodic hardcore, while their 2017 Self-Titled EP was undeniably, and almost joyfully, a skate-punk record. So where does Old Ghosts's second LP Crow land in the bands broad spectrum of punk-genre skewing? Somewhere between American Nightmare and Modern Life is War to these old ears.

You'd think that the easiest point of reference for a band like Old Ghosts would be their previous bands, especially if they continue to play in roughly the same niche of punk sub-genres ie melodic hardcore. While Dale does retain a lot of the fire that he exhibited as the vocalist of Dead Hearts, Old Ghosts are hardly a continuation of the former groups sound under a new banner. For one, Dead Hearts had a fairly straightforward sound that was highly reminiscent of the lightly metallic hardcore of the mid-00's. Old Ghosts on the other hand likes to push their sound in different directions, seeing how far it will bend while still being recognizably them. This more adventurous tendency of Old Ghosts's makes for a more rewarding listening experience as you're never quite sure what to expect from the band until you put your ears to the speaker and tap play.

Crow begins fittingly with a shrieking holler of a guitar slide. Like a piper at the gates of dawn, this harbinger is the rousing call of a most superb of conflagration of melodic mayhem. What I love about the opening track "Pegged," and which continues through the rest of the album, is the way that the guitar work of Nick Racino and Tom Mayer interweaves heavy distortion with light, nimble chord progressions to dependably push Dale's gritty, throat-chaffing whales forward into the mix. The guitar work acts like tight ropes for Dale to bounce off of in order to gain momentum for a killer close-line or a devastating leg lariat. Even though Racino and Mayer are relatively new to the band, I can't imagine them cutting another record without them involved and I seriously hope they'll stick around. The guitar work is especially noteworthy on the hopeful, positivity pump and rollicking ramble of "Hour Glass" feeling like a warm and encouraged balancing of emo-inflected H2O or a hard rock infused The Suicide File.

There are a surprising number of hopeful sounding tracks on Crow, far more than you would be expected from a band that has embraced a gothic aesthetic from a part of the country that is still recovering from the deindustrialization of the previous decade. Both "Pass You By" and "Enablers" feature balmy guitar tones and lithe grooves, while "Tight Rope Walker" feels like a rallying cry written from a vantage point that can see a possible better world just beyond the horizon. Crow has its low points as well. "Prey' certainly dips into some darker modes while "Suppressor" is one of those hair-raisingly accurate portrayals of depression and submerged emotions that literally sounds like the band is sloshing around in a downpour of uncorked melancholy. But the most telling statement of the band's head space for the album is likely the final track "Arsonist," where Dale shouts over skating groove, sun-beam hugging solos, the thunderous trundle of Heatly's pummel, and the growling undertow of Cody Krieger's bass, that he is ready to start building a new world from the ashes of the one that is in the process of burning down around them. It's a passionate and empathic declaration that feels perennially applicable to the perpetually degrading state of affairs in the neo-liberal nightmare that has been forced upon us.

Crows aren't always a bad omen. For many they're a sign of luck and good fortune. Even in the United States, where they are generally associate with death, here too we can find a silver lining. Death is a necessary condition for new life. The old pass on and replenish the earth, making it possible for life to continue in a cycle of renewal. It's something that I've been thinking more lately. Not only in terms of my own mortality, but also concerning the stagnant state of the world and the necessity of change in order to make it livable for my generation and those who come after me. To whittle away at the clenching skeletal grip that today's and yesterday's elites have on our society as if they are attempting to drag it into the grave with them. Crows as natural carrion eaters are custom built by nature to deal with such zombified menaces. And so as the crow flies, so too will this world be made anew.

7.0 / 10Mick R.
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Mick is always writing about something he's heard. Possibly even something you'd like. You can read his stuff over at I Thought I Heard a Sound Blog.

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