For those who like to indulge the geekier side or their headbanging id, there’s quite a few bands out there nowadays that are hard to deny. None harder, in my opinion, than Ghoul. The splatterthrashing foursome hailing from Creepsylvania (their own beloved, gloriously fake country of origin, think Genosha or Latveria but with more puppets and fake blood) hit the stage in potato sack masks a la the Jason from Friday the 13th Part 2 (or the Chainsaw Ganado from Resident Evil 4 for my true nerds out there), putting on more of a rag tag, punk rock, DIY horror show than long lived contemporaries GWAR. And just like GWAR, Ghost, hell even Mac Sabbath, these guys back up the gimmicks with being able to actually melt any audience’s face off any day of the week, as most clearly evidenced by their latest LP, their finest yet, the brand new Dungeon Bastards.
I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to have no idea who or what Ghoul was when I discovered them a few years back opening for fellow neo-thrashers Skeletonwitch and, well, have you ever seen Scanners? Yeah, that was my friends and I. I quickly got caught up on all the Ghoulish madness and while always entertained by their previous output, none have wormed their way into my warped mind quite as wholly and succinctly as Dungeon Bastards has. Like the previously mentioned Skeletonwitch or Battlecross, Ghoul are masters of the thrash revival, though the wonderfully gritty production here brings the genre back to its very origins, the grime of Kill ‘Em All and Reign In Blood, owing more to the LA gutter punk scene than anything Maiden or Sabbath was up to at the time. As soon as the marching riff and driving stomp of “Ghetto Blasters” kicks in, you’ll wish you were in a basement somewhere getting kicked in the head, and “Bringer of War” follows in kind with a blast beating, speed picking whirlwind of pain. It’s like a denim vest for your ears.
They have a lot of fun. Every physical copy of Dungeon Bastards includes the Dungeon Bastards Board Game. For real. No bullshit. I’d have probably snagged a copy at their gig in town next month anyway but now it’s an absolute requirement.
The speed and chug of “Shred The Dead” continue the beating, though it’s not all ass kicking this time out, even though Ghoul could totally pull off playing it straight in their sleep, there’s still plenty of the act’s patented gallows humor on DB. Hardcore influenced gang vocals and a killer melodic riff anchor “Ghoulunitics” and Creepsylvanian manifesto “Word Is Law” places bloody tongue firmly in rotted cheek. Ghoul bring it all together with hard charging instrumental/sound collage (Beneath The Planet Of The Apes FTW) “Guitarmageddon”, calling to mind early 90’s slabs of industrial punishment from the likes of Ministry or KMFDM, showing they really can do it all.
Ghoul’s live antics and theatrical presentation may get kids through the door and asses in the seats (hell, it certainly got my attention), but on Dungeon Bastards they prove themselves the best of the best of the red food coloring and corn syrup set, with the deft musicianship and songwriting chops to take on anyone, masked, facepainted or otherwise. Stalwart Creepsylvanians take heed, there’s about to be a population boom. Haters, doubters, trolls and lurkers won’t be able to deny the “naked, merciless force” of Dungeon Bastards, and Ghoul have earned every single new blood soaked fist in the air.