Sometimes a band name can alone ignite potent intrigue, spark an instinctive interest. Fair to say The Ghost Next Door easily did that but where so often others fail, the Californian quartet backed it up with a just as intriguing and fascinating album, a self-titled debut ripe in invention, unpredictability, and dramatic textures. The release is a tantalising weave of diverse styles and bold imagination honed into something as contagiously addictive as it is rousingly anthemic. Description of The Ghost Next Door sound is destined to vary from listener to listener and all will be no doubt right in varying degrees but one thing expectations can assume is most will be waxing lyrical about the outstanding proposition.
The Ghost Next Door name is inspired by the supposed haunted house that founder and vocalist/guitarist Gary Wendt (ex-Skinlab, Sacrilege B.C.) found himself living next to and its sound forged from a desire to “marry the dark melancholy of 80’s and 90’s alternative with the aggression and drive of Bay Area metal.” Linking up with bassist Seanan Gridley and drummer Sean Haeberman, the band after forming played around California for a few years but unable to really find their niche disbanded. Continuing to work on recordings already underway though, Wendt with the help of people like Steve Green (Skrew/Skinlab) recorded and mixed The Ghost Next Door debut album, following it with a reforming of the band. Gridley reunited with Wendt whilst the line-up was completed by Sacramento guitarist Aaron Asghari and drummer Paula Sisson from Remagen in Germany. Since its return the band has hit the live scene with hunger again, playing with the likes of DRI, SpiralArms, Dr. Know, and Comes with the Fall amongst many. Released via Mausoleum Records, their first album is now let loose and if you needed proof that rock and metal could be boldly adventurous, intelligently inventive, and make an instinctive partner in lust, this is it.
It all begins with Forever My Demon, an electronic mist slowly emerging with suggestive tones and subsequently spawning bulging rhythmic bait and evocative melodic tempting. Already there is an anthemic core luring attention, bait enhanced by atmospheric keys and eventually a potent wash of caustic guitar. As Wendt releases his vocal persuasion too, there is a mix of metal and rock enveloping ears and imagination with thoughts of Stone Temple Pilots and nineties heavy rockers Skyscraper swiftly coming to mind. It soon evolves again though, a grunge and fiery groove driven colouring joining the already established textures, they in turn slipping into a progressive/ heavy metal twist. It would take a page long review to cover the full thrilling adventure of this song alone to be honest, it’s busy but fluid and bold enterprise further emulated in every unique track upon the album, but fair to say all perpetually leave ears enamoured and appetite greedily hungry.
Proof comes in Crickets straight after, its heavy and eagerly prowling riffs instantly encasing ears as rhythms keenly jab throughout. As swiftly guitars spill wiry hooks at will, their barbs gripping ears as vocals and melodic hues begin thickening the enticement. As in the opener, every moment of the song comes with creative drama and unexpected turns of ideation, ensuring that though it does not quite rival the success of its predecessor, it is a riveting enjoyment, though soon outshone by the invigorating All Fall Down. There is a familiar air to the song, though for no obvious reasons, but this only adds to the swift seducing of ears through tangy melodies, spicy grooves, and more antagonistic beats and vocals. A heavier growl is soon pushing the track but again it is all relative to the moment in the song, progressive and hard rock essences as much an open input as melodic and groove metal in its absorbing weave.
Ten Steps Back backs up this new plateau breached by the album straight away, it and the following triumph of Dead Things. The first of this pair entangles ears in tendrils of guitar and accusation fuelled vocals, their restraint but strong tempting enhanced further with outbursts of harsher, more hardcore like punk expulsions of emotion and sound. With stabbing scythes of sonic ingenuity bridging this cycle and a subsequent harmonic flirtation teasing with a pause midway, the song is a kaleidoscope of imagination with its second half as distinct and seamlessly crafted as the first. Even listening to it constantly, every partaking of this song and indeed album brings fresh rewards, its successor another prime example. More ruggedly direct than the last song in many ways, its roars and strolls rigorously with hearty beats against just as sinewy riffs, their intensity urged by the great mix of vocals and bound in a rich sonic web of sparkling endeavour.
Bully lives up to its title, springing from a deliciously tangy dance of guitar hooks into a predatory stalking with the bass especially vocal in intimidating intent. Eventually it rises into a full bruising and mouth-watering incitement with those initial lures still working spicily away to ensnare, the following mellow melodies within resonating rhythms bringing the seduction. The track completes a quartet forming the pinnacle of the release though it is not the end of the inescapable persuasion and creative alchemy of the release.
The beginning of next up Eleven O’Clock Blues is almost theatrical, vocals and rhythms entering with a swinging gait against the more aggressive surge of riffs. Everything is soon entwined in a revolving fury and melodic embrace, the former aspect the thickest texture breeding an array of metal based ingenuity and flavours. To try and simplify the glorious body of the song, try to imagine a mix of Machine Head, Killswitch Engage, Alice In Chains, System Of A Down, Tool…actually don’t it probably will still be wide of the mark as already we say do yourself a favour and simply go explore the album and bask.
In hindsight this song is another of the album’s greatest successes, and another increasingly thrilling proposition with every listen just like the far gentler but no less magnetic Fragile. The song is a feisty croon which is as seductive in its mellower moments as it is in its impassioned blazes, and without managing to reach that lofty perch set, leaves only fresh greed and pleasure in its wake before album closer Famous Last Words similarly cradles and bellows over the senses with irresistible charm and inflamed passion. With a rich strain of thrash and classic rock in its ferocious belly, if not the stronger unpredictability of other proposals, the track is a powerful end to a stunning album.
If like us the band name sparked a flicker of attention do follow it up, and if it does not still launch yourself at The Ghost Next Door, a band and release which truly has something for everyone but in an exhilarating tapestry like no other.
The Ghost Next Door is out now on CD and digitally via Mausoleum Records @ http://www.music-avenue.net/mausoleum/detail.php?id=251158