Depressive rock and doom metal have seen a lot of crossover in the last decade or two; this has been, in part, thanks to bands like Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride incorporating elements of Gothic rock into their sound, giving birth to the Gothic metal sub-genre. Boundaries, of course, are meant to be broken, and the lines have become somewhat blurred between depressive rock, Gothic metal, and doom metal; so, for example, while each genre stands on its own, bands like Paradise Lost and Katatonia play a sound that are all three at the same time. In many cases, doom has gotten more melodic, Gothic/depressive rock has gotten heavier, and we music fans are reaping the benefits.
Finland’s Ghost Brigade are a band that doesn’t fit neatly into a particular category, having a sound that lies somewhere between the newer, more rock-oriented material by Katatonia, and the melodic doom of Swallow The Sun and Daylight Dies. IV – One With The Storm, the band’s latest effort, continues to blur the lines between doom and depressive rock, creating a melancholy atmosphere alongside some truly heavy riffs. Despite the somewhat cartoonish name, Ghost Brigade immediately get down to some seriously heavy business, with album opener “Wretched Blues,” featuring an old-school Opeth vibe in it. The riffs are down-tuned and crunchy, with a big dose of progressive metal thrown into the mix, most noticeably in the time-signature and the clean lead-guitar work that really enhances the melody laid down by the keyboards. “Departures” sees Ghost Brigade going slightly into post-rock territory at the beginning of the song, before switching gears to a depressive rock progression that sounds like it could have been on Katatonia’s Dead End Kings. The keyboards add plenty of atmosphere and textures to the sound overall, but don’t come off as overpowering, serving to enhance the riffs throughout the album. “The Knife” is a great example of this; standing out as one of the heavier tracks, “The Knife” has a heavy riff coupled with some menacing sounding keys that push the music in a slightly industrial direction. Another aspect that I thoroughly enjoyed about IV – One With The Storm were the vocals; vocalist Manne shows an impressive ability to switch from super aggressive growls to emotionally driven clean vocals seamlessly, and often in the same song. “Anchored” does what I have wanted to hear in a Katatonia song for a long time now, and that is mix depressive, melancholy rock with aggressive vocals; I know those days are long gone for Katatonia, so in my eyes, Ghost Brigade have fulfilled that void.
The album’s production is; the keyboards, drums, bass, and guitars all work harmoniously together in the mix, with each instrument having an absolutely vital role. The vocals are even handled extremely well in the mix; when bands in this style switch to the more rock sounding stuff, the tendency is to compensate by turning the vocals up too high, but that thankfully doesn’t happen here. Everything is heard with the utmost clarity, and shows that not all modern production jobs are soulless, as the music loses none of its impact despite the polished tone.
If you like Katatonia, but want just a little more aggression in your music, I highly recommend giving Ghost Brigade a shot; the heavier moments also delve into melodic doom a-la Swallow The Sun, and even some Opeth. However, if you’re looking for monolithic riffs and glacially paced progressions, this might be a little too rock oriented for your tastes, though I’d strongly encourage you to keep an open mind. IV – One with the Storm is a little too heavy to be a rock album, but not quite a doom-metal album either; At the end of the day, the word I’d use to describe it is just “rewarding.”