EP Review: Ghoul – Noxious Concoctions

EP Review: Ghoul - Noxious Concoctions
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Ghoul are a band I should really listen to more, having checked out the odd song time and again throughout the recent years. Formed in 2001 out of California, United States, the band have been an unusual anomaly in extreme metal, completely forgoing the super serious approach many bands take in favour of this tongue-in-cheek humour that’s much more down to earth and has, throughout their career of so far five full length albums, endeared scores of fans to their ranks. My personal discovery of the band came when I first encountered their 2006 Splatterthrash album, bringing the band to the forefront of my attention. Now, eight years on from their last album, 2016’s Dungeon Bastards, the band release a 2024 EP, Noxious Concoctions, to continuously update their fans on what they have to offer. Let’s see what Ghoul have brought here, releasing February 2nd through Tankcrimes.

Carrying on their theme of old school horror and B-movie cheese, Ghoul introduce us to their EP initially via an audio clip of an older film, setting the scene of the kind of vibe the band have in store for us. But when the songwriting gets going, Ghoul present to us a firm and powerful sound that isn’t afraid to get stuck in and grab us by both ears. The overall production is really well polished as there’s hardly a thing out of place that would draw attention to it. But with that said, the mix has managed to balance everything nicely so nothing is at risk of feeling overpowered. This EP is merely an extension of Ghoul’s full length material whereby longtime fans will know fully what to expect and newer listeners (like myself) are given a prominent introduction to their sound. Perhaps other acts would opt for a dirtier aesthetic, but I’m glad Ghoul opt for the cleaner route as it enables their uniquely shredding style of come forth without difficulty.

EP Review: Ghoul - Noxious Concoctions

I’m a sucker for old fashioned guitar skill. It’s not something you often hear in modern death metal, wherein the guitarist in question openly shows off what he can do but, in this instance, Ghoul aren’t looking to hide away in the corner whilst the main songwriting takes the spotlight. Soloing and more Freeform playing shouldn’t need to be an unwarranted force in death metal and I’m glad Ghoul, after all these years, are still happy to unleash what they’re capable of, in spite of their apparent appearance at first sight. Their playing here is fantastic and there were numerous solos that definitely grabbed me; they were electric and exciting but always felt like they matched the vibe of the track in question. They aren’t just shoehorned into a song for superfluous reason, their writing demonstrates time spent creating them to ensure they’re memorable.

Ghoul are one of those few bands where the choice in vocal delivery genuinely lines up with the style and subject matter the band play about. When the band are playing music about serial killers, monsters, B-movies etc and you’re listening to the cadence of the vocals, it’s much easier to get behind the believability factor of the band’s music since we can hear the band having real fun behind their performance. This isn’t the kind of release that’ll get your hopes up for a crushing performance, nor is it something to immerse us into some brutal soundscape; Ghoul excel when their music isn’t looking to be overtly serious and their vocals reflect this, for the snarling delivery possesses a degree of humour wherein the band themselves understand their own material is just a little ridiculous. But it’s fun, so parties on either side, fans and band, can all join in together and just enjoy a little nonsense for a moment.

In conclusion, this is really my first full listen to Ghoul’s material and, if this EP release is indicative of more to come, ideally another album, then it succeeds on that front for I really did like what I found here. Ghoul are that kind of band who have never exactly made it big but have enjoyed a fervently cult status within underground metal since their inception; they’re the kind of band that’s easy to put on to play and nearly everyone present is guaranteed a good time. Yet, just as their first track showcases, the band know how to write honestly great music that can be a lot longer than usual, shorter pieces. It ensures audiences get a good dose of variety in length and ambience since the band can’t, and choose not to, rely solely on the cheese factor so initially inherent within their style. If a new album is inbound eventually, I’ll certainly be on the lookout for it.

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