Sonja Michaels | Editor-in-Chief
This album starts out with a deep, sounding bass. As the bass drones on, it takes the listener’s mental landscape to the gray, clouded side of an isolated mountain. A drum begins to slowly pound, guiding the first steps down the mountain. Pausing, a moment of silence occurs. It erupts into chaos before fading out into whispers.
What a way to start an album.
Track two, “Vagabond”, takes us back in to some “usual” Ghostemane. There’s a pleasant variety of sounds going on. The listener is led to believe they’re hearing rap, but pounding drums come in at 1:20 and launch the listener back to early 2010s Warped Tour.
Three songs in, we reach “Lazaretto.” Is it metal? Is it hardcore? It’s hard to determine.
Ghostemane, or Eric Whitney, has roots in hardcore punk and metal. A Florida native, Whitney, played guitar and drums in multiple bands early in his musical career. Leaving Southern Florida seemed to coincide with a shift to a more rap-oriented career; Whitney moved to Los Angeles in 2015, and has formed or participated in numerous projects outside of Ghostemane.
So far the hallmark of this album is the careful manipulation of all the sounds. Yes, there are harsh sounds, but they all feel intentional. They are foiled by some soft, distorted vocals whispering to the listener at transition points. Ghostemane walks the line between grating effects and smooth soundscapes.
“Sacrilege” deserves to be listened to with an excellent sound system. The mix of real drum sounds and hyper-computery processed synths is the best whiplash between metal and synth-pop. The word pop isn’t the first you’d expect to hear in a Ghostemane review, but the first half of the song is filled out enough with danceable synths that harken back to the ‘80s that it’s hard to ignore.
Each song on “ANTI-ICON” has a different feel, but there are some uniform sounds and feelings. These songs are all part of the same journey through the album’s soundscape. In some places it is more organic, with acoustic and natural-sounding instruments evoking images of storms and empty nature, where in others the listener can only envision a hardcore band rocking out in a garage.
“Fed Up” stands out, mostly because Whitney shows restraint when it comes to the rapping. The lower, gravelly mumbles blend well with a video-game like bass tone. His higher-pitched, clean vocals are well mixed, not overly contrasting with one of the calmer songs on the album. It is just powerful enough. A minimalist, metallic outro ties this song off. “Fed Up” is understated – and for that, it can’t be overrated.
“The Winds of Change”. Right away a more organic instrument catches the listener’s attention. The sounds and tones evoke images of ‘90s alternative and emo bands like Sunny Day Real Estate or Twelve Hour Turn. This is the kind of song that makes you want to lay on the floor, stare at the ceiling and drift away into your thoughts for a while. A developed musician knows where an instrumental break belongs – Ghoste nailed it with this one.
Slower parts or songs like “Melancholic” demonstrate Ghoste’s versatility. Sure, you can defy a genre – but he takes it to the next level by showing diversity even in his own fantastically strange sound.
This album is diverse, but a common vibe exists. While paces and instruments vary, familiar bass tones and synth instruments appear throughout. Many of the lyrics are classic Ghostemane, addressing the dark themes he is known for.
Whitney takes the influences of rap, hardcore, punk, and more, pulling them all together to create an album that defies any one genre. Past Ghostemane albums have been unique, creative, and well-done; “ANTI-ICON” enters a new realm, acting as the carefully crafted, complete and refined work of a skilled artist.