Renowned Norwegian vocalist Kristian ‘Gaahl’ Espedal is undoubtedly one of the most charismatic and intense musicians you will ever encounter both on record and live on stage as evidenced by his splendid work with Gorgoroth, God Seed, Wardruna, and Trelldom in the past. After a short period of musical inactivity, late 2015 marked the beginning of an exciting new endeavor simply labeled Gaahls Wyrd, and the ensemble played some blistering shows at various European venues the following three years while crafting the material for this evocative 8-track effort of theirs entitled GastiR – Ghosts Invited.
Given that Gaahls Wyrd is a new vehicle for the main man to express and channel his inner visions and thoughts through music, it should come as no surprise that GastiR – Ghosts Invited has little in common with Gaahl’s past discography such as the albums by the aforementioned Gorgoroth or God Seed for that matter. In truth, it is all the better for it in the sense that this is no mere rehashing of old ideas. Also, it could be argued that it bears little resemblance to black metal, which is undoubtedly the genre that Gaahl is most often associated with. If anything, GastiR – Ghosts Invited shows that there is more to Gaahls Wyrd than that, and yours truly is finding it quite difficult to categorize the outfit’s brand of atmospheric metal, which is a huge plus in many ways. It is always a great thing whenever an album transcends musical norms and conventions or challenges the listener in a positive way.
Album opener ‘Ek Erilar‘ immediately sets the tone with its its introspective and diverse vocal work as well as its glorious riffs that range from hypnotic to downright intense. ‘From the Spear‘ is a driven and slightly more aggressive piece that benefits greatly from a handful of wicked guitar hooks and majestic vocals while ‘Ghosts Invited‘ and ‘Carving the Voices‘ are quite epic affairs with some delightfully bleak melodies to them. Actually, the latter does bring to mind ‘Sign of an Open Eye‘ by Gorgoroth, and one cannot deny that there are a handful of subtle winks and nods to Trelldom’s marvelous Til Minne… record present on GastiR – Ghosts Invited, namely with respect to the incredibly varied and dynamic vocals as well as the heartfelt lyrics and the passionate delivery of these.
The remaining half of the disc is a little less captivating and focused than the first half, which primarily has to do wth the uninspired and rather dull exercise that is ‘Through and Past and Past‘. Album closer ‘Within the Voice of Existence‘ is not the most thrilling or musically rewarding thing that you will come across this year either. Fortunately, stellar cuts such as ‘Veiztu Hve‘ and ‘The Speech and the Self‘ help compensate for the loss of momentum caused by the other two tunes.
Boasting superb musicianship and a solid production, this debut offering by Gaahls Wyrd is a refreshing and spirited affair that looks to the future as opposed to looking back at the past. It is neither flawless nor monumental, but it is a damn fine and hugely refined slab of extreme metal with a sound and identity of its own. Hopefully, it is also a promise of even greater things to come.