>> It takes about three seconds to fall in love with Ghouli. The first song off their EP 'Nothing' is "Coffin" and it starts with a perfect guitar buzz and humming feedback. The rich tones quickly indicate a guitarist who has spent too much time alone crafting the sounds that emanate from that amp. By fifteen seconds Ghouli has set the tone and you know what you’re in for and it’s sincerely delicious.
Ghouli started in early 2018 in Richmond Virginia. Their energy is fierce, almost competitive, with a classic hardcore sound. Rich deep bass lines accentuate the punching drums. And that guitar, it’s searing hot, burning you, cutting through your brain like a hot knife. The group is rounded out by macabre lyrics, well cadenced by a throaty and angry voice.
The EP is six tracks of fury, no track reaching the three-minute mark in length, and for a first official release by a relatively new band there aren't any blemishes on it. Production is well rounded, including a slightly vocal forward approach which lends to establishing the lyrics as a predominant force in the music. But it’s not just about the lyrics, which carry just enough melody to make it attractive to those who aren’t deeply in love with hardcore, it’s well blended, with a nice balance of highs and lows that sound damn good in headphones, in the car, or on home speakers.
Each song has its own personality, something that can easily become devoid on a hardcore album, and the writing is crafty, fun, and interesting. The ghosts of TSOL, Ian MacKaye, Black Flag, and Dinah Cancer are alive and well throughout this album. Even the name Ghouli itself calling up the ghouls and goblins of past hardcore lives, sounds rich in shaping the way we would hear punk rock for years to come, and the paths it took to start bleeding over to main stream music. In the song "Ryan," lead singer Sam Poe hollers out “Do you ever speak to the dead? Maybe it's all just in my head/I lie awake at night in bed/Thinking of the things that they said” conjuring images of things past. It’s also no accident that her last name is Poe, a link to the tell-tale heart hiding under the floor boards. The song has a breakdown that leads into a slowing, a moment for reflection until Poe comes back, punching through the end of the track with “Do you ever speak to the dead?"
The star track on the album is "AKA Prozac." Never has Fluoxetine sounded as poetic as it does here-- but it’s doubtful it’ll ever get used in medical commercial. There’s something familiar about this track, something warming. It opens with a lullaby guitar riff that ends on a major chord, a happy smiling sound as if the drug just kicked in. But it doesn’t last long as the song speeds up promptly after. After the first chorus the opening riff is back, but with menace this time and as the song winds down after a groaning “I’m half alive” the music falls, half step by half step back to that same smiling major chord to end the song and album, a wholly intelligent way to end the album, with some really smart writing, tying together the sounds of the lyrics, the tones of the guitar, and the effects of the drug.
This band is just getting started. They’ve set themselves up to reinvigorate the hardcore punk scene along the East Coast. The antiseptic sounds of the radio are tired and boring and here’s the antidote.