Gost – Prophecy


Texan atom-splitter, James Lollar, is at the heavier end of the synthwave spectrum, if we can even place him there at all. Now on his sixth album and first for Metal Blade, the tech disrupter follows 2021’s Rites of Love and Reverence with a leap into the void. You’re in for a treat if you like extreme metal, power electronics, and pompous soundtracks from the 1980s with a dash of MTV-era Cabaret Voltaire.

The synth lasers in opening mood piece, ‘Judgment’, warn you of the danger ahead. Don’t get to too close to the oil slick – it might suck you in and swallow you into the abyss. A fearful scream and a high-tempo drum beat launch you into the thrill of an extreme metal song built upon synthesisers in ‘Prophecy’. The build up to the high-velocity industrial beat and chunky synth riff at 00:55 are as exciting as a peeping tom’s short space of time unobserved in his teacher’s garden. Listen to the outro – Lollar uses synth drones like a doom metal band uses guitars. The Skinny Puppy shapes throb in the mix as if given the remix treatment by Justice.

As an artist that moved from Century Media to Metal Blade last year, Lollar spends much of his time around people in the metal community. Perhaps he sees himself as a metal artist using synthesisers instead of guitars. ‘Death in Bloom’ is pure Ministry carnage with Anaal Nathrakh’s appreciation for extreme audio bludgeoning. A Gost song will often start in one genre and then reset to another via the synth arpeggiator button. Lollar uses presets that could belong to Cabaret Voltaire’s studio kit in 1983. And he asks the important question – do synths djent? It appears that the answer is yes.  The Cradle of Filth vocals in the last part of this track only enhance the horror.

Seldom does Gost use a drum machine sample post-1985, which gives the music a tongue-in-cheek celebration of eschewing subtlety in favour of the pompous. ‘Deceiver’ could be in any dark action film from the 1980s with its thrusting bassline and thud of half-timing snares. ‘Obituary’ is industrial metal with looping synths that recall the toggling effects of KMFDM. Of course, this music is visual. ‘Temple of Tears’ introduces you to the movie scene where the phantom emerges on camera to abduct the virgin. Then the regular beat kicks in with excess reverb and hypnotic high-register electronics over the top of a shoulder-swaying bass. You could use a simple collage of black-and-white atrocity images or old footage of soldiers engaged in hand-to-hand combat as the video accompaniment to this song. Listen to the cacophony of violence at the end as all competing instruments move towards obliteration.

The leather-jacketed rebel is always the hero in synthwave mythology. But on this record, he has little time for the outside world. Lollar must have been quite isolated and cold to human warmth during the making of this record. How else do you explain the extreme metal blasting of ‘Decadent Decay’ or the dark foreboding of ‘Widow Song’? Indeed, the latter is like Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army on Viagra with a morbid vocal whisper aimed at edgy goth girls and sociopathic loners. Or you could look at it from another perspective and call it synthwave for extreme metal fans who enjoy blood-thirsty fantasies in which they reign supreme.

Gost’s listeners can pretend that they’re hunters of virgins rather than sex-starved loners. Listen to the Pantera riffing collide with the repulsive scream vocals at the end of ‘Through the Water’. The men have their gamete stained on their handkerchiefs as they approach the dance floor in search of female reproductive partners in ‘Shelter’. Here, syncopated synths imitate guitars but deliver their power like flat and sharp notes on a squelching keyboard.

Clearly, Lollar dislikes the drum machine’s usage in dance music after 1987. In 2024, he envisages it as a flagellating whip of hostile echoes as well as a smiling psychopathic face. The Neue Deutsche Härte genre would be far more listenable if it grooved like closing track, ‘Leviathan’, and meditated on the same dark thoughts. As an album that ponders under a cacophony of violent beats, Prophecy is like a serial killer who operates in the mistaken belief that he is the anti-hero in his own movie. It’s strange how something so cold can draw empathy. This is a thrilling record.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 08/03/2024

Record Label: Metal Blade

Standout tracks: Prophecy, Temple of Tears, Decadent Decay

Suggested Further Listening: Perturbator – The Uncanny Valley (2016), Cabaret Voltaire – Micro-Phonies (1984), Draxhan – Transmutations – Act I EP (2023)