Before we get into the skinny on Ghoul’s fourth album, ‘Transmission Zero‘ – their members are or were part of other groups such as Impaled and Exhumed, and keen inherit their gory themes across from those bands. This is known despite their efforts to keep their identities secret, performing in executioner-style masks and going by the monikers of guitarists Destructor and Digestor, bassist Cremator and drummer Fermentor. Oh, and all their songs revolve around happenings in their ‘hometown’ of Creepsylvania (aka Oakland, California), which I assure you is as welcoming as a bout of voodoo-induced insanity.
Much of Ghoul’s appeal is likely to depend on whether you first and foremost like thrash riffs pulled straight from the 80’s Bay Area scene, and given a death metal sheen through the various vocal styles spread across all four members; and secondly (and not far behind), the penchant for schlock-horror themes that provide much of Ghoul’s lyrical content. That might not work for all, but it certainly worked for Alice Cooper and GWAR among others and the blood and gore approach that Ghoul is even self-referencing – Destructor even has an eponymous song about himself on here. Albeit one which sounds a little too close to S.O.D’s ‘Sargeant D & the S.O.D.’ But that’s a minor flaw we can overlook.
Ghoul are a band unashamed to display their influences and are all the better for it, however varied they are. The opening track (the instrumental ‘The Lunatic Hour’) sets the scene as a fist pumping thrash intro, before the full introduction of vocals in ‘Off With Their Heads’, a call to Ghoul’s brothers to join them in battle, punctuated with a gang vocal shout That’s just the start of an enjoyable romp, as Ghoul infuse surf (‘Death in the Swamp’), doom (‘Morning of the Mezmatron’) and more besides into ‘Transmission Zero‘. The riffs, the drums, the vocals, the production – everything is delightfully old-school, right down to those gang vocals, for which their love for is confirmed more than one more occasion.
There’s nothing about this album not to enjoy – it might not be the most original, but Ghoul are content not to take things too seriously, and just have fun instead, and so long as you loosen up and immerse yourself in their world for 40 minutes, things should be fine. Especially when the riffs are rocking and the blood is flowing.