Genre: Black Metal
Country: Norway
Label: Seasons of Mist
Year: 2019

It’s been a while since I dealt with a new album involving the renowned Gaahl, who I last came across in 2012 with God Seed’s “I Begin”, a furious black metal album that I remember enjoying much more than the new Gorgoroth material and their fuss at the time. While Gaahl is mostly known for his graphic presence in that band, the fact is that he neither started his career in them in the nineties, nor did he continue only in Gorgoroth, as he has collaborated a lot with Wardruna and his own projects.

The recent years, he has been active through other media other than music, hosting his own art exhibitions, working together with professional photographers and so on. I had the chance to see GaahlsWyrd last year in Stockholm, where they presented some of their upcoming material before word on this new album was even out. The band is heavily promoted and booked, as Gaahl’s new artistic creation, but it is not that strongly centered around him.

“GastiR – Ghosts Invited” is covered with amazing artwork, a clean sound and a very ambitious aim this time, as it is not as conceptually limited as other monikers with Gaahl. It is obvious that the band is trying to construct their own identity based on their own sound, which has black metal elements as you would expect in post 00’s Gorgoroth, but introduces and boosts some new elements like the clean vocals, through and through in the record. What was subtly used before, is no holding the gavel in the compositions.

A hefty advantage of the music is the building and maintenance of its atmosphere, as well as the compositional variety that helps with the band’s purpose. GaahlsWyrd communicate a story through layers of vocals, above the cutting Norwegian black metal guitar lines that are featured in every track. When the album is in a fast pace, moments will surely bring Gorgoroth in mind (“Carving the Voices” can’t help but remind of “Carving the Giant”), for example the introduction melodies of “VeitzuHve” would surely be part of a Gorgoroth album, if the chance had been there.

However, “Ghosts Invited” is not nearly as raw, with the extensive use of Gaahl’s clean voice and not only, it is actually lifted at a different level musically, which feels like what this musician was always meant to compose. The chanting vocals often were reminiscent of the giants Moonsorrow (listen to “From the Spear”, “VeitzuHve” for this effect), while there are times where his deep vocals lead the tracks, and the combination of his slow sleep narrative with faster parts (in “Ghosts Invited”) actually works like a charm.

Some tracks are slow and melodic (“Carving the Voices”), but towards the end is a short and more intense than usual track, namely “Through and Past and Past”. GaahlsWyrd have compositions with both of these characteristics, but specific tracks that follow only one as well. I only didn’t fully enjoy the very last track in “Ghosts Invited”, which serves more as a closure but in my opinion, had a bit too long of an introduction. Other than that, many highlights are featured here and there in the album.

Gaahl has stated in the past that he will continue with his other projects, and that he will release tons of music in the future. I have always appreciated how personal this has been for him, no matter at which stage in his career he was, even though I don’t enjoy all of his music. “GastiR – Ghosts Invited” aims at a wide audience in the metal world, and depicts the vision of the musicians included ideally, in what could be a record to remember for the year of 2019.