Love Ghost are an alternative rock band hailing from Los Angeles. Although they are young (two members are juniors in high school) they have already achieved a lot, having opened live for Buckcherry, Berlin and Smash Mouth. Their music is heavily influenced by grunge and heavy rock bands from the 90’s including Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Alice In Chains.
You can also hear the influence of a band like Yellowcard, who augmented their rock sound with violin and, in this case, Love Ghost feature a viola player who performs a similar role. This album, Lobotomy, is their full-length debut and consists of thirteen tracks, produced by Eric Lilivois at London Bridge Studio in Seattle and NRG Studios in Los Angeles.
First track Girl Pusher opens in a blaze of Alice in Chains-style low-end riffage, before Finn Bell’s cathartic Cobain-esque lead vocals grab you by the throat. The track features some complex shifts in tempo, though the chorus is simple and anthemic. The band have a strong command of dynamics, with Mya Greene’s soaring viola nicely contrasting with the guttural guitars. A fine start to the album.
The Scarlet Letter is very different, a blissed out beat, clean guitar and swirling viola lines setting the tone for an epic that clocks in at nearly seven minutes. Finn Bell gives a compelling, angst ridden performance that keeps you gripped to the end. It builds to a tumultuous climax, with the intense, frenzied viola bringing to mind John Cale from The Velvet Underground.
Parasitical Identity is stylistically halfway between the first two tracks, featuring a standout performance from drummer Samson Young. Lyrically, it seems to be about dealing with depression; there is a dark poetry and beauty to lines like, “A cold night of snow and apathy, it’s killing time for me and the moon, in a pit of silence I still hear screams…”.
The following Nowhere is perhaps the most instant track on the album, with an immediately addictive and infectious title hook that soon latches in the mind: “From this everywhere in my head to a nowhere in my soul…”. The frantic intensity of the music perfectly expresses the anxiety and emotional turmoil in the words. A potential single.
Danny Boy is another excellent track, this one another of their mid paced, powerful epics with sheets of thick electric guitar colliding with pounding drums. Again, it contains a highly memorable title hook and the balance between song structure and riffage sections is handled well by the band.
Musically, sixth track 24/7 is one of the album’s lighter moments, more towards the commercial end of alternative rock. Lyrically, it’s somewhat darker; it’s about the totalitarian aspects of authority and how it holds us in place: “There’s no escape from attack, the powers that be never have your back….”. During the breakdown section there are some beautiful, mournful viola lines that add to the emotional punch of the song. Another potential single.
Tall Poppies and This Is The Truth are two slightly slower tracks on the album, though the former features an incendiary chorus, counterpointed by melancholy viola on the verses. The latter features an affecting vocal performance from Bell, with existential ennui suffused in the lyrics: “Read the whole book, interpreted it with vacant eyes…I’m willing to leave myself behind….”.
Dead Silence and The Underground are two of the most anthemic songs, with Dead Silence containing a particularly skyscraping chorus, while The Underground starts off slowly before exploding into the sucker-punch title hook: “I’m calling from the underground, reaching from under like a crucifix...”. A tornado of viola swirls behind him, raising the musical tension still further. The verse and chorus dynamics are on a level of Nirvana-like mastery.
The lurching, colossal chorus of the following 9mm also recalls Nirvana, though not the slick grunge pop of Nevermind but the rougher, more raw songs from its predecessor Bleach. Twelth track Naked is the most experimental, an ominous sounding instrumental that brought to mind the perfectly controlled chaos of Sonic Youth, with some stunning lead guitar at the climactic moments.
The final In My Head Again closes the album with the most epic song and perhaps the most tortured. A pitch-black riff that any death metal band would be proud of encircles the verse then the music switches to frantic thrash sections, with the escalating voila sounding as spine-chilling as the screeching violins in Hitchcock’s Psycho.
They continue ratcheting up the notches of intensity until it reaches a fever pitch climax around the five minute mark. A calm moment in the storm lulls the listener into a false sense of security, then pulverizes you with the final section. It’s disturbing, unnerving and utterly compelling, the sound of a nervous breakdown.
Overall, this is a remarkable debut album from a band who have juxtaposed grunge, metal and experimental rock to create a potent fusion that sustains the listener’s interest across the durationof the album with some style. The lyrics are poetic and thoughtful, sung with boundless sincerity and honesty, along with cathartic rage. They are the natural heirs to Nirvana, with the musical range of Sonic Youth. They deserve to be huge.
VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10