It’s wet, it’s Wednesday, what else is a metalhead to do in London aside from watch the death/thrash creeps from Creepsylvania Ghoul?
Beginning unorthodoxly yet topically, a man with a skinhead mask, red suspenders and a grotesque protruding belly emerges on stage to rant about the ills of immigration in a cockney accent, especially the Creepsylvanian natives. Tied of the personal insults, the masked members of Ghoul take the stage and violently murder him and fake blood sprays from his belly all over the unsuspecting crowd. Wasting no time, the band torpedoes into ‘Ghoulunatics’ from last year’s impressive ‘Dungeon Bastards’, featuring model use of melodic guitar leads modern thrash is known for.
Ghoul began life in as a gruesome death grind unit but incorporated more poignant classic thrash elements until it became the primary focus of their music. This transition has evaded a decline in quality; in fact, the opposite could be argued. The thrash metal works better live, its pronounced rhythms demanding audience headbanging and conceiving riffs you can almost sing along to. The ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious’-era Carcass death metal remains and has no issues summoning the most intense of mosh pits and the odd intrepid stage diver.
‘Dungeon Bastards’ is promoted fairly; ‘Bringer of War’, ‘Shred the Dead’ and even instrumental ‘Guitarmageddon’ have the death thrashers in attendance emphatically rocking out to the murderous metal. The Underworld may be nowhere near as busy as when Ghoul last performed here back in 2013 but the entertainment value is off the charts. The quartet are joined on stage throughout by someone from their crew adorning various costumes such as Baron Samedi and a weird M-Bison masked character among others. Of course, each character sheds fake blood all over the venue.
‘Metallicus Ex Mortus’, ‘Wall of Death’ and ‘Off with their Heads’ revisit the older catalogue with delicious results. Guitar riffs from Digestor and Dissector are penetrating and bludgeoning, usually oscillating between fast and mid-tempo. The multi-vocalist approach sees the band members growling at different pitches and fleshes out the music even more. The stage presence of the band is infinitely amusing – far superior to what most thrash or death metal acts bother to provide.
The title track of last year’s fifth album appears to be the end of the Ghoul gig and the band abandon the stage. Such an abrupt conclusion for such a theatrical act begs for an encore and of course, the band rewards the persistent fans. ‘As Your Casket Closes’ from ‘Splatterthrash’ proffers bone-crunchingly forceful riffs and a chorus that invites the punters to bark along. By the time the four-piece finish, the Underworld’s floor is a bloody mess and the cleaner for tonight receives plenty of sympathy. Ghoul live in London is nothing short of a success and it’s certainly one of these shows where those who aren’t fans of the band but were dragged along to the concert really enjoyed the experience. If only every band was this engaging.