Written by Kep
Ghostbound – Extended Play for My Sweet Mary Thyme
Progressive metal from New York, USA
Released March 26 via Red Nebula Records
Here’s an experience that feels extremely unique within metal, at least to me: the transportive, evocative seascape that is Ghostbound’s Extended Play for My Sweet Mary Thyme. This gorgeous “suite,” as the band calls it, caught my ear a couple of weeks back and I knew I needed to include it here on the site.
Ghostbound is a four-piece out of New York, led by frontman Alec A. Head, and they play a style of music that’s hard to pin down and name; I just like to call it “beautiful metal.” There are elements from all over the map, with a heavy base of post-metal and a few touches of black, while atmospheric and symphonic details flesh out what truly is a multi-layered progressive sound. Strummed chords make up a good portion of the instrumentation, a simple but intelligent choice that’s often dotted with gorgeous guitar solos and notable little melodic moments (there are some especially fun bass licks). It’s a grand and cinematic style of music-making, and one that is largely very effective in my opinion. Head’s voice completes the musical picture with a tone that’s at once plaintive and dulcet, soaring through the soundscapes like a seabird glides amidst the spray of waves on rock, gracefully delivering the stories this EP has to tell.
Extended Play for My Sweet Mary Thyme is a collection of maritime scenes, each one distinct but all working as a whole to transport the listener out amongst the ocean’s waves. The whole thing serves as more of a set of vignettes than one big story; there’s the song that uses the ocean as a metaphor for love and loss (“And We Are Already at Sea”), the impassioned tune of a seaman whose daughter has passed away (“Ada, Age of Eight”), the refrain of a group of exhausted and hungry sailors (“Bosun’s Lament”), and a symbolic offering of oneself to the sea (“For My Sweet Mary Time”). The closing track, “Seaward”, is a pure, easy instrumental of over seven minutes that essentially just adds a meditative coda to the experience. The whole thing is a lengthy listen for an EP—it clocks in at a touch over 30 minutes—but it feels appropriate for the all-encompassing, picture-painting nature of the music. There are also a bunch of atmospheric passages (credited to Head, guitarist Talha Alvie, and bassist Noah Shaul) that start and end most of the tracks; they lengthen the runtime, but they also add to the level of immersion.
Being as honest as I can be, I’ll openly tell you that Ghostbound is likely an acquired taste. It’s not as heavy or aggressive as most metalheads like their music, and its grandiose, operatic style of scene-painting isn’t for everyone. But if you’re like me, Extended Play for My Sweet Mary Thyme will be a wonderful half-hour of peaceful storymaking that’s worth falling into.
Favorite Track: Ada, Age of Eight