With just two albums under their belt, I feel it is safe to say that the Finnish band Ghost Brigade is still finding who they are. Isolation Songs sees them crossing borders, bringing melodic death into contact with doom and gloom goth stylings. It is a progressive mix that generally works very well; unfortunately, the album is held back by a feeling of sameness. There is not an awful lot of variety across the board to differentiate the various songs. I suspect Ghost Brigade is going to continue to improve, it is apparent throughout Isolation Songs that they have the talent, the passion, and the drive to deliver a unique musical experience. They are on the cusp of genuine excellence.
This sophomore release is a great experience as a whole work, the sum is definitely greater than its parts. They shift from heavy, sludge filled riffs that could grind bone to powder to soft, melodic passages with ease. It is at times a hypnotic work. While I could not generally tell one song from another, pressing play and letting it run seems to be more than enough. Flowing from one song to another, the solid wall of music, it is hard not to get swept up in it.
In the midst of this flow, there is a song that stands out, believe it or not, the instrumental "22:22 – Nihil," an instrumental that feels like a terribly morose dirge. The track is the centerpiece of Isolation Songs, sitting very near the mid-point of the album, cementing the trance like state that it casts over the listener.
Ghost Brigade have a lot of passion in their music. The best thing about that passion is that it feels like a natural extension of the song. I mention this because I have heard some bands who seem "passionate" about the music that ends up feeling forced and unconvincing. These guys are the real deal, if they can only take the next step, perhaps experiment a little more, maybe mix up the arrangements a little more. In short, take a few chances.
Let me be perfectly clear, I really like this album. They are crafting fine songs that walk the line between a couple of genres without being a part of any. The tools are there, they are being honed into a fine-tuned musical weapon. Manne Ikonen's voice shifts from bloody-throated rasp to clear crooning with the turn of a key, both styles sounding fresh and distinctive. While he leads the band down the path of musical gloom, the twin guitars of Tommi Kiviniemi and Wille Naukkarinen provide the musical bed, delivering heavy flowing riffs and soft melodies. Not to be left out is the rhythm and atmosphere section comprised of Veli-Matti Suihkonen on drums, Janne Julin on bass, and Aleksi Munter on keyboards.
Ghost Brigade brings to mind thoughts of bands like Opeth and Katatonia, both of which seem to have had an influence on these guys. This act does not quite reach the heights of their apparent inspirations, but they do stand on their own and could definitely make a run for greater things.
Bottomline. Isolation Songs is a solid outing that deserves attention. The production quality is solid, and delivers a solid hour of dark and heavy music that is not without an emotional quotient. Do yourself a favor, give it a spin, you may find that you like what you find.