I am brutally ashamed to say that Ghost Iris didn’t come across my radar until I was given the opportunity to review their latest album. It would have been a privilege to watch this band develop since their debut album, “Anecdotes of Science & Soul” released in 2015, which is astounding in every way. Nonetheless, here we are in 2021, and “Comatose” has been dropped into our laps in the form of an explosive and dominating declaration. What’s the declaration? Probably something along the lines of “we’re here to slam your head against a wall, and you’re gonna love it”.
Something happened between 2017’s “Blind World” and 2019’s “Apple of Discord”. There was a shift in the central themes that the band revolved around, though not so much that the identity of the band was lost. It was like the death metal side of their sound stretched and took over some of the thematic space occupied by their djent side, the side you could feel as a primary force in their first two albums.
In 2019, the band got heavy in a dark and deadly kind of way. The guitar tones became thicker and more aggressive, and this has been carried over into their latest record. The drums were produced with much more of an oppressive and punchy attitude, and somehow they figured out a way to make them even more disgustingly heavy for “Comatose”. The bass levels increased further in the mix and as a result the sound they developed was huge and devastating. To be fair, some fans may not be too happy that they moved away from the celestial, more djent and groovy feel, but “Comatose” should still almost certainly be thoroughly enjoyable for most.
The heaviness in this album is so evil and malevolent, containing the same kind of dark energy you would be likely to hear in a release from Humanity’s Last Breath or The Acacia Strain. Songs like “Paper Tiger” and “Coda” are tracks of pure animosity, but with that being said, it’s not just 37 minutes of crushing death metal. “Comatose” ebbs and flows (see what I did there) from one style to another with ease, and it’s highly entertaining to listen to what comes next after each moment. One section in “Former Self”, easily one of the best tracks on the album, even carries a surf beat through the chorus, and I think, I think there might even be a super sneaky clap track going along with it in the background. Other little layers are littered through “Comatose” and it helps to bring some variety to the album in the heavier moments. “Paper Tiger” has this creepy background layer that bleeds into the air around the instruments, making the track sound even more hostile.
The production on this album is similar to the previous album “Apple of Discord”, though it’s more tightly packed overall. It could be argued that, in general, there was more of a sonic atmosphere in “Apple of Discord”, in that the instruments had a bit more room to breathe in the mix, but despite the more claustrophobic feelings of “Comatose” at times, Ghost Iris makes room for some pretty big and ambitious moments. Again referring to “Former Self”, the massive end sequence is an example of when the proverbial sky opens up above the band, and the atmosphere just expands endlessly. For some bands, this tailpiece would be a final closer, an epic finisher. For Ghost Iris, it’s just another day at the office.
Other tracks hold some great moments, also. “Cult” is wildly catchy. It’s pretty simple, at the end of the day, but that simplicity, plus the well-placed vocal melody, makes it stand out from the rest of the heavy and technical sections of the album. “Desert Dread” holds a guest spot from Chimaira vocalist Mark Hunter, and he unsurprisingly nails it.
The vocals are undoubtedly the winner in this album. Jesper Gün is the one responsible for this, and I was quite surprised to learn that Gün takes care of both harsh and clean vocals. Of course it’s nothing special for one person to possess the ability to both sing and scream, but the clean vocals on this album are so well performed, so professional that I just can’t imagine where he would find the time to practice his harsh vocals as well.
I seriously loved the cleans on “Comatose”. They have developed drastically since the band’s debut album. Despite the incredible range, which has always been there, the textures and styles of his vocals have progressed and accumulated to become a worthy point of focus throughout the listening experience. In this album, we are privy to a mixture of gritty hooks, silky smooth serenades and tremolo-packed melodies that are weaved ever so effortlessly into the otherwise brutal and colossal sound of this band. It’s undeniably difficult to make clean vocals fit into a band of this heaviness without making it feel like ‘the token clean section’, but ironically, “Comatose” makes the clean vocals even more essential to the sound of Ghost Iris that it would be very unusual for this band to only have harsh vocals.
The harsh vocals are great, most of the time. Gün has some chops, and he has no issue with showing them off. The growls in “Power Schism” are heavier than dark matter, but at other times, the vocals felt restricted and strained. For example, the last scream in “Cult” audibly lacks power, but for the vast majority of the album, however, the vocals are dominant and diverse. The opening line to “Former Self” had me hooked immediately, and some horrifying sections are blasted at us in “Cold Sweat” with Gün screaming “suicide is the new black”.
Vocals aside, the rest of the band carry the tracks with gorilla-like strength. The drums are carried out by Sebastian Linnet, and he doesn’t let that poor snare drum out of his sight for one moment. Daniel Leszkowicz is on guitar duties, and makes it his job to chug away with some solid riffs. It’s great to hear a bit of personality from him in the form of a lively guitar solo in “Ebb/Flow”. Nicklas Thomsen handles the bass guitar, and despite the clear contribution of bass frequencies to this album’s production, it’s a shame that his appearance on this album is hidden in the background.
I guess I could repeat what I said earlier. For Ghost Iris, “Comatose” is another day in the office for them, but with one catch; they got a promotion. Whilst “Apple of Discord” potentially has some more variation in certain parts, I found much more enjoyment listening through “Comatose” on repeat. It’s an aggressive endeavor, a deliberate stomping down of the foot. It’s not ground-breaking in the realm of metal, but their well thought-out mix of styles and catchy melodic instances are only some of the factors that are causing Ghost Iris to become more and more well-known as time goes on. I may not have been following them in their formative years, but I’m 100% committed as a listener from now on. It’s as simple as that. In the words of Gün himself: “Is there anything left to say?”
Released On: May 7th, 2021
Released By: Long Branch Records
- Jesper Gün / Vocals
- Sebastian Linnet / Drums
- Daniel Leszkowicz / Guitar
- Nicklas Thomsen / Bass Guitar
- Desert Dread
- Paper Tiger
- Former Self
- Cold Sweat
- Power Schism
Ghost Iris has brought the heat all the way from Copenhagen with "Comatose". The mix is heavy and dominating, yet undeniably gorgeous in some of the choruses. The effective and almost natural mixing of different metal styles has proven to be of massive benefit in showing off the confidence possessed by the band. If the band can keep writing and creating at this level and higher, they will surely become a staple in the metal scene for years to come.