This sounds like homecoming, folks. Good, soothing old Heavy Metal with no holds barred. The metal equivalent of motherhood, apple pie and the flag. Listening to this sound gives you this warm, cozy feeling of past good times, doesn’t it? Well, maybe not, if you are not old enough to remember.
This latest offering of Ghost Avenue harkens back to the times, when the ’80s were deliriously high on NWoBHM and all its bands. Many of them are still around, alive and kickin’ to this day. Well, then again not quite that many anymore, as we just saw a few important departures in 2016.
This specific horde of Norwegian metallers made us wait almost four long years to finally inject their third full length album Impact onto an already saturated marketplace. And in truth, the Norwegian shores associate more with the dark side of metal. So it is a pleasure to find some grass roots Heavy Metal folks from up North.
Ghost Avenue formed in 2002 under the sobriquet of Ghost. The band then went ahead and released their first studio album The Engraving still under this identity in 2010. As the lore goes, they had to change to Ghost Avenue for reasons of their Swedish satanic namesakes. The latter probably threatened to turn them into ugly frogs through black magick. And that’s serious: You don’t want to wake up in Kermit’s world, haunted by dreams of Miss Piggy in space fighting screaming jelly buttons.
The record’s storyline revolves around the somewhat threadbare and timeworn theme of an alien invasion hitting us measly earthlings at lightning speed. Humanity obviously fights back, described in cheese laden lyrics that sometimes are just barely on the good side of silly.
Now, Impact gets you this heart-warming piece of sturdy Heavy Metal, the way they don’t often make it these days anymore. The band feature this insane and insanely catchy mix of Iron Maiden with a lump of Krokus and a hint of Dio sometimes appearing in the background. This also tells you that the record is not something we never heard before in some way and form. Nor is it meant to be, quite frankly. Ghost Avenue deliver this crunchy, yet traditional stew of Heavy Metal riffs and solos that combine well with the vocals of Kim Ihsak Sandvik. This results in kickers like Time Traveller that really describes the essence of the album best.
Now, still Impact misses something and it is subtle. Imagine a chocolate cake, looking good and all ingredients there. Gleaming, soft – just chocolaty good. On the surface at least. Then you start to eat it and it is sweet, but a kind of blandly sweet. It is soft and smooth, but just mushily soft and smooth. Feels like something from a parallel universe and some alien makin’ it.
And it is the same feeling you are getting with this record. All ingredients there, correctly spiced, yet something does not feel right. The first thing you get is this repetitive look and feel. Okay, it IS difficult to inject variety into a Heavy Metal record, I’ll give them that. And Ghost Avenue would not be the first guilty of this sin.
Then, whilst the sound and the voice are there, perfectly paced and doing their metal thing, I am missing the juice. This level of manic electricity that permeates other top workings of the same ilk. It is like I want to yell at the vocalist to finally get me this evil metal scream, Dream Evil style. Of course, you don’t want them to do some indecent Brittney style howling about the stage. But no, it is always that stable tonality, somewhat steadily at mid-tempo levels that after a while gets on the wrong side of you.
So, does this turn Impact into a bad album? No, this is a solid chunk of metal. The album has all the right trappings of a Heavy Metal record from the ’80s with a slight whiff of hairy glam added. The scratchy vocals, the furious riffs and solos, hooked on a bare bone, no-nonsense delivery style will give you your fair share of metal for the airtime delivered. Solid, down home metal fare with a story to tell. Not more, not less.