Monday, June 22, 2015

Ghost Story - The Image and the Reality (Demo) [1990]

The truth hurts. While so many undeserving acts receive recognition and pundits beyond belief, those whose fates are as tragic and fragmentary as Ghost Story becomes lost in the billowing wind. Fortunately, with the technological benefits ushered in by the 21st century, hunting down an obscure demo such as the Atlanta quartet's ''The Image and the Reality'' becomes a much easier task than to have acquired the demo by tape trading in the early 90's. Ghost Story and their second demo are significant for two reasons: not only does the sound existing within these five tracks possess the potential to champion most thrash or speed metal outings that were being put out by 1990, but the sound itself is quite unique, a stunning tribute to the power/speed/thrash traditions of the 80's that, without conspiring to move the genre's foundations in any manner, manages to become one of the most potent and memorable heavy metal demos of all time.

Yes, you heard it right, and the joke is on you if you're smirking behind your PC reading this, smiling at the laughable crudity of the cover art, because ''The Image and the Reality'' is fantastic. There is no tandem to quality here, since each track serves equal portions of ass-kickery, but I love that the band diverges from the linear thrashing simplicity or speed/thrash filth offered by so many of its peers, and a general feel of power metal here runs parallel to the well-forged arsenal of riffs, which are entirely memorable excursions into the wide fulfillment of the genre at large, and you're bound to hear anything from ''Rust In Peace'' era Megadeth to more progressively oriented speed/thrash a la Angent Steel, Toxik, Coroner and Watchtower to more obscure power/thrash acts from the early 90's like Mystik or Stygian. There is a certain hooking quality to the riffs that makes them both immensely entertaining and also slightly moving. ''I Won't Change'' is a good example, with a broad thrashing rhythm accentuating the verses and moodier breaks into ballad-esque arpeggios and melodic guitar solos. But the group also harnesses these chugging, looming that feels completely satisfying in terms of mood and sway, with pure wisps of clear power metal melody reminiscent of early Fates Warning crowning the remaining bits and pieces. Of course despite the marginal variants, Ghost Story's focus remains a furious dialect of speed and thrash metal, like the excellent verse of ''Repent'', full of twisting but uncomplicated riffs which sound like an awesome addendum that Dave Mustaine forgot to add to his first two Megadeth discs. At any rate, the rhythm section remains extremely tight and killer, with no frugality of headbanging material.

Rob Thompson's vocals here are part of what makes the demo so damn unique. A versatile detachment from the classic harsh Teutonic rasp, but retaining enough audibility, poignancy and an arousing timber to sound fresh, I'd say he sounds like a more controlled, gruffer Sean Killan, but all the same he can seamlessly weave into a different tone according to the undercurrent of guitars: granted, he doesn't feel like a majestic soaring banshee destined to bewilder a listener as on a classic like ''Think This'' or ''Control and Resistance'', but he still sounds almost immediately distinguishable than the umpteenth 80's thrash rehash I'd hear. For a demo, the production here, just like everything else, reigns supreme. Sure, you might need to raise the volume a tad before you can really hear the music, but the drums have a crisp tone to them and never perambulate in terms of volume as on an occasional demo recording; the guitars are copious but they never overfeed the mix; and the bass is surprisingly audible in a Steve Harrison kind of way, ballasting the metallic crevices of the guitars with some sweet, raw lines. In terms of instrumentation, Ghost Story sure dwell into a lot of 'contemplative' discourse riffing, more often than a regular thrash act, but the long moments are never dull as to cull boredom from the listener and they're smart enough to break off from the more melodic, moody instruments-only plateau just in time to cut into a fierce chorus or bridge. Every song is truly legendary here, within its minimal cult status: from the introductory arpeggios of ''I Won't Change'' to the irresistible chorus on ''Silent Masses'' to the unforgettable gap riff midway ''What Few Even Dare'' which has stayed with me ever since my first spin, ''The Image of the Reality'' is one of those rare recordings, which, assuming the shape of another abstruse obscurity, heightens to the level of a full-length, beating so many at their own game that it makes my flesh prickly just thinking about it. Truly, its only fault is its brevity and slightly cramped production that feels only natural. Otherwise, find this at all costs, and if you're a collector of heavy metal demos, you've already wasted your time reading this reviewer's fanboyish rant about it.

''Sanity Web''
''What Few Even Dare''
''Silent Masses''

Final Rating
Masterpiece [9/10]