There won’t be a single review of The Ghost Inside’s self-titled album that doesn’t mention the bus crash they were involved in in 2015, and considering the severity of the incident they’ve overcome, that’s perfectly justified. Something of that magnitude is rarely seen at all and certainly hasn’t been since, with the aftermath seeing three fifths of the band placed in critical condition and drummer Andrew Tcakzyk losing his right leg as a result. It’s frankly a minor miracle that The Ghost Inside are even making music again at all; they’re certainly under no obligation to, and that’s true multiple times over when it comes to touring or performing live. And yet, the resurgence of The Ghost Inside over the past few years has felt like the ultimate example of a band defying the odds and the community around them embracing that with open arms. Their return show at The Shrine in Los Angeles sold out in four minutes last year, and that’s ultimately felt like a turning point that’s built up to now, on the eve of their self-titled album. Because make no mistake, The Ghost Inside have always been loved, being one of the most steadfast and perennially excellent bands that hardcore and metalcore have to offer, but the sense of triumph that’s coated every word written and spoken about this band and their revival will always come second to what a new album can say for itself. Regardless of the circumstances, there was no doubt that new music from The Ghost Inside was going to be great, but as a statement of intent that’s come from as close to sheer demise as virtually any band has gotten, it arrives as an important album as well.
And while this album could just be interpreted as The Ghost Inside getting back on the horse and going about their typically fantastic business as usual, it’s the shadow of that importance that hangs over their self-titled release that pushes it over the top. It’s just as powerful in force and colossal in scope as ever, but the glorious twinges of triumph woven throughout this album give it so much more resonance, not just amongst The Ghost Inside’s catalogue but among heavy music this year in general. And when that sort of thing connects as regularly as it does, the result is a tour de force from front to back, moulding metalcore into one of its most gigantic permutations yet and pairing it with raw talent and drive to surpass any similar album by a degree of miles. There’s no bias or consolatory ease going into statements like that; The Ghost Inside are good enough not to need them, especially when an album like this feels like yet another peak for them.
And the funny thing is the source of that impact is a lot of the building blocks that modern metalcore so regularly gets castigated for abusing. This is an album full of massive anthems about rising up against adversity, a lot of them just as non-specific as what’s regularly considered lazily formulaic in this genre, but it’s in the context and burning conviction that The Ghost Inside execute them with that makes them work. The subtext does just as much heavy lifting as the uncertainty around not just the band but their own lives provides a key factor, something which the refrain of “TGI / From the ashes, brought back to life” on the intro 1333 proceeds to obliterate as it kicks off an album that revels in its survival and bloody-minded intent. Lines like “Today I woke up to a brand new me / Free from the ties of tragedy” on Still Alive or “I saw myself on the way down / He said that’s not how our story ends” on Begin Again could easily come across as maudlin, but that’s not even a passing thought here, as Jonathan Vigil brings forth such an earth-shattering sense of meaning to every word that’s beefed up by his already impressive scream. And even then, there’s further nuance that’s fed in even further, like on Pressure Point, where the self-examination after tragedy sees Vigil re-evaluating his life and cutting out as many negative forces as possible. But this album really does hold its own the best when it’s predominantly celebrating that triumph and ascension; it’s why Aftermath works so well as both the album’s lead single and its closing track, condensing both an against-all-odds return and the drive and persevere and continue into one perfect refrain – “The beat goes on”.
It’s not like that’s where this album’s power is exclusive rooted in, though; this is just as punishing as The Ghost Inside have become known for, almost as if they’re picking up exactly where they left off. And in essence, they are, particularly with A Day To Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon back behind the production desk to once again amplify both the steamrolling low-end crunch, and the tremendous melodic components that make One Choice and Begin Again feel like towering anthems. Especially on the latter, the quick, detailled guitar work that forms a lot of its pace feels like a natural extension of the glances towards hardcore punk on Still Alive or Overexposure, and while there’s an borderline unstoppable sense of power to tracks like that, it’s worth noting the brighter, more hopeful expanse offered on Begin Again that shows a good amount of malleability on The Ghost Inside’s part. It’s a similar case with the mournful guitar peel on Unseen that’s a great source for its buildup, as well as shifting the gears from metalcore throwdowns into territory that can expand on those ideas a bit further.
Of course, it’s not like there’s anything wrong with those throwdowns, particularly when they’re coming from The Ghost Inside who’ve long since been proponents of hardcore and metalcore volatility of the highest calibre. The seismic guitar and drums sound nothing less than fantastically heavy basically at all times, and it’s a surprisingly brisk and tight-feeling listen despite how much is anchored in that heft. The Ghost Inside have speed on their side when they need to, but the sense of momentum is almost flawless here, all while keeping the size intact. All the ideal points of a modern heavy album seem to have been hit with little to no hassle, and that makes for an album that has an inherent accessibility without compromising even slightly. This is still a heavy album through and through, but the sense of The Ghost Inside being a band akin to Stray From The Path or even A Day To Remember themselves in terms of vision has never felt stronger than it does here. This feels like a band ready to move to bigger stages without having to trim themselves back to do so, and while The Ghost Inside have dabbled with that for a while, launching headfirst into it as they’ve done here is unequivocally a success.
It’s honestly the most perfect capper to an ordeal that couldn’t have been much more destructive or turbulent, but the strength with which The Ghost Inside have bounced back is testament alone to why they’re one of the premier acts in heavy music today. On a purely musical level, this album is as excellent as could’ve possibly been expected, but the weight and determination that permeates through it bumps it up from a great album to a genuinely special one. In what could’ve been even more of a tragedy than it already was, The Ghost Inside have grabbed every ray of light at the end of their particular tunnel and squeezed as much potential from each as they possibly could have, and have emerged with an album well in the running for pride of place among 2020’s heavy releases. Even just from listening to it, at a standpoint with no personal connection whatsover, the importance of this album is palpable, and that probably isn’t going to fade any time soon.
For fans of: Counterparts, Stick To Your Guns, A Day To Remember
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Ghost Inside’ by The Ghost Inside is released on 5th June on Epitaph Records.