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There is a process in writing songs where a good idea is come up with, and then ideas are thrown at it, and you see what sticks and works, and you see what doesn’t. Often, the process then involves weeding through those things that work, keeping only the best for the song. Guitar parts that are cool but clash with the vocals, competing guitar parts, different elements that can be whittled down to make the song more streamlined, or least less ‘busy’ sounding. This second stage can come during the writing process, or during the mixdown phase, when the engineer can put a fresh pair of ears on the material, and give his or her impression of what’s there.
Anatomy of a Ghost’s album, Evanesce, starts out with "Birth of a Mile," which seems to have avoided this second stage. There are guitar parts drowning out vocals, guitars stepping all over each other, and a fairly frantic sounding mix ensues. Trying to follow the lyrics, maybe that was the desired result. If so, kudos to the band! The guitars are panned hard left and right, and the guitar on the left has a propensity for wanking while other things are happening, which tends to make it hard to follow the lyrics. Additionally, that guitar tends towards a harsh, "high-endy" type of sound, further pushing it to the front of the mix. At times it seems that the song might have been better served had the guitars taken something more of a back seat, or at least been pulled down a little in the mix.
Comparatively, on the second track, "Set the Stage," the guitars are a well-oiled part of a well-oiled machine. Everyone knows their part, allowing the vocals to shine through. The drums and bass are always tight and throw interesting change-ups in the songs. There are almost no ‘four on the floor’ beats, no Casio ‘Rock Beat 2,’ which has become the de facto rock beat lately. Instead, they focus on interesting rhythms that invite inspection without needlessly dominating the track.
Vocally, the band is part of the trend towards less-‘strong’ voices, single tracked, allowing more emotion to come through. Also, the voices sound somewhat younger, as though no longer trying to seem older than they are. Its always been amusing to hear a deep, baritone on a track and find out the singer was 17 and doing his best impression of a rock singer, instead of just singing from the soul.
The band also plays with space, as on the intro to "On To Morning Stars," which has a rhythmic intensity reminiscent of Tool. With dueling vocal lines and nicely played guitar lines tucked behind them, and the by now usual dead-on rhythm section, the song flows nicely section to section. Production-wise, the album positively cranks on big studio speakers, and on headphones. However, on smaller reference speakers, and on midrange stereo equipment, the low-end tends to disappear, killing most of the effectiveness of the rhythm section. This could be problematic, since its not clear that Fearless records will be marketing this album to the hi-fi audiophile market.
Dustin Kreidler is a Contributing Writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.