GHOST In Stormy Nights (Drag City)

What do we know of Ghost? Well, they’re from Tokyo, formed in 1984 and apparently led a nomadic existence during their early years, living out of ruined temples and disused subway stations. “In Stormy Nights” is their seventh album, and sounds like the work of a collective who were force-fed late-60s Floyd at an impressionable age.

Cruelly sequenced as the vinyl edition’s first track (the CD is a little more forgiving in that respect), “Hemicyclic Anthelion” is as stern a test of the listener’s resolve as anything else this side of “Metal Machine Music”. It sounds like Satan’s burglar alarm going off for most of its 28 minutes, save for the quieter interludes that approximate a violin bow scratching against the inside of your skull. No, Ghost don’t really do compromise.

If you’ve survived that vicious opening assault the rest of “In Stormy Nights” should be plain sailing. “Water Door Yellow Gate” is reminiscent of the kind of ominous imperial marching music John Williams would pipe through the Death Star’s PA just before something really bad was about to happen to an innocent, unsuspecting planet. Here, as elsewhere, the terror is only marginally undermined by Masoki Batoh’s oriental diction.

Heavier still, “Gareki No Toshi” plays like a sped-up version of the central portion of “A Saucerful Of Secrets”, all manner of distortion, clatter, feedback and screaming entwining around a distressed bolero. “Caledonia” (yes, it’s a cover of the Cromagnon song, in case you were wondering) brings on the bagpipes for an unstoppable soundclash reminiscent of Black Sabbath tussling with the Pipes And Drums And Military Band Of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards at an Acid Test. The album winds slowly down with a couple of more conventional acid folk tunes, “Motherly Bluster” and “Grisaille”, both somewhere between Espers and “Unhalfbricking”. The fourth side of the vinyl version is devoted to a bonus Sing Together Mix of “Caledonia”, cut at 45 rpm for maximum apocalyptic heaviosity.

Not the easiest listen, there’s nevertheless much to treasure on “In Stormy Nights”, especially once past that difficult first side. The lazy comparison almost does the band a disservice, but if you can handle the immediately post-Syd Floyd this won’t be a giant leap.