Review Summary: Ghost once again release a solid reflection on folk, noise, and music in general.
Ghost is a band that belongs in an interesting group of bands in my head. While the actual idea of Japanese people combining psychedelic rock with acid folk is one I enjoy a lot, the actually delivery of the band always leaves something to be desired. I couldn’t say I don't enjoy any of Ghost's discography, but I don't think I could say I'm in love with any of it either. "In Stormy Nights" does nothing to change this opinion, and mainly it is centered on how diverse and unrelated the sounds are on the album. Still, the absolutely gorgeous tones that are found in "Hemicycle Anthelion" and "Grisaille" keep the record for collapsing in on its own schizophrenia.
To define Ghost's sound, it is important to define who Ghost is. Essentially, Masaki Batoh, a guitarist in the band, is the leader of the collective who have morphed in the various years since their inception as a supposed nomadic group in the late 1980s. The group was mainly a reaction to the supposed revitalized Japanese psych scene spearheaded by the group White Heaven. As the years have passed, Ghost have shown they are a band that can be both soft and gorgeous (the record "Lama Rabi Rabi") as well as just as heavy as any of their contemporaries (the record "Hypnotic Underworld). In a sense, "In Stormy Nights" pushes all of the previous concepts of Ghost to the brink. Ambience is drawn out into a near thirty minute cut and paste job of live recordings with the centerpiece "Hemicycle Anthelion," the heavy side of Ghost is shown with the middle section of the record, including the tympani-based "Water Door Yellow Gate" which explodes in a maelstrom of psychedelic aggression. Finally to represent the gorgeous, folky side of the band, the album's climax "Grisaille" is a beautiful and effectively epic close.
A quintessential aspect to the Ghost sound and one of my recently favorite guitar players, Michio Kurihara puts in yet another stunning performance on the cover "Caledonia," washing the already noisy song in a blissful state of almost shoegaze bliss. Masaki Batoh's distinctly foreign voice provides a beautiful counterpoint to the almost primitive "Motherly Bluster" and when the crescendos of strings hit midway through the song, his voice takes a distinctive turn to assist the beauty of the track and throw it into a near ballad. Still, although every member of the group is essentially a master of their instrument, sometimes this virtuosity paves the way to self indulgence. While it certainly isn't comparable to the pretentiousness of a group like, for example, Dream Theater, Ghost's experiments in noise and tones can get a tad excessive for even the most seasoned listeners.
"In Stormy Nights" is a worthy release of being filed under the rest of Ghost's great records. While the album as a whole is far from being perfect, moments of it are some of the most gorgeous and interesting things I have heard. Ghost have been around for over twenty years and while I certainly love them as a band, I still feel like they have a perfect record inside of them. Maybe it is just wishful thinking, but I always look forward to a new release from the band and constantly being surprised with the new twists and turns they decide to throw into their music. As such, "In Stormy Nights" does nothing to diminish my excitement for the next Ghost release.