Review Summary: "Two drinks every morning, two drinks every night, just to make me feel right."
By all accounts, Norwegians Ghost Avenue are survivors, the kind of musicians who persevere even when there are no signs of light at the end of the tunnel. Their story began in the spring of 2002, when vocalist Kim Sandvik and Øystein Wiik got together for the first time to jam in the basement of the former’s house, armed with nothing more than a cheap P.A. system and an Ibanez guitar. Sometime later, they recruited bassist Asbjørn Wiik and drummer Petter Lein, only to see the former call it quits in the summer of 2006. But while a replacement was quickly found in the form of Magnus Liseter, it was only in the winter of 2008 that their lineup was truly complete with the addition of André Berger as the band’s second guitarist. Even then, it would take another two years before they were able to record their first long player, making it eight full years since that first jam session in Nesodden.
As such, it’s easy to view the five-piece’s self-titled sophomore release as a statement of defiance, but it’s perhaps more important to note that the three year gap between this record and The Engraving
has not mellowed their enthusiasm one bit. To wit, the Norwegians storm out of the gates with “Ghost Avenue”, which, as its title suggests, is a rather unabashed ode to their journey thus far as professional artists. If you choose to ignore the somewhat corny lyrics packed in the song’s solar plexus (“Step aboard, we’ll take you for a ride!”; “Grab a beer and a whiskey too at Ghost Avenue!”), it quickly becomes obvious that there’s a ridiculously catchy tune buried within. Vocalist Sandvik is in top form here, jiving well with the interplay between Berger and Wiik while belting out his leads in a manner not unlike a latter day Geoff Tate. Elsewhere, Ghost Avenue’s penchant for writing clean, efficient songs can be seen in cuts like “Rock ‘n Roll Tree” and “The Hunt”, with the two numbers balancing heavy metal’s love for lyrical symbolism with the sort of sculpted, 80’s stoner rock feel that can only come from an outfit which believes that the best music was written in the time of their parents. Then there’s “Treasure Chest”, which is perhaps the moment where Petter Lein’s star shines brightest on the album, with his punchy, no-nonsense fills granting the song a constant and thrilling sense of motion.
But as is so often the case with modern day bands that have developed in the shadow of outfits like Queensryche, Judas Priest, and Pantera, the songs on Ghost Avenue
can occasionally end up reminding you of better, more interesting moments from those other bands and cause you to want to go and listen to them instead. So, while Ghost Avenue’s no-frills approach grants them the ability to produce listenable songs seemingly at will, their slight tendency to ape the styles of their predecessors – combined with their relative inexperience – occasionally puts paid to their efforts. Sandvik and co. may have shown that they can stick around, but now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to prove that they can go one better when album #3 rolls around.