It was a not-so-dark-and-stormy night when the creepy Creepsylvanians known as Ghoul brought their patented brand of uh, ghoulish splatterthrash to Des Moines, IA, aka the asshole of the Midwest. I was excited to see them for the first time, and that excitement was only heightened by a lengthy wait outside the venue (at least I wasn’t standing next to the Juggalos), followed by what seemed like an eternity sitting through a rather abysmal opening band (the less said on that, the better). After a declaration by the Grand Basilisk stating that we were all in violation of Creepsylvanian law for harboring these four maniacal hooded fugitives, the band hit the stage, immediately launching into “Off With Their Heads” from their latest album, 2011’s Transmission Zero. From the very beginning it was clear that Ghoul had come to kill, and the musical evisceration didn’t let up for a moment over the course of their thirty-odd-minute set.
You see, Ghoul are the best of both worlds. The band puts on an impressive show, but they don’t for one minute let the show overshadow the music. It’s a pitfall that many theatrical bands fall into, but Ghoul defy the odds with a penchant for wicked riff-craft and an emphasis on catchiness that would’ve had me doing the graveyard mosh if I wasn’t getting too old for this shit, to paraphrase Sgt. Murtaugh. In fact, Ghoul’s set whipped up some of the most ferocious pit action I’ve seen at a Des Moines show in a long time; I witnessed at least one motherfucker getting punched in the face (by one tough chick, no less). I myself stood behind the beefiest human barrier I could find on the outskirts of the pit so that I could take in Ghoul in all their gory glory without having to worry about getting cold-cocked myself.
The audience ate up every last chunk of metallic offal that Ghoul dished out as the band plowed through songs from their entire four album discography. “Splatterthrash” “Graveyard Mosh” and “Rise, Killbot, Rise!” were among the immediate highlights, but the entire set was as energetic as it was gruesome, all razor-sharp guitars, gnarly distorto-bass and skull-pummeling drums, with gurgled vocal vomit spewing tales of terror. Ghoul’s show was a (blood)feast for the eyes as well as the ears, with the titanic battle between Killbot and Destructor, as well as Baron Samedi giving the crowd a much-needed “Brain Jerk” being among the standout visual moments. Equally entertaining was the hilarious between-song banter supplied by bassist Cremator and guitarist Digestor, who brought a heavy dose of pitch-black humor to the already over-the-top mayhem taking place on stage.
By the end of Ghoul’s set, I was feeling zombiefied, totally drained by its sheer awesomeness. The band met and exceeded my expectations, coming off like a vintage EC comic book come to life with a vicious, thrashing soundtrack that left me dying for more. I can only hope that these cannabilistic, catacomb-dwelling Creepsylvanians someday return to spread their gutbucket blues to my neck of the woods.
Remaining Ghoul tour dates:
3-30 Lincoln NE – Bourbon Theatre
3-31 Boulder CO – Fox Theatre
4-01 Grand Junction CO – Mesa Theater & Club
4-02 Flagstaff AZ – Orpheum Theatre
4-03 San Diego CA – House of Blues
4-04 Ventura CA – Majestic Ventura Theatre
4-05 Chico CA – Senator Theatre
4-06 San Francisco CA – The Regency Ballroom
4-07 Reno NV – Knitting Factory
4-09 Las Vegas NV – Hard Rock Cafe on the Strip
4-10 Magna UT – The Great Salt Air
4-11 Ft. Collins CO – Aggie Theater
Listen to Ghoul’s Transmission Zero: