Monday 9 February 2015

The Midnight Ghost Train - Cold Was The Ground (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 27/2/2015
Label: Napalm Records

"Cold Was the Ground" CD//DD//LP

1). Along the Chasm
2). Gladstone
3). BC Trucker
4). Arvonia
5). One Last Shelter
6). The Canfield
7). Straight to the North
8). No. 227
9). The Little Sparrow
10). Twin Souls
11). Mantis


The band that kicked off last years’ edition of Desert fest in Berlin laid waste to the small hall. The sun was still out when they started playing and there weren’t more than 50 people in attendance, but that didn’t stop the band from giving it their all. There they were, three burly Americans, playing hard, head banging, and enjoying themselves to the fullest. The guitars battled the drums for sonic dominance while the bassist effortlessly pounded his way through what would be the shortest hour of the weekend, shaking the foundation of the Astra Kultuurhaus. When the show came to a close, the crowd dispersed leaving the band alone to break down the stage. That was when I stumbled over to the singer and told him that he just won me over as a fan and that I wanted to know who the hell they were. He looked down at me, out of breath, with his bloodshot eyes and sweat-soaked t-shirt and said something in his gravely voice that I couldn’t make out before continuing on his way. Only later, after I got hold of the day’s running order, did I figure he’d said, “Thanks, we are The Midnight Ghost Train.” No, sir. Thank you.

It’s been less than a year since that show and in that time I have had to make do with their, “Buffalo,” their second full length while trying to manage youthful feelings of excitement during the lead up to their newest outing. Luckily, The Midnight Ghost Train live up to all expectations with their new album, “Cold Was the Ground,” by delivering a cavalcade of distorted guitars, gravely vocals, and a colossal rhythm section. All the elements that had me flattened during that sunny day in April last year have been mixed in magical proportions and cut to tape for “Cold Was the Ground.” This album is 39 minutes of superb song writing and catches the band sounding fierce and alive in both sound and delivery.

The Midnight Ghost Train are cooking with a live chemistry on “Cold Was the Ground.” The album opens with an instrumental warm up which feeds into “Gladstone,” the album’s first single. The force in this song is surprisingly relentless, pushing its way forward as it does with a simple little guitar lick. Moss’s voice is a little unconventional in this brand of stoner rock, so he holds back a little, giving the listener some space to get used to his demonic delivery. Things change real quickly when the album’s second single, “BC Trucker” comes a’ knocking, with Moss belting out his words the best he can. “I’m giving you self regret,” he sings over and over until he breaks free in the chorus with the sinister “be all my sins!!” What he has in store for the subject of the song’s lyrics is left to the listener’s imagination, but one thing is for sure, these guys aren’t here to be friendly.

The album continues as though it was trucking down an empty highway, cruising at a comfortable speed, bouncing along with the unpaved asphalt. “One Last Shelter,” another instrumental break, turns into “The Canfield,” a song that moves back and forth like osmosis, shifting between a moonshiner’s toe-tapper and a hard rock nod of approval. Elements of Clutch spring up in the cuts like “Twin Souls” and “No. 227,” but most remarkably on the track “Straight to the North.” Here, The Midnight Ghost Train paint from a pallet of Clutch’s self titled and latest offering, which makes for a song that is familiar, fresh, and just begging for a live setting. 

But don’t write this album off as a Clutch rip off because it’s far from that. Though no fault of their own, The Midnight Ghost Train is from Kansas, a state that lies west of the blues, north of the outlaws, and just too far east of the sandy breeding grounds that birthed Kyuss, but which has no musical identity of its own. So it’s no wonder that the band is a melting pot of American music, which is pretty much what Clutch is, too. The Midnight Ghost Train does this their own way, like on “Arvonia,” a moment that the band gets a little “Nighthawks”-era Tom Waits. That’s not to say Moss and company break down into a jazz band, but when Moss delivers lines like “just bring me my coffee and everything will be all right,” between the rock-on-or-fuck-off choruses, it’s as though they’re doing “Nighthawks,” Midnight Ghost Train style. Then they tie it all together with a double time onslaught of what a power trio is all about; the music. Towards the end of “Cold Was the Ground,” the band takes out their fangs for a bit, trading the electric guitar for a plucked and bowed violin, and the drumsticks for brushes. “padem, padem, padem,” they sing as they weave an eerie tale of how music has completely taken over their being.

There’s no doubt about it, I’m a fan of The Midnight Ghost Train and have written this review as one. I’m a sucker for their dusty, fuzzy tones, pounding rhythmics, snarling vocals, and most of all, the passionate delivery. “Cold Was the Ground” has satisfied all of my expectations and has gotten me excited for the band’s upcoming European tour. When they opened Desert fest last year, they were the band that I compared all other bands to and with the exception of Clutch, the conclusion was always the same; The  Midnight Ghost Train did it better. With this album already in my fixed rotation, 2015 is looking like it’s going to pan out like that one weekend in Berlin. Though music is not a competition, I’m curious to hear who will bring out an album this year that tops “Cold Was the Ground.” 

Words by: Victor van Ommen

You can pick up a copy here

For more information:

Tour Dates:

/w Greenleaf*

24.02.15 DE - Regensburg / Alte Mälzerei*
25.02.15 AT - Vienna / Arena*
26.02.15 DE - Würzburg / Immerhin
27.02.15 DE - Siegen / Vortex*
28.02.15 CH - Winterthur / Gaswerk*
01.03.15 IT - Milano / Lo Fi*
05.03.15 DE - München / Feierwerk*
06.03.15 DE - Leipzig / Stahlfest*
07.03.15 DE - Lübeck / Treibsand*
09.03.15 DE - Hamburg / Hafenklang
11.03.15 DE - Frankfurt / Das Bett
13.03.15 DE - Esslingen / Hell over Esslingen
14.03.15 CH - Obernetfelden / Böröm Pöm Pöm
15.03.15 IT - Treviso / Il Principe in Bicicletta
16.03.15 IT - Prato / No Cage
18.03.15 AT - Innsbruck / PMK
19.03.15 DE - Jena / Kulturbahnhof
20.03.15 FR - Chambery / Le Brin De Zinc
22.03.15 FR - Paris / Glazart
24.03.15 DE - Dresden / Ost Pol
25.03.15 DE - Lichtenfels / Paunchy Cats
26.03.15 DE - Berlin / Dusttown Festival
27.03.15 DE - Mannheim / 7 er Club

19.06.15 FR - Clisson / Hellfest
27.06.15 FR - Bourlon / Rock IN Bourlon