Where visual art can announce itself as everything from an explosion of different shapes, dimensions and hues or restrict itself to the most minimalist, one-dimensional, single-colour blocks, music can do much the same. This particular beard-toting Kansas trio find themselves at the latter end, pumping out an unfaltering combination of muffled fuzz bass and sludgy, rhythmic chugging. Essentially, they have taken what bands like Orange Goblin, Red Fang and Clutch have done before and refined it to something a little less expansive and a darn sight more punishing.
Cold Was The Ground marks their third foray into long-players and this one thunders along a similar path as its predecessors, crashing in on the listener as wave upon wave of sonic obliteration. Underpinning this dark, suffocating powerhouse of noisome groove, the smatterings of swampy delta blues, gnarly rock n’ roll and virulent stoner metal lie.
Gently ushering itself in with a warping, one-note crescendo, the introductory ‘Along The Chasm‘ suddenly kicks us into the hammering, rhythmic, mile-deep rut where The Midnight Ghost Train demand we remain for the majority of the album’s running time. As we speed on through tracks like the attack-and-release, riff-repeats of ‘Gladstone‘, the chilled-out Monster Magnet-esque drift and rapid wah-wah pedal pneumatics of instrumental ‘One Last Shelter‘ and the dull battery of ‘No. 227‘ we alight on the heart of the album where the band begin to find their soul.
There’s the ripped choral lick on ‘BC Trucker’, thick, dirty and moreishly addictive and ‘Arvonia‘ with its Fu Manchu wall of fuzz and dark, brooding undertones so reminiscent of All Hail The Yeti. Deeper in and there’s the sinister backwoods edge of ‘The Canfield’, the no-frills swagger and bluesy grunt of ‘Straight To The North‘ and creepy, energized panic that so engenders ‘Twin Souls‘. None of these though can compare to the simple, tender luminosity of ‘The Little Sparrow‘. It is the first true glimpse of what lies beneath the bluster – heartfelt emotion. In this case, that emotion is fear. Pure, cold sweat-inducing, neurotic fear.
Undoubtedly, there is a good helping of monotonous, atonal filler here and an infuriating paucity of texture or flavour in a scene so dependent upon small deviations in delivery. However, there is also a more subtle connection to the sordid underbelly that lurks beneath the glossy veneer of so much modern music. Here, you can taste the blood, sweat and tears.
Maybe, if Cold Was The Ground was a painting it would be a Rothko – probably one from his Black-Form series. And like Rothko’s minimalist art, it will have its admirers.
The Midnight Ghost Train – Cold Was The Ground gets…