REVIEW: GHOST IRIS – “Comatose”
Modern metalcore is an oversaturated genre. Few bands stand out, many fall flat and scramble over each other either by trying to find and carve an obscure niche, or chase the next big thing set by the genre trendsetters. Unfortunately, Ghost Iris cannot count themselves as trendsetters, but can Comatose stand tall on its own merit?
Hot on the heels of 2019’s Apple of Discord, the Danish metalcore/hardcore act opens Comatose with the instrumental “(3815935)” which serves as a classic metalcore breakdown buildup with its marching drums and chugs, before dropping listeners headfirst into “desert dread” featuring the vocals of OG metalcore act Chimaira’s Mark Hunter. The riffs lean heavily on the low-end of the extended range guitars employed by Ghost Iris adding a different flavor to tropey hardcore/metalcore riffs. The screamed verse/clean chorus dichotomy, staple and stale in the genre, and Ghost Iris follows suit accordingly. Following, “paper tiger” opens with the main riff that could easily have been written by Slipknot tuned lower. For many that will find stark appeal, for others, it will come off lackluster. Bass drops abound “paper tiger” at the first bar of every tempo change, which is a neat trick when used sparingly, not at every turn.
Tracks like “former self” like opener “desert dread” lead with crushing riffs, and showcase Ghost Iris’ best work. Ghost Iris’ signature down-tuned hardcore riffs, with cheeky dissonance and backing ambience is where they truly shine. The descent into the clean vocal territory, while not wholly terrible by any measure, is outshined by stronger vocalists in the scene. However, “former self” does try something different with the cleans, placing the clean vocal layers “behind” the hardcore barks does provide an interesting contrast. It must be pointed out that, the assumption that Ghost Iris is an American/British act even though they are from Denmark is praise unto itself and a credit to the scene as a melting pot!
In contrast “cult” and “ebb/flow” open with proggier riffs, which would not be amiss on an Erra, Intervals, or even Polyphia record, and do go a long way in spicing the record up, before quickly steering themselves into familiar territory. “Ebb/Flow” does feature some of the most ambitious clean vocals on Comatose and that must be complemented, along with a bouncy breakdown in the latter half of the track. Of course, no modern metalcore band can write a record in 2021 without attempting to add gravitas to the choruses with soaring string arrangements, and there are synth arrangements on “ebb/flow” among other tracks.
While Comatose is a strong record and plays well to Ghost Iris’ strengths as much as possible, they seem to fall in the middle of the pack at every measurable metric. They aren’t as revered as having a signature style as Architects, not as innovative as Erra, not as downturned-with-clean-vocals as Currents, not as bouncy as While She Sleeps, and not as downright bonkers as Bring Me The Horizon. In fact, many would argue that Ghost Iris is following a similar career trajectory as Florida’s Wage War, another band that is close to being lost in the mire of mediocrity without serious reshaping. Comatose has its moments, like the intro riff to “cold sweat” hits all the right spots, has a focused direction, is heavy and melodic in equal measure, with a memorable chorus and strong falsetto jumps. The breakdown is pit-inducing and skirts the lines between djent, metalcore, and deathcore, before crashing into a keyboard-backed crescendo chorus. The outro breakdown would make Wage War jealous and has cunningly placed harmonics. More tracks like “cold sweat” would have skyrocketed Comatose into greatness and Ghost Iris along with it!
Finally, the album closer “power schism” hits like a truck. Enough said.
The production is solid, the guitars sound thick and crisp without losing their clarity with the massive low end due to the down tuning. The bass finds its place in the mix and gets reasonable space to shine even with the extended range guitar tones. The drums hit hard and occupy an uncrowded space from the strings and the vocals. No complaints, yet nothing truly groundbreaking for a band in this age of synthetic metalcore.
Comatose is a record that is best when it hits hard yet leaves very little in its wake in terms of memorability. In this era of quickly diminishing attention spans, Ghost Iris will need to pull out a wildcard or two in their future releases or get left behind as the distance between the haves and have-nots increases!