It was a strange weekend in the Bay Area. It had been so nice, but all of a sudden it was stormy out, lightening was crashing, and the smell of boiled beets was in the air. Obviously, splatterthrashers Ghoul were in town.
The original hooded menaces in Ghoul have often journied to Oakland in the past. I think there must be some kind of special travel deal or a direct flight from their homeland of Creepsylvania to Oakland. I shudder to think of what their passport photos must look like. This time, they were in town to record their long-awaited follow up album to 2006’s Splatterthrash. I guess Mr. Fang’s wax cylinder recording device must’ve been in the shop, because I found the Ghouls at Oakland’s vaunted Earhammer Studios, a place well known to record some of the best doom, crust and punk coming out of the Bay Area. I’m sure they felt right at home in the depressed neighborhood with people pushing their entire belongings about in shopping carts, not unlike the wheelbarrows of their European homeland. Just less donkey shit everywhere.
Earhammer is run by Sal Reya and Greg Wilkinson, alumns of great Bay Area bands such as Asunder, Brainoil, Laudanum, and Elk. They’ve also got their heads in a gear space I can only dream of. For pete’s sake, Sal works at Hartman Electronics building some of the finest boutique guitar pedals available. This pair have been building this studio from the ground up in a warehouse space in Oakland. I mean literally building, having constructed a great sounding recording room where there is not one wall parallel to another. This offers some acoustic advantages to isolate some amazing drum tones. Also, the first thing you see walking in is Han Solo in carbonite, so you know you’re in some nerdy company.
I know Ghoul has a reputation for, you know, killing people, but I braved a visit to their recording session anyway. Luckily, Sal had been prepared and kept Ghoul well fed with some corpses looted from Piedmont cemetery. He said this was advised by Mr. Fang, Ghoul’s malificient benefactor. Lucky me. Sal was also kept protected (and enslaved to the board) by Kogar, a new friend of Ghoul and some kind of erstwhile bodyguard. More like a caretaker of retards, one could assume.
First I found Fermentor behind his drum kit, an older Pearl Professional DX. It sounded monstrous, appropriately enough. He keeps it pretty simple, with just a couple rack toms, few cymbals, and a single kick. I guess you have to keep it simple if you live in a catacomb.
One of the interesting things about his set up is his set up of a bell over his china. Is he saving space? Does it help the sound of both or resonate? I couldn’t get an answer, well, at least not an answer I could understand. Fermentor sounds like the cookie monster doing nitrous.
Next up, I tried to engage in conversation with Dissector, but that just sounded like insect clicks. I’m pretty sure I heard chittering from his thorax. This guy plays a simple strat, strange for a such a heavy band, but it really makes his leads stand out with that hollow high end that strats are so famous for.
Main man Digestor was busy playing, luckily, so I didn’t fear him trying to bite my fingers off or maiming me in any other way. He was rocking an Epiphone V that he procured from some hapless soul in Australia who customized the pick ups for him. Here he is seen playing on top of an Ampeg VH-140C, the moshiest solid state amp ever made, and a Peavey Triple X, Peavey’s embarassingly packaged Triple Rectifier substitute. Seriously, Peavey, ditch the truck flap girl panel and stupidly labeled body parts knobs. Even Digestor was too ashamed to rock that shit, having replaced the front panel.
I guess these were just scratch tracks for the six string duo, so who knows what will end up on the final recording. Digestor was also goin through a couple pedals, including a thriftily made Ibanez DE7. The echo sounds pretty good for this economic (cheap) pedal, good because Ghoul has some kind of soft spot for surf guitar. Also, note the notes written on his tuner… This guy is too busy slaughtering folks and pilfering graveyards to remember what standard D tuning consists of. Cute.
Bassist Cremator was laying down his final tracks going through and old Ampeg 70s V4B and a 2×15, not exactly what one would expect for tight trash. It sounded good, though, and had a natural overdrive like what lots of folks try to emulate with a Sansamp.
He had a dizzying array of pedals ready to go, I guess because four strings means you need more pedals? Or he has a small dick, maybe no dick after he was caught in that fire where he got his monicker. I was able to recognize a Morley PWF that made some wicked fuzz and space sounds, a Russian Big Muff that he only used in tandem with an old Phase 90, some frankensteined FX90, and a wah of unknown origin. I’m sure it was all used tastefully, because Ghoul is all about class… ahem. Sal had this set up to record with a mic on the cab, and a DI before AND directly after the pedals.
I got a picture with my fellow four stringer while he was holding his BC Rich Ironbird. It’s a strange beast, neck through with no markings, and no tone knob. I guess, who needs a tone knob in metal? Louder and crisper is ideal, and none are so crispy as this 3rd degree burn out.
I heard some of the recording, and it sounds way more tight than one might expect. I’m looking forward to hearing more, but I made my escape when Kogar wasn’t looking. As I ran from Earhammer, I’m pretty sure I heard a blood curdling scream and Sal hasn’t answered his cell phone in days. I fear the worst, but fuck it, I survived Ghoul.