REVIEW: Great American Ghost – Power Through Terror

Artist: Great American Ghost

Album: Power Through Terror

With an election year upon us, there’s no better time than to examine the word power—or, even more importantly—what makes a leader powerful? Is it the same thing as being a good leader to be a powerful one? Not really (although being a good leader is arguably one of the largest testaments to power one can accrue over their citizens). Is a leader powerful through commanding respect? Or obtaining obedience? Or maybe a delicate blend of both? As we decide who next we (for the Americans among my readership) put into power, its important to keep the connotations that follow in mind, even if it isn’t so simple as a textbook definition. What is simple, though? Deriving the sheer energy and force from the sophomore release by metalcore outfit Great American Ghost. The aptly named Power Through Terror is a tremendous record that instills bewilderment and—yes—terror through its shocking abrasiveness and rugged ruthlessness. In short, if you wanted to get a feel for power, you can find it in Great American Ghost, as their 2020 album is an immense testament to just how powerful and punishing heavy music can be.

Power Through Terror is a powerhouse, no pun intended. Instrumentally, this record starts with a neck-snapping dose of whiplash and doesn’t let up until “No More” fades. From salvo after salvo of crushing percussion (“Rat King,” as well as “Rivers of Blood” highlight this excellently) to spastic leads that segue into spine-splitting breakdowns, everything Great American Ghost do on Power Through Terror is an exercise in metalcore mastery. Continuing to build on their moniker of “always hateful, always pissed,” these Bostonian brutalizers swing away with a combination of blistering hardcore and sharp, cutthroat metal that leaves a raw, gritty feel in the listener’s head, matching their raw take on extreme music. Songs like “Rat King” hammer this home, where ravenous percussion serves as a punctual backdrop for a series of immense breakdowns strung together by catchy fretwork and beefy, thick bass. Likewise, “Scorched Earth” is among the more straightforward cuts from Power Through Terror, heiring more on the side of terror, as it features the record’s most monumental and grisly moments. “Socialized Animals” sees Great American Ghost embracing the more metallic aspect of metalcore, hitting faster instead of harder, relying on dancy drum patterns and stellar leads to find its way into the listener’s head. With all this being said, it’s worth mentioning: Great American Ghost definitely have a style, and during some portions of Power Through Terror, the listener might find the band a little predictable, for lack of a better word. While the band at no point dive into full-blown monotony, “Black Winter” and “WarBorn,” both excellent tracks in their own right otherwise feel a little lost in the mix, as they feel very similar to a majority of the record instrumentally. In truth, even those songs are incredible—as Great American Ghost have truly created one of the most energetic and vigorous metalcore records in recent history.
            Great American Ghost boast an immense vocal performance, even without over-the-top vocal diversity or range. Power Through Terror has the raw, emotional voracity one might expect from late-career Vanna with the dark and aggressive lyrical subject matter one might expect from a contemporary deathcore act. Songs like “Rat King” and “Scorched Earth” are nothing short of immolating. “Socialized Animals” feels more political (in keeping with the themes of power, and, depending on your political inclinations, terror) and less outright pissed with the record’s title track finding a sweet spot in the balance. Vocally, you won’t hear ten different subtypes of “tunnel lows” or any gimmicky techniques; you will hear 100% unfiltered and primal energy. “Scorched Earth” is a personal favorite of this, but even from the get-go of “Rat King,” the listener can very quickly feel that. Great American Ghost capture the eviscerating dynamics present on their breakout full-length while still stepping things up, adding even more intensity into the mix.

It’s quick to write Power Through Terror off as a slightly-better-than-above-average metalcore record with a couple solid tracks—however, if you give Great American Ghost the chance, they will blow you away. Every song on the record brings something to the band’s overall dynamic and—if nothing else—enough heaviness to sink Noah’s Ark. At the end of the day, Power Through Terror is varied in its intensity, lyrical content and metalcore stylings enough to keep even the pickiest fans occupied, all while largely omitting the type of monotony that comes standard with most contemporary heavy music acts.


For Fans Of: Vanna, Knocked Loose, Distinguisher

Connor Welsh