Review: Ghoultown – Ghost of the Southern Son
Written by Brett Kihlmire
A new Ghoultown album has been a long time coming. Life After Sundown came out in 2008 and The Unforgotten: Rare & Un-Released released in 2012. Least to say, fans are eager to see what their favorite outlaw band has to offer.
‘Apparition’ kicks things off in a theatrical fashion. Just forty-five seconds long it starts off with the blowing of the wind followed shortly by a melodic strumming of a spaghetti western style guitar and the band’s signature trumpet. It’s short, but it serves to draw you back into the Weird West realm of Ghoultown.
Picking up right where ‘Apparition’ left off, ‘Southern Son’ quick bursts into a fast beat and rocking rhythm. Heavy metal blends well with southern rock through the combination of electric and acoustic guitars with hints of outlaw country thanks to the voice of Count Lyle. Dalton Black keeps a hot beat while Santi and Lizard Lazario back up Lyle and Jake Middlefinger’s wild guitar playing with a solid rhythm while Randy Grimm pops in and out with his trumpet giving the song that signature Spaghetti Western style. Count Lyle’s singing is effortless and his storytelling is as sound as ever.
‘Ghost of the Past’ has a hard rock feel that drives with thumping drums and snarly rhythms while Count Lyle’s melodic voice tells a haunting story through his lyrics. It’s not quite a headbanger, but it’s one that will get you moving, especially when the chorus kicks in. With a trained ear you can detect Santi and Lizard Lazario’s backing vocals and tinges of the lead guitar bleeding through the layers. The ghost vocals and steel guitar-style solo really added to this one, while the shreddy leads kept me guessing.
The outlaw nature of Ghoultown’s lyrics shine bright on ‘Devil’s Comin Around’ with Count Lyle’s tale of murder and a coming reckoning. The clash of southern rock and country really hits the spot on this one, especially with the lead guitar. The rhythms are steady and the beat is quick and a trained ear can really appreciate the album’s production, for you can hear every instrument clearly. If this one doesn’t have you tapping your foot to the beat then you’re not alive, or even undead for that matter.
Starting off with a simple picking of the guitar string, the pace quickly picks up into a dangerous speed and ‘Cuchillo’ suddenly charges into a gallop before breaking into a sweep as Count Lyle sings of companions riding off into adventure. The gallop soon returns with the trumpet soaring overhead before a short burst of lead guitar. About halfway through we’re greeted with some standout leads and somewhat operatic female vocals that really add to the atmosphere before diving back into that galloping groove. I have to say, this one really captures that Wild West style Ghoultown is known for.
Following the groove-driven ‘Cuchillo,’ Ghoultown kicks up the speed and technique with ‘I Am the Night.’ A fast beat, wild leads, a charging rhythm, and haunting vocals such as “I am the night, say your goodbyes. This is the hour, darkness devours” makes for a real banger. And just when you think you have the song figured out for a hard rockin’ tune an acoustic section complimented the trumpet takes command for a few seconds before a short but fret smoking guitar solo.
‘Black on Black’ is the middle track of the album and a true testament of how great this album is. Rocking some clean riffs and a cool delivery from Count Lyle, this one starts off nice and slow. We get a little taste of the trumpet and distorted early on, but things lighten up shortly thereafter. And don’t worry, there’s a good deal of rockin’ guitars and wailing trumpet. The real centerpiece of the track, however, is Count Lyle and his lyrics. Though he doesn’t sing in a ballad style his words have a real somber feel to it. Of course, that doesn’t stop Jake Middlefinger from rocking yet another killer guitar solo.
With a party country spirit, chanting chorus and groove-laden riffing, ‘Blood, Bullets, and Whiskey’ is sure to get your blood pumping and your body moving. It’s seething with outlaw spirit, but isn’t too country nor is it too metal. It fits somewhere in between giving both sides of the coin a good deal of air time. Honestly though, it’s probably the weakest song on the album. That’s no dig, of course. The solos are slick and the spirit is there, but it just doesn’t hit me quite like the others.
‘Revenge of Dirty Sanchez’ is one of the first tastes we got of this album thanks to the band playing it live over the years and releasing a live version on The Unforgotten: Rare & Un-Released. Anyone who has listened to Give Em’ More Rope will surely know of this infamous bandito and welcome his return. That being said, this one rocks hard and is loaded with tributes to Sanchez’s first outing. The trumpet is really prominent here and that’s awesome since it’s one of the main unique aspects of the band. However, don’t expect Ghoultown to rely just on Lyle’s lyrics and Grimm’s trumpet; the whole band gets to speak their peace in this one with their very own solo making for a memorable tune.
‘Stick to Your Guns’ is one of the hardest rockin’ tracks on the album. With a fast beat and rhythm, incredible guitar work, especially that solo, a catchy chant of ‘Fight! Fight!’ and a chorus proclaiming “Stick to your guns and rise above,” there’s little to dislike. Hell, it’s pretty inspirational and would be a great tune for your workout mix. This is hands down the best track on the album in my opinion.
‘Tombstone’ is the ballad of the album. It’s a real cowboy song thanks to the slow pace, soulful and reflective vocals, and acoustic style for much of the song. The atmosphere is as thick as cold butter and the country soul of this band really shines thanks to the cry of the lead guitar and the group vocals. Lyrics like “Tombstone, only the name will remain” makes for a deep song that’s made only better by the wailing lead guitar late in the track and howling trumpet. If you’re a sucker for a ballad you’re going to be in love, I know I am.
‘Black-lung Revival’ has a slick outlaw country spirit to it, but with a strong groove metal backbone. The riffs chug along in the background while the lead guitar jets out every so often. Count Lyle’s pushes his vocals a little harder this time around hitting some higher than usual notes. However, like ‘Blood, Bullets, and Whiskey,’ this one sits on the bottom rung of this album ladder. It’s by no means a bad tune. Hell, it’s a great song, but as a follow up to ‘Tombstone’ it just doesn’t provide the late album rebound I was looking for. Well, that’s what I thought until the temp kicks up and some slick fret shredding starts to happen late in the track.
‘Vanishing Riders’ is a fitting name for the send off to this incredible album. The Spaghetti Western is front and center on this one with a sweet groove compliment by rockin’ riffs, sharp leads, and a strong and steady beat. The whistling really captures the essence of the Wild West and inspires visions of a group of cowboys riding off into the sunset as the credits roll.
I’ve been a fan of Ghoultown for ten years now and it’s been nine long years since Ghoultown’s masterpiece Life After Sundown hit the shelves. I love the hell out of that album and I often wondered how Ghoultown could possibly top it. Well, from one bandito to another, Ghoultown has done it again and that’s no lie. Ghost of the Southern Son is on par with Life After Sundown, if not better. So I’ll tell you what, whether you’re a longtime Ghoultown fan or just hearing about them, take my advice and buy this album immediately. You won’t regret it. 10/10