Whether it’s Randy Blythe in Lamb of God or Jesse Leach in Killswitch Engage, a lot of metalcore bands boil down to a metal act fronted by a hardcore vocalist. For Great American Ghost, vocalist Ethan Harrison has kept the technical trajectory of the band’s 2015 debut, Everyone Leaves, and 2017’s Hatred Stems From the Seed rooted in good-old-fashioned Boston beatdown. The band’s latest record sports a lot more influence from the likes of Gojira and Meshuggah, but it’s bloodline still traces back to the likes of DYS and Gang Green. Power Through Terror is a flesh-ripping metalcore tour de force that only gets better with each listen.
Meaty chugs and nihilistic diatribes take hold on opener “Rat King,” but the precision and syncopation is on another level. Guitarist Niko Gasparrini and bassist Joey Perron still harken back to to mosh-happy primitivism, and you won’t find any guitar solos. But their genius riffs strike gold again and again.
This consistent power is why “Prison of Hate” manages to destroy listeners with massive breakdowns and unrelenting anger—Harrison’s catchphrase, “Reality is pain/ Hope is a plague,” comes to mind—but the fret-work remains bulletproof and acrobatic. The following “Altar of Snakes” achieves a similar effect by incorporating bulldozing leads into a decimating groove and continuing the album’s impeccable balance of raspy melodic singing into menacing snarls.
The title track brings a three-count rhythm structure, adding some tasteful beat changes into a anti-authoritarian anthem worthy of the Boston legends. Davier Perez’s drumming complements the shreddy and stripped-down elements, allowing the band to flow naturally from distinct passages. His rapid-fire double bass on “Rivers of Blood” provides the perfect foil for the bombshell hits during the mosh parts as well as the passionate, atmospheric and almost post-rock outro. Power Through Terror sounds like a hardcore band playing metal, but the metal takes no energy from the primal agression.
While some throaty singing does provide some respites from the full-on yelling, Great American Ghost relies on infectious groove to elevate the metalcore tropes of cuts like “Socialized Animals.” The electrifying riffs and charging percussion will appeal to fans of early-2000s metalcore, as is the line “I’d rather believe in nothing/ Than beg for my fucking life,” but it’s nowhere near redundant.
Even the bouncing groove of metal song “Black Winter” has some nuanced switch-ups and a low key eeriness that takes over during the ultra-slow breakdown at the end. “We build these fucking empires just to watch them fucking burn,” Harrison screams at the end. His pre-breakdown slogans are on point throughout this album.
Given metalcore’s tendency toward the generic, it’s easy to approach Power Through Terror expecting it to get boring. Such preconceptions make the album’s battle-hardened cohesion that much more satisfying. Great American Ghost knows what works, whether it’s the synchronized double-kick drumming and guitars, or the unsettling chorus melodies of “Scorched Earth.”
The breakdowns never feel forced, and the choruses never feel like the band is pandering. Its chemistry transcends genre limitations, even keeping well-tread path followed by cuts like “WarBorn” not only listenable but thoroughly enjoyable. The rapid chugs and vaguely Swedish-inspired riffing as well against the gargantuan percussion and unfiltered vocals, but it’s the tact and dexterity that allows this band to stay on top rather than ride the coattails of an already-established sound.
“No More” ends Power Through Terror in violent glory, with one of the most punishing guitar licks the band has ever written. And yet, there’s still room for moody build-ups and emotional melodies before the bone-crunching hate-mosh sections. Great American Ghost simultaneously does Boston hardcore proud while supercharging it with immaculate riff smithery. This album proves exactly which newer band should rep the metalcore tradition.