It’s been five years since heralded progressive outfit Rishloo last graced us with an off-kilter time-shift or a soaring conclusion to an eight minute stargaze, and despite having an impervious explanation for this passage of time — they broke up; vocalist Andrew Mailloux decided to pursue other avenues whilst the remaining members carried on as the instrumental The Ghost Apparatus — there has always been a feeling that they’d cut the chord too early, that they’d not yet made the record they’d been reaching for with Eidolon and Feathergun.
Comments during a recently held Reddit AMA on the topic of their reformation suggest Mailloux felt the same way, describing his bandmates as “brothers” and stating that a follow-up record had to be made as a matter of course. Asuccessful Kickstarter campaign had already facilitated that — one that exceeded its modest $6,000 target by almost double — and expectations were stoked by a series of studio clips and the band’s all-involving demeanour. Living as Ghosts With Buildings as Teeth is essentially the result of a burning itch to create art.
You might be wondering why I’m writing up this much exposition when I normally don’t, but in listening to Ghosts, I’m struck by the manifestation of Rishloo’s Phoenix-like resurrection in the music — the grander thematic scale, the liquidity of the composition, the sheer attention to detail — and it dawns on me that the intentional time-lapse was the best thing that could have happened to Rishloo for their artistic potency. After all, it can take a sustained period self-reflection to discover an authentic identity, not least if you’re constantly being told you sound like Tool, The Mars Volta, Dredg, Fair to Midland etc, rather than say, well, Rishloo.
In doing so, they’ve abandoned the hesitant, suggestive hand gestures of old in favour of confident, sweeping gesticulations that command and dictate. If all the world’s a stage, then Rishloo are the curtain pullers, the lighting guys, the audience and the stars, juggling tight-knit percussive barbs on one hand and telling tales of salvation with the other. Mailloux has always been the man with his name in lights but he shows off his co-stars now, and each excels in kind, providing a richer, more holistic sound to support the winding monologues of their leading man. It is high theatre, a technically dazzling display of firepower from an earnest fairground troupe graduating to the cirque du soleil.
The opening couple of minutes of ‘The Great Rain Battle’ is a mighty scene in and of itself, an immediate and prime example of both the musical strides that Rishloo have taken in their off-time as well as their narrative preferences. Mailloux’s operatic range dances around a maze of prickly arpeggios with eyes-closed confidence, eventually wrapping around the eager reach of the punchy, enthusiastic snares and observant bass in symphonic unity. “Like a madman, I’ll defend the end of the world!” Mailloux cries, and not for the last time. There’s a lot of rhetoric around these topics of death, survival, resentment, identity – “I’m not meaningless!” he pleads on the towering ‘Landmines’. There’s an air of fuck you in his steely voice this time; a bite to match the bark. The defiant scowl of a tragic hero.
Ten-minute centerpiece ’Dark Charade’ references as much — “my performance was flawless’” Mailloux ponders ruefully over a dreaming, encouraging flicker of a lonesome guitar — and like much of Ghosts, it operates within a sort of mythological sub-text, an ethereal middle ground that tethers us just enough to our reality that are still capable of empathy. Mailloux is presented as a real character in a constructed world, like Truman, and despite the constant references to spirits, apocalypses, ravens, storms and beasts, such prog-metal tropes serve to frame the story rather than undermine it. For Rishloo, Ghosts is the reward for wanting to do better, to go further as a band, to admitting the grass is not always greener. It is a fine example of a reunion for the right reasons, and it is the sound of a band seizing a second chance with applaudable endeavour.
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