In my history as a Metal fan, I have been misguided by genre titles on more than one occasion. When a bandís sound is difficult to describe, it often gets rubber-stamped with a label that is far too broad to fully embody it. This problem has steered me away from many worthy acts. In the case of GHOST BRIGADE, this issue is prominent; Iíve seen them described as melodic Death Metal and progressive Metalcore. While they do share certain minute qualities with those genres, their sound as a whole doesnít fit into either category. It is mostly void of any kind of guitar solo or breakdown, and it is much more atmospheric than any act Iíve encountered from those two genres.
A comparison one could make in regards to this album would be to "Brave Murder Day"-era KATATONIA. For the most part, the music is gloomy, mid tempo and full of vibrant emotion. While it isnít as flat-out depressing as the aforementioned album, and it is a little bit heavier, it does possess quite a few of the same qualities that made "Brave Murder Day" such a masterpiece. "Guided By Fire" is a work of passion and dedication, the kind of music that grabs your attention and doesnít let go until the dying seconds.
Taking the vocal work into consideration, "Guided By Fire" can be broken into two categories. Vocalist Manne Ikonen alternates between a growled vocal and traditional singing, both of which he excels at. His clean vocals are mellow, yet far from monotonous. When accompanied by the albumís more distressing musical moments, the clean vocals help build a thick atmosphere, making it easy to become lost in the music. More often than not, the "death" vocals have a similar effect. However, they do contribute to some of the less "entrancing" moments. "Horns" is the best example of this; the riffs are fast and closer to Death Metal than anything else on the album, and the growled vocals mirror this feeling. Contrary to this, the growled vocals on "Based On You" intertwine beautifully with the passionate guitar harmony, and the end result is simply haunting. The clean and harsh vocals are balanced quite well throughout the album, and neither has time to become hackneyed.
Iím not sure "depressive" would be a good adjective to associate with "Guided By Fire", but it certainly isnít upbeat or lively. A better way to describe it would be "melancholic" or "sombre". Take for example the scattered use of keyboards. They make several appearances on the album, but they never overstay their welcome. Their use never detracts from the music; they arenít in any way flamboyant or "in your face" so to speak. Instead, they cooperate with the overall tone of the music and help enhance the haunting mood.
While it may not be the easiest album to define, there is no denying the talent displayed throughout "Guided By Fire". This is one of the most impressive and musically mature debut albums I have ever listened to. GHOST BRIGADE have already been met with a respectable level of success, and if they continue making music of this caliber, this popularity can only grow. Regardless of genre, "Guided By Fire" is excellent.
(Online December 21, 2007)