From the mid-seventies through the eighties, the bands of the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal)—groups like Motorhead, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest—held sway over the eardrums and amplifiers of millions, influencing the ebb and flow of musical tides both mainstream and underground in ways that listeners and practitioners alike are decades later still discovering.
Norwegian Classic-Power-Metal band Ghost Avenue’s self-titled LP (released August 2013) is a signed, sealed, delivered love letter not just to the energy and audible legacy of the bands that ruled their radios and record players as they came up; it’s a testament to the living-legend lifestyle and hard-party hijinks that their stage gods embodied and often let seep into their musical works so that even the most mild-mannered among us might get a glimpse at how the wild half live. As it happens, “Ghost Avenue” is also a strong flag planted for the eighties-styled metal revival that is now—despite still being largely underground—building momentum across the globe.
All the hallmarks of an era are contained within the eleven tracks present here: Through thrashing mover-shakers like “Treasure Chest”, syncopated half-time head-bangers like “Out on the Street”, and soulful, lighter-lit ballad-to-ballbusters like “All I Can Say”, Ghost Avenue’s compositions are simple but forceful, rhythmically raw and punctuated by virtuosity-hinting solos from lead guitarist Oysten Wiik, the steady, tree-felling bass chops of drummer Petter Lein, harmonized accompaniment from axeman-in-crime Andre Berger and bassist Magnus Liseter, and occasional upper-register vocal flourishes from frontman Kim Sandvik. Lyrics are at times a bit stilted, cheesy and grandiose though broad in scope a la Maiden or even Spinal Tap—reminiscent of old-school garage, basement, and small-venue bands wherein concept and attitudinal delivery trumped packaged poetic form and friendliness—and the band frequently finds its way into the narrative (complete with an origin-song opener) as reminder that we’re active participants riding shotgun rather than listeners being subjected to storytellers’ collected-though-isolated works.
Perhaps the only downside in the mind of this reviewer to what this quintet has promised and delivered is that they may’ve done their job too well. If the mission was to open a time capsule, to inspire us to look back fondly on and perhaps rediscover through nostalgia the music of days thought gone and the people we were then or invite new listeners to investigate these musical annals, Ghost Avenue has accomplished it more than adequately. Still, after listening, I was more drawn to the Rock and Metal monsters being revered and emulated and what that auditory stroll into mind and heart’s old passages might evoke than any memorability that the band’s own efforts might offer. “Ghost Avenue” seemed to say “Remember THIS?” so well that I found more solace in the arms of the loves being praised than those of the lovers singing praises. My singular dilemma, perhaps, but give it a listen and find out for yourself….