Review: Vinegar Hill – Ghost Flowers

Vinegar Hill, likely named after the infamous hill where the last defending battle of the Irish rebels against the British during the Irish Rebellion of 1798 took place, is a melodic death metal band from Austria, consisting of five musicians. Dominik Stadler is responsible for the vocals, Michael Dreschnig for both guitar and vocals, Oliver Seebacher also for guitar, Lukas Marak for the bass parts and Thomas Troppacher takes care of the drum lines. Having unleashed 3 full-lengths onto the world since they were founded back in 2007, they illuminate their 10-year anniversary with a new release. Assuming their bio is trustworthy, they showed growth and development with each previously released full-length, now resulting in their, for now, pinnacle Ghost Flowers. According to the band this is their heaviest, darkest and fastest work so far. Sounds good to me, that kind of statements always piques my interest. Time to find out how heavy, dark and fast their actual music is.

The first thing I realized after giving Ghost Flowers its first full spin was that it would be impossible to review every song separately. Each song holds so many different facets there is simply no way to write a description that covers them all. More than once that spells disaster, but in this case I think it’s the opposite, I think the composition of the songs is a huge contributor to the overall quality and enjoyment. Despite all this opener The Fortress Above The Sun opens pretty straight-forward with an more or less classic death metal riff and ditto rhythm, which is probably for the best, because it immediately gets you in the right flow. From the first second of The Fortress Above The Sun until the dying tones of In Carving Memory you will be pleasantly exposed to a highly entertaining wall of melodic death metal peppered with a huge variety of breaks and intermezzos. It’s not shockingly original riff-wise, but because of the way they have been woven into the rhythm and combined with said variety of breaks and intermezzos that is in no way a problem and it certainly is not a run-of-the-mill death metal album.

The guitar work jumps from heavy to brutal to high-speed to soothing and sweet in a heartbeat, needless to say we have some skilled musicians on our hands here. The same can be said from the rhythm section. Drummer Thomas can be relentless at times and together with bassist Lukas, who can be equally relentless, Vinegar Hill has a backbone to be reckoned with. As if that isn’t enough as it is, there’s at least one unexpected part in every song, the one more distinct than the next. Two of the most notable are the choir and the soundscape-like guitar work in Void and the short intermezzo the famous eighties pop-rock band the Police would be proud of in In Carving Memory, but that list can easily be extended hugely. The vocals are a perfect match to the musicians, following the exact pattern the music goes. Not only are Dominik and Michael capable of bone-crushing grunts, they also display great skills where it comes to clean vocals, ranging from ‘just clean’ to even delicate. In all honesty though, I think the grunts suit them a tad better. To top things off vocal-wise there’s a female guest vocalist whose contribution, though small, is definitely notable. I wonder who she is…

Anyway, it’s safe to say Ghost Flowers is a heavy album and I accept the band’s statement that this is their fastest and darkest work to date, even though it doesn’t strike me as particularly fast or dark. To be honest I don’t really care, this simply is an awesome release. Regardless what people say or how anyone chooses to classify this, in my opinion there is only one simple conclusion: Any way you slice it, this is a release you could go absolutely bananas on! But by all means, don’t take my word for it, you should try this one for yourself, success and entertainment guaranteed. Definitely kick-ass and therefore most certainly recommended!

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