Ghost have been kicking around for well over a decade now, and in that time have released a slew of albums that have built them a good sized following for their psych-tinged constructions (that veer from folk to full on rock meltdown). Their last album was the dense Hypnotic Underworld, which seemed to cause some split opinions, with many raving about it while others were somewhat under-whelmed. In Stormy Nights will no doubt make for more split opinions, as it includes not only some of their best work to date, but some of their most over-indulgent as well.
The album opens with "Motherly Bluster" and the spaced-out track finds singer Masaki Batoh adding subdued vocals over strummy acoustic guitar, flutes, and drones while Eastern percussion provides a skinny backbone. On the very next track, the group veer completely into leftfield, though, and it's "Hemicyclic Anthelion" that will have lots of people scratching their head. A whopping twenty-eight minute track, the piece (which takes up half the running length of the album) culls a slew of improvised live performances into a sprawling, noisy, and largely unfocused piece that at times hits on great moments, then leaves them behind in a vast wasteland.
Fortunately, it picks up from there and the group gets right into over-the-top dramatics with "Water Door Yellow Gate," a track that could have easily find itself on a soundtrack to a movie with dragons and heroic knights. Squalling guitars and string synths soar over the top while chanting vocals and pounding percussion power things forward. It's on "Gareki No Toshi" that the group really hits their stride, though, and the nearly eight-minute track is easily one of their best to date, harnessing a powerful, repetitive rhythm and dousing it with massive psych madness, including distorted, yelping vocals, lo-fi electronics, and waves of guitar. It's heady and killer.
The remainder of the release is nearly just as strong, with another thunderous, rhythm-heavy psych-stomp in "Caledonia" and a quiet, folky closer in "Grisaille." The former is particularly standout, with blistering crazy layering of massive drums, bagpipe, and other wind instruments that make the track sound like English folk gone completely acid trip. Although improv and noise heads will probably enjoy the aforementioned longer track, it's just completely derails what would otherwise be a fairly solid and concise album. At well over ten years into their career, a group can certainly get as out there as they want. For many listeners, it's a sidetrack they won't want to take, though.