A couple of years back, we discovered a psycho squad of bag-headed shock rockers who call themselves Dissector, Digestor, Cremator, Fermentor and Mr. Fang – all hailing from the faraway land of Creepsylvania (although rumor has it they also like to hang out in Oakland, CA). That band of musical maniacs is better known as Ghoul, and their album Transmission Zero was one of the most entertaining and outrageous horror music entries of 2011, unleashing a patchwork behemoth of hardcore punk, surf rock, thrash and death metal on unprepared ears and brains, all brought to howling life with slasher-movie synths and spookhouse sound effects. It's no surprise they've toured with the likes of GWAR, and with their latest diabolical sound experiment Intermediate Level Hard-Core, the GWAR connection runs even deeper.
Mainly collection of cover tunes from hardcore and punk/thrash crossover bands who thrived in the early to mid-'80s, this EP also features Ghoul's unique take on “Americanized” – a track from GWAR's 1988 debut album Hell-O!, made especially memorable here by the guest appearance of GWAR's master mutant himself, FEARnet fave Oderus Urungus. While GWAR's sound was more or less a punk/thrash hybrid in '88, “Americanized” is still something of an exception to the rule here, as the rest of the source material for the EP is derived from the genre's underground origins, which began in the late '70s and had started to lose steam a decade later. Listening to Ghoul jamming with Oderus here, it's hard to believe the original “Americanized” is 25 years old; that song was part of my first shocking exposure to GWAR's stage show, and the same rabid energy of those chaotic, ultra-violent early performances comes across in the video, which features Oderus himself (of course).
[Note: NSFW language ahead]
Continuing the tradition of tossing political correctness on the bonfire, Ghoul then tackles “Blow Up the Embassy,” a mid-'80s cult classic from Texas underground unit Fearless Iranians From Hell, infusing the song with extra menace through more modern elements, particularly the beefy riffs and snarling black & death metal-style vocals. “E.M.S.& D” from Minnesota hardcore heroes Willful Neglect gets the more straightforward punk treatment, tearing along at a blistering pace (though allowing for a quick solo) matched only by that of “Propaganda Control,” a barn-busting cover of an early '80s cut by N.O.T.A. (None of the Above), an Oklahoma-based band with a small but intense cult following; the gloriously trashy drums are the real driving force on this one. The final tune, “Proud to Be Creepsylvanian,” should be familiar to fans of controversial Canadian punk/thrash legends Dayglo Abortions, whose original “Proud to Be Canadian” (from their 1986 record Feed Us a Fetus) gets the monster treatment here; the memorable original riff is melodically intact, but with a darker, more horror-fueled edge derived from the monster vocals (especially at the end). It runs a close second to “Americanized” for pure manic fun, and both tracks demonstrate how easily Ghoul's modern mashup style translates to older material.
Whether you're already onboard with Ghoul's manic brand of “splatter-thrash,” or just pine for hardcore's lo-fi golden era, there's plenty to love in this mini-collection... well, maybe “plenty” is the wrong word, since most of the tracks are less than two minutes long. But for the fun factor alone, it's totally worthwhile at $3 for a digital copy via their label, Tankcrimes.