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God is an Astronaut - Ghost Tapes #10 (Album Review)

Wednesday, 17 February 2021 Written by Matt Mills

Photo: Brian Meade

Since their 2005 breakthrough, ‘All Is Violent, All Is Bright’, God is an Astronaut have been ambassadors for the immense possibilities of instrumental songwriting, imbuing their sound with prog, metal, krautrock, and elements cribbed from symphonic and choral music.

In 2018, the County Wicklow band continued their spotless legacy with ninth album ‘Epitaph’, arguably their most heart-wrenching outing to date. It was inspired in large part by brothers Torsten and Niels Kinsella (guitars and bass respectively) enduring the death of their seven-year-old cousin.

As a result, it was a mellow journey full of lush keyboard passages and droning ambient segues. The band had rarely sounded more pensive than on closing songs Komorebi, Medea and Oisín, which largely negated percussion in favour of forlorn serenity.

Three years later, ‘Ghost Tapes #10’ is the polar opposite of its predecessor. While ‘Epitaph’ was a softening of God is an Astronaut’s delivery, their latest cranks up the energy and abrasiveness to post-metal-bothering levels.

First track Adrift is far from shy about flaunting this new emphasis, showing off a guitar tone that buzzes like swarming bees. Combine that with exhilaratingly metallic chords and you have an opening that Russian Circles could easily find kinship with.

Plus, after being mostly absent from the latter half of ‘Epitaph’, drummer Lloyd Hanney returns with a furious vengeance. His thrashing virtuosity is the runaway highlight of Fade and the hyper-heavy In Flux, and his erratic style regularly makes the percussion the lead instrument. This dynamic is especially impressive at the end of the latter track with some impossibly fast yet flawless snare smacks.

Despite this focus on aggression, ‘Ghost Tapes #10’ is far from one-note. Burial is an ebbing build to a searing climax that recaptures the aura of God is an Astronaut’s self-titled album, while Barren Trees is defined by its wonky prog synth line. And, lastly, Luminous Waves is led by an acoustic guitar that’s gradually joined by Jo Quail’s soothing cello.

In a career packed with spotless moments, God is an Astronaut’s 10th full-length has all the refreshing urgency to instantly rise to the top tier of their discography. To be 20 years in and unveil your most energised music yet is an incredible thing, serving to underline why these four Irishmen have long been the cream of the post-rock crop.

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