GosT has, since 2013, been the vehicle for producer and singer James Lollar. Loosely fitting into the synthwave bracket, GosT’s music in fact takes influence from many areas including post-punk, industrial and black metal. Moreover, Lollar has regularly shared stages with metal bands including Pig Destroyer, The Black Dahlia Murder and Mayhem, as well as fellow synthwave acts such as Perturbator and Carpenter Brut.
Rites of Love and Reverence (Century Media) is GosT’s sixth full-length release, and Lollar describes it as “the culmination of everything I have learned during the last eight years or so I have been making electronic music”. Pointing more towards a refinement than a reinvention, he talks about having found his “full confidence sonically and vocally” this time.
The music here gathers elements of house, synth pop, industrial, gothic rock, noise and metal and rolls these together into a very cohesive synthwave fusion. The record is heavy, dark and abrasive, but also very melodic. Simple and punchy percussion parts doused in 1980s throwback gated ambience drive the tracks along. Rhythmic synth patterns pulsate away. Chiming melodic ostinatos arrive and drop away. The bass throbs and grooves. Atmospheric effects rise and fall. Glitches and unexpected noise explosions jolt and realign the sonic climate every now and then. Lollar’s deep and pained post-punk croon weaves dour melodies.
Sometimes feral black metal screams cut through. On “Bell, Book and Candle” and “November is Death” Bitchcraft guests with anguished spoken word segments. The lyrics, “about how witchcraft has affected women throughout history” are given suitably troubling and ominous treatment by these varied but complementary vocal approaches.
Aside from vocals, the instruments almost all appear to be synthetic. Occasionally guitars make an appearance, such as on album closer “Burning Thyme”, which for a while recalls New Model Army until the synth onslaught begins in earnest.
Tempos are largely at a danceable pace, and many sections of the music could be mixed quite happily into a house or electro DJ’s set. At other times, however, we could be listening to a post-hardcore band with electronic instruments, or some kind of collaboration between The Sisters of Mercy and Justice. The familiar synthwave trope of 80s movie soundtrack elements is never too far from the surface; some of the synth parts would work seamlessly as alternative accompaniments to Blade Runner or any number of other classics. All of the disparate sonic colours are blended expertly.
Rites of Love and Reverence has its own sound that displays its influences openly without compromising an aura of freshness and originality. The arrangements are often bleak and harsh but there is also jubilant energy and even a sense of fun within many of the anthemic melodies and the exaggerated, almost cartoon-style, sound effects.
Although Rites of Love and Reverence has excellent production in many ways, the record suffers greatly due to the apparent decision (at mix or mastering stage) to squash the audio far too heavily through a hard limiter. has been squeezed to the point that the record, sadly, is a much less pleasant and satisfying listen than it really deserves to be. Yes, the sounds, recording and arrangements are superb, and the presentation strikes a pleasing balance between old-school warmth and modern precision. However, the “loudness wars”-style processing makes the record much less exciting and much more draining than it could be if given more dynamic breathing space.
Rites of Love and Reverence brims with brooding menace. It evokes classic sci-fi film soundtracks and 80s goth bars but also sounds contemporary and original. It is undeniably heavy in the metal sense, but also incredibly close to club dance music. James Lollar is clearly a master and a visionary. If the walls between seemingly antithetical music scenes are increasingly blurring as new subgenres continually cross-pollinate, then GosT perhaps represents a prescient acceleration of this process. This record is undoubtedly strong and, at times, magical in ways beyond merely its lyrical content. It so nearly provides a truly enchanting start-to-finish experience but is held back from this by the aforementioned suffocating sonic treatment. Nevertheless, Rites of Love and Reverence will no doubt delight existing followers of GosT and help the genre-fusing project to attract even more new devotees.
Rites of Love and Reverence will be released on 13th August 2021 via Century media as a gatefold LP and CD package, and as a digital download. Buy the album here:
6 / 10