So after listening to a Hungarian post-rock band, and thoroughly enjoying it, what next? Hmmm….how about a Hungarian post-rock band? Luckily, I think I chose to listen to the two bands whose albums I had for review in what turned out to be the best order, for after listening to Ghost Toast, I might have been underwhelmed by Ajna – and that would be unfair, as Ajna’s Rengeteg is a wonderful album. But if Rengeteg is wonderful, then Ghost Toast’s Shape Without Form is phenomenal! The album is well-named, for while the music fits into the shape of what we call post-rock, it does not have the familiar form. Indeed, so often does the music shift and chop and change, it never has the chance to take any one form. The music is as wispy and whimsical as the band’s name implies, and provides constant surprises, which are never less than enjoyable.
You might, however, be forgiven for wondering just what I am going on about when you hit play. The introduction to the opening number, Frankenstein’s, is a sumptuous and gorgeous piano piece. But when the guitars and drums kick in after a minute and a half, the contrast with the introductory gentleness really provides even greater ‘oomph’ to the first post-rock blast of the album than it already has. The piano comes back into play towards the end, and the track ends as beautifully as it began. Ghost Toast say they “love heavy, trippy music and movie scores as well, so we use these elements to create something that is special to us.” Frankenstein’s encapsulates this perfectly.
Eclipse, contrarily, begins quite brutally, but takes time out for some nice laidback passages. Over its eight minutes, it neatly and smoothly shifts between moods, and there are some very tasty jazz breaks in there. László Papp is a monster on the drums, whether he’s hitting hard and fast or lightly and deftly. Y13 lets János Pusker shine again, as his piano playing again leads us in. In fact, Pusker’s cello also features. This is a very cinematic piece, with that feel enhanced even more by the use of voice samples from film. It’s fairly laidback for the first four minutes or so before it picks up pace. As with the opening track, the piano finishes the track in a beautiful fashion. This is easily one of my favourite numbers on the album, surpassed only by the closing number, W.A.N.T.
Next up is Hunt of Life, which is, according to the Bandcamp page, a cover of an Icelandic folk song called Krummavísur. But don’t expect this to sound Scandinavian. It’s a full-on dub track, and the reggae vibe is really very cool. It’s too easy for a heavy band to sound cheesy, and very difficult to get right. I can think of only two other heavier bands who have succeeded as well as Ghost Toast do here – Blindspott and Trio. Of course, this being Ghost Toast, I’ve learnt by now that the band is unlikely to stick to one style within a song, and it changes towards the end. But, as always, it works. The song is also quite interesting for the lyrics to Krummavísur, along with the spoken introduction, are by Kelly Jenny, who the band appear to have found on YouTube. Intrigued, I couldn’t resist searching for Kelly Jenny’s YouTube video, and here it is, if you’re interested. (No offence intended to Kelly Jenny, but Ghost Toast really take her version to a whole new level of awesome!)
From the upbeat Hunt of Life, the melancholic Follow, uh, follows, sounding mystic and mysterious. A psychedelic and spacey treat with an Eastern vibe, almost reminiscent of Ozric Tentacles. And then the guitars pound in at approximately the two-minute mark. Wow! Once again, Ghost Toast know how to make an impact. The riffs are somewhat Black Sabbath-like, and there’s a wonderful disparity between the psychedelia and metal playing off against each other. The Eastern vibe continues with Before Anything Happens, at least within the introduction. This is the second shortest track on the album, but it manages to pack a heck of a lot into it, with some more gorgeous piano, and plenty of twists and turns.
The band leave the best until last, though, as I intimated earlier. The final track W.A.N.T. is simply amazing. A feast of samples, riffs and beats that I can’t begin to adequately describe. It’s aggressive. It’s melodic. It’s mesmerising. This one track is the entire album in microcosm, and it’s as brilliant as the whole. Quite simply, Shape Without Form is one of the most impressive and engaging post-rock albums I’ve heard. Wow! Just, wow!
01. Frankenstein’s (4:31)
02. Eclipse (8:16)
03. Y13 (7:11)
04. Hunt of Life (6:00)
05. Follow (6:54)
06. Before Anything Happens (5:06)
07. W.A.N.T. (8:10)
Total Time – 46:08
László Papp – Drums
János Stefán – Bass, Sound Effects, Samples
János Pusker – Keyboard, Cello
Bence Rózsavölgyi – Guitar
Record Label: Inverse Records
Country of Origin: Hungary
Date of Release: 3rd March 2020