Give Up the Ghost – We’re Down til We’re Underground

Give Up the Ghost
We’re Down til We’re Underground

If the name Give Up the Ghost fails to ring a bell, but the songs the band plays sound familiar, there is good reason. For those of you who don’t already know, this is a band that was originally known as American Nightmare. But when another band from just outside of Philadelphia that had already claimed that name objected to its use, the guys of what is now Give up the Ghost found themselves in a jam. The band used a bunch of interim names, including American Nothing, and continued to tour despite the problems that a virtually nonexistent moniker can create in terms of attendance at shows. The band has shared stages with the likes of Blood Brothers, Avail, Glassjaw, Poison the Well, Converge, and Hope Conspiracy, also settling on a new name along the way. But what does all of this say about the sound?
Well, you could say that the phrase and name “Give Up the Ghost” serves as a metaphor for what the band has been through and what it is now doing. You could say it is a way of abandoning all the problems that have plagued the band in the past, a way of starting over and moving on. But there really isn’t enough new and exciting material here to support such a statement. I am not saying the band should have taken up freestyle jazz or anything like that in an effort to truly wipe the slate clean, but this album, which you would expect to stand out as some sort of passionate rebirth, instead sometimes comes off as just more of the same old “hardcore” noise.
Now don’t get me wrong, because this is not an awful album. The band continues its progression in truly aggressive fashion, pushing the envelope as much as it is capable of doing, but after a few tracks, this ends up being an album very capable of just getting on your nerves. There is, however, a dark intensity flowing throughout the album that most hardcore bands are simply not capable of producing. Give Up the Ghost pulls this off because it does not rely on simply beating you into submission, meaning that there are indeed plenty of generically chugging guitars, pounding rhythms, and incoherent screams, but there is also a bit more to maintain a little of your interest. There is an intricate layering of elements and textures here that makes the album more interesting than many of those it can be compared to. Echoed vocals, tweaked guitar noises, and oddball studio tricks are a few examples, and these are the sorts of things that make this album a moderately interesting and diverse collection of songs, and it’s rare that you can honestly say such a thing about a hardcore album of this variety.
What else can I say? I am willing to admit my bias in that I am not a hardcore fan, but I am also willing to admit that I found this album to be much more enjoyable and interesting than most hardcore that I hear.