Listening to A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye, the sophomore album from San Francisco band Cool Ghouls, is a blast from the past.
A traditional four piece band (two guitars, bass, and drums), Cool Ghouls take a lot of inspiration from classic rock bands of the 60s and 70s. Sounds reminiscent of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and more are littered throughout the album, and though they don’t quite reach the same level as those rock icons, Cool Ghouls have a fair amount of good music of their own.
The album’s style falls under the enormous umbrella that is alternative rock, but with its own flair, equal parts mellow and psychedelic. There is a distinctly lo-fi vibe throughout that compliments both the calmer and trippier songs on the album.
Unfortunately, subpar drumming and forgettable lyrics prevent anything on the album from really standing out as spectacular. The guitar is the instrument that noticeably stands out. Songs like “What A Dream I Had” and “Orange Light”, while not much more than average overall, still have groovy guitar riffs that keep them interesting.
Not only are the riffs generally solid, but the band also excels in guitar solos, an increasingly rare trait. These solos range from the heavily psychedelic, with heavy use of reverb and other effects, (“New Moon”) to the more traditional (“Insight”). However, the solo at the end of the opening track “And It Grows”, while nothing fancy, is easily the musical high point of the album.
Frontman Pat Thomas’s vocals are decent, but its the heavy and consistent use of harmonies that sound fantastic, especially on the more mellow songs like “Get A Feelin’”. These soothing vocals are combined with a catchy guitar riff on “Reelin’”, one of the best songs on the album.
Unfortunately, the band is a little too ambitious when it comes to song length. Seven of the ten songs on the album are more than four minutes long, and a lot of them tend to drag on a bit. Also, the riffs on a few of the songs, while not bad themselves, are repeated for nearly the entire song, making them difficult to listen to.
Cool Ghouls offer a new take classic rock, complete with solid solos and tranquil harmonies. They do falter a bit with their song length, and none of their songs are quite able to push their way into the excellent category, but that doesn’t make the album bad by any means. A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye isn’t a must listen, but if you’re looking for a new band to listen to, you could do a lot worse.
Voice’s Choices “Reelin,” “And It Grows”