While eagerly awaiting Ghostemane’s forthcoming album, ANTI-ICON, let’s recap some of the defining points in his discography so far. These are the picks from Ghostemane’s creative timeline that reflect his ability to take the elements from trap, metal and industrial worlds and mix them in genre-defying ways that redefine the framework of trap metal and heavy music in general. Prime your mind for ANTI-ICON with the songs below!
If you could imagine the spooky synth lead in “Swan” played on a guitar in tremolo picking style, the references coming to mind would be along the lines of early Mayhem or Darkthrone, as this haunting melody mirrors some of the most typical riffs in black-metal classics. So much so that you might expect an outburst of blast beats to eventually break the suspense. But instead, Ghostemane’s agitated flows, deep lo-fi beats and crawling atmospheres culminate with a guitar sample from Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral,” making the track anything but predictable.
Way before he debuted his black-metal side project, Ghostemane put out Blackmage—a record which continued pushing the limits of the genre that in 2016 was already gaining a cult-like following. In “Elixir,” as soon as you get used to the mashup of distressed rap verses, piano melodies and open hi-hats gliding along the guitar hook from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the flow gets interrupted by a heavy riff from Pantera’s “Walk.” Its rough, ostensibly random, I-don’t-give-a-fuck placement reflects Ghostemane’s bold and straightforward approach to mashing up references in his Blackmage era.
“Starshot” (feat. Wavy Jone$)
Another standout banger from Blackmage, “Starshot” is one intense story told in two entirety different moods, as unleashed industrial rage and Ghostemane’s screamed vocals frame an emotional passage in the middle of the track. The latter, featuring Wavy Jone$’ introspective rap verses, is built upon a bright, melancholic motif from “Such Small Hands” by La Dispute. Which makes “Starshot” one of the most creative, compelling and extreme nods to emo rap in trap metal to this day.
In this unruly track from Hexada, Ghostemane’s creative process comes off as that of a painter picking colors for a contrasting yet weirdly harmonious palette. No, wrong metaphor. It’s more like a twisted artistic villain sawing off random body parts from zombified trap, death-metal, nü-metal and industrial-metal archetypes and grinding them up in a superpowered food processor. It takes about one-and-a-half minutes, and that’s all Ghostemane needs to mold this sticky matter into an astonishing trap-metal Frankenstein.
If you’ve only heard one song from Ghostemane, chances are it’s this one. If you’ve only seen one music video by Ghostemane, chances are it’s also this one. One year after he debuted the post-industrial/techno side project SWEARR, Ghostemane dropped “D(R)Ead,” a single that foretold the dominance of industrial sound on N / O / I / S / E. Chill(y) trap meets glitched noises, and rap verses shift to panicky Slipknot-style vocals as the track, with the help of live drumming by blink-182’s Travis Barker, progresses into a scream-powered industrial-metal explosion—then makes a full circle back to a dark trap ritual.
In “Nihil,” Ghostemane once again pulls from industrial and noise realms that together, with mellow piano samples and the sung verse “I haven’t been good to myself/And you haven’t been good to me,” create a dynamic range that spans from emotional to extreme. Both the emo and the industrial elements are done to the max, which makes you feel like you’re listening to a playlist with songs from Code Orange and emo rappers. In shuffle mode. While driving on a bumpy road in a desolate area with a glitching radio signal.
“Nihil” blends into “Flesh” on N / O / I / S / E, and now you get to hear how Marilyn Manson meets hip-hop meets Slipknot in the most amazing way possible. This rapid, contrast-driven and beautifully produced exchange of trap, industrial, noise and metal finds a perfect balance between impulsive and calculated. A substantial turning point in Ghostemane’s chameleonic discography, as well as a whole new chapter in trap metal as we know it.
“I duckinf hatw you” (feat. Parv0)
There’s industrial metal, and we already recognize it as one of the ingredients that makes Ghostemane stand out in the trap scene. You know which other subgenre can be as hard-hitting as industrial metal? It’s industrial techno. Need proof? Here. You. Go. Roughly halfway into the song, introduced by crisp 808s, distorted noises and dramatic screams, a dark electronic beat drops, layered with rapid-fire rap flows. Love it or hate it, this little segment speaks volumes about a completely next-level mastery of genre-bending creativity.
“JUDGEMENT NIGHT” (feat. HEALTH)
“JUDGEMENT NIGHT” is a perfect marriage of HEALTH’s hazy yet suspenseful electro-industrial inclinations with dreamy vocals and Ghostemane’s gloomy 808s, hectic rap flows and screams. Soothing one moment and disturbing another, this track is a complete alien in the current trap-metal landscape. Or even the alternative scene at large.
At this point, grasping on to existing genre names wouldn’t be of much help to understand Ghostemane’s sound. For the sake of simplicity, though, let’s call his latest singles “AI” and “LAZARETTO” futuristic atmospheric trap industrial-core. Which also retains one of the most profound principles of black metal—unconventional structures interconnected by overarching flow and continuity.
So, based on all these tracks, what predictions can we make about the forthcoming album? There’s one thing we can be certain of: nothing. The moment you’re convinced you can predict what he’s going to come up with next is the moment you’re wrong.