Ghosts, the latest album from Toronto rock band Big Wreck, and the second since their reunion two years ago, sees them shift to a heavier sound while staying true to their established musical style.
I’ll admit I’ve never been a big follower of Big Wreck. One track, from their 2012 album Albatross, played on 102.7 The Peak constantly a few summers ago, and I always figured them to be an indie rock kind of band in the same vein as Wintersleep and Said the Whale.
However, when I listened to Ghosts, I got much heavier rock than I expected. The first song, “A Place to Call Home,” has a two minute guitar solo with lots of reverb before the rough-sounding vocalist starts singing. His vocals add to the sound, pushing toward the heavier side of the rock music scale. What he sings isn’t profound, which may be a problem for some, but not for me.
“A Place to Call Home” segues into a few more similar-sounding songs with rougher vocals and reverberating guitar solos — Ghosts has a lot of these — showcasing the abilities of lead guitarist and vocalist Ian Thornley.
For me, one of the most enjoyable songs of the album is “Hey Mama,” which follows the string of heavy opening songs. In the first few bars, the twinging of a banjo is heard, giving the song a bluesy slash folksy vibe, even as the guitar comes in again. The raucous nature of Thorney’s loud yet soft accompanying vocals, brings to mind not only blues and folk music, but also modern country music.
“Diamonds,” continues with the more upbeat and lighter tone from “Hey Mama,” until the next song, “Friends,” recaptures the sound of the album’s first few songs. It works, showing just how Big Wreck’s interesting mix of styles totally makes sense.
After “Friends,” Ghosts becomes softer and leans toward the lighter side of rock, relying more on acoustic guitars and quieter vocals. They don’t abandon their rock sound completely, however; there are plenty of moments in the second half that recall the heavier opening.
The final song of the album, and my personal favourite, “War Baby,” is a tender melody to close things out. Soft instrumentation and gentle vocals make the song almost hypnotic, until the midsection, when an electric guitar solo reminds us of the album’s first songs.
It’s clear that Big Wreck aren’t just straight up heavy rockers, and they also aren’t just another indie rock band. They have found a balance between the two, and for Big Wreck, that mix works.