The Ghost Inside’s lives changed forever on 19 November 2015. Their tour bus collided with a tractor-trailer outside of El Paso, the crash killing the drivers, Gregory Hoke and Steven Cunningham. Drummer Andrew Tkaczyk was airlifted to hospital; he awoke from a coma 10 days later to find he’d lost one of his legs. Vocalist Jonathan Vigil had to learn how to walk again after breaking both ankles, while guitarist Zach Johnson lost several toes and has had 13 operations – and counting – on his broken femur. It’s nothing short of a miracle that this album even exists.
Having survived the kind of ordeal no one should ever have to face, it would have been understandable – hell, perfectly justified – if the metalcore band had turned in a dark, bitter record that reflected their most traumatic period. Instead, after four years of intense rehabilitation, The Ghost Inside’s self-titled, fifth album is a towering statement of positivity, transforming pain into catharsis, determination and hope.
“This [album] isn’t about what happened to us,” bassist Jim Riley has said. “We won’t get lost in that one day. This is about our journey, our growth, and who we are.” The Ghost Inside’s melodic mosh has always been powerful and purposeful, but given what the LA quartet have been through, it’s hard not to feel emotional as Tkaczyk triumphantly kicks off opener ‘1333’ with a rampant drum solo. “TGI! From the ashes brought back to life”, Vigil bellows.
Stylistically, the band have pretty much picked up where 2014’s ‘Dear Youth’ left off. Save for centrepiece ‘Unseen’, which glistens with incandescent post-rock atmospherics, they revel in their traditional brand of chest-swelling hardcore. But that’s OK – we aren’t here for a reinvention; we’re here for a rebirth. There’s no inch to pinch on these songs; every juddering breakdown and massive chant-a-along chorus is a shot of pure adrenaline to a beating heart. “I won’t break through the darkest of days,” Vigil sings on the life-affirming chorus of ‘One Choice’, “I survive / I don’t surrender.”
The album closes with single ‘Aftermath’, a song that was written before the band’s fateful accident. But when Vigil barks “Yesterday is gone. And I’m ready for what tomorrow brings / The beat goes on”, the typical hardcore trope of never giving up is imbued with a brand-new meaning. As they slam close a painful chapter of their past and look forward to a bright future, The Ghost Inside have never sounded more vital.
Release date: June 5
Record label: Epitaph Records