April 8, 2019 Andy Black – The Ghost of Ohio (Album Review)
He’s Andy Six, Andy Black, and Andrew Biersack. Now, he’s also The Ghost of Ohio, a smalltown boy taking a chance on life in the big city to chase his dreams. His semi-autobiographical sonic tale arrives Friday, April 12, 2019, via Lava/Republic Records. The album serves as a companion piece to Black’s upcoming graphic novel of the very same name, which is set to arrive on April 19th.
More than likely, you know Andy Black as the lead vocalist of the hugely popular Glam Metal outfit Black Veil Brides. With the band, he has released 5 albums over the past 13 years, most recently 2018’s Vale. With a string of Billboard Top 10 and 20 albums under his belt, Black opted to stretch his creative wings and step outside of the confines of Glam Metal/Hard Rock to author his first solo offering, 2016’s The Shadow Side. “That album was the beginning of a return to who I’ve always wanted to be,” he says. “A rediscovering of my deepest roots.“
With the blueprint for his own personal sound in his hands, Singer, Songwriter and Pianist Black sat down to pen a second solo collection, the conceptually-themed, 12-track The Ghost of Ohio. Produced by Grammy Award-winning John Feldmann (Blink-182, Panic! At The Disco), the album serves as a soundtrack to Black’s upcoming graphic novel. Marrying melancholy themes with upbeat Rock and Pop to tell the tale of someone who died young and whose spirit inhabits an area for a hundred years looking for ways to connect, The Ghost of Ohio aims for bold storytelling embedded in catchy Pop Rock tracks.
Down a long and winding road we travel into the story of The Ghost of Ohio via first track, “Introduction: Resurrection.” Electronic atmospherics create a somber mood as Black sings of anxiety and demons, and, of course, hopes for redemption. Much as its title suggests, this is a perfect introduction to what is to follow and a sweet little summary of the entire tale.
“The Promise” boldly explodes with piano worthy of a Broadway production moving into a reflective glance back at the glory days of youth; the dreams, the mistakes, the glorious freedom of believing in the impossible. It’s like a coming-of-age tale set to dramatic melodies — oh yes, and saxophone! — that allows Black to weave his honey-coated vocals around the words inside a book, preparing listeners to turn to the next page.
Funky bass licks delve into “Westwood Road,” the album’s first video/single. Moving on but wanting to rewind, this is the desire to leave and the desire to stay; a confession from the boy who is torn between wasting away in Ohio and taking his chances in the big city. It’s dance-y, it’s Pop-y, but it falls a little flat. Continuing to inject sass into his approach, the Synthpop-y scrumptiousness of “Know One” is a look at playing the game to stay alive, the Ohio boy trying to learn the nuances of life in cutthroat Hollywood. Sonically, this is the closest we get to Black’s previous solo release, a fun, danceable moment with smart lyrics and a clear stand-out.
Electronic orchestration weaves the spell into infectious anthem “Soul Like Me.” Lost and the hopeless souls are guaranteed to sing-along and embrace this power ballad written in the name of finding like-minded individuals. Alternately, “The Wind & Spark” goes for twinkling ivories and a melodic Pop Rock jam feel with some understated Country edges to its guitar work.
For the titular “Ghost of Ohio,” Black dips into some sonic minimalism on the track’s verses, allowing his voice and his autobiographical confessions to steal the spotlight. While, for the chorus, he utilizes some vocal effects to give the song edge and to add an infectious kick that makes it feel Top 40-worthy. To lighten the mood a bit, a toy piano kicks off “Heroes We Were,” a reflective glance backward in hopes of saving the future. Meanwhile, an electronic beat anchors the observations of “Feast or Famine” before the love ballad “Heaven” finds a heartbroken, lost boy chasing his dreams into the arms of a special lady.
Next, “The Martyr” explodes into undeniable beats as Black implores listeners to save themselves, as he indirectly speaks of his own need to put himself first and play the martyr. This segues perfectly into the album’s finale, “Fire In My Mind.” Here, acoustic guitar keeps pace with Black’s velvety baritone as he sings of finding his way through the flames to freedom.
It would certainly be hard to say that The Ghost of Ohio is all killer and no filler, though there are a multitude of diverse approaches throughout: from VH-1 worthy stints (“The Wind & Spark,” “Heroes We Were”), to Synthpop infectiousness (“Know One,” “Feast or Famine,” “The Martyr”), to ballads (“Soul Like Me,” “Heaven”). The positive: Black has changed up his sound and taken chances with his twelve eclectic yet cohesive tracks. Sure, sometimes the grandiose expectations fall a bit flat, but in those key moments all the elements come together and Black shines with edgy Pop Rock finesse — and you can’t help but dance.
However, with all due respect, it still feels like Black is holding some key piece of himself back, that he’s never truly going for broke in his lyrical confessions. There’s no arguing that the man has talent, and it appears that there’s something truly amazing hidden inside of him. But for now, fans have to accept what he’s willing to give — which is good but not yet great. None of this keeps his music from being fully enjoyable, but much like Pop music, Andy Black sometimes rings a bit hollow. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give Andy Black’s The Ghost of Ohio 4 of 5 stars.