Ghost Key’s “If I Don’t Make It” is brutal in more ways than one
Ghost Key is an intense band, no bones about it.
Vocalist Austin O’Brien has a lot to get off his chest. I’ve noticed that each time I’ve experienced the band live. The difference between experiencing the band in a live setting and sitting down and really digesting the record, for me, is the emotional impact.
Before we get to that, however, let’s discuss the musicality of the album. Ghost Key isn’t your run of the mill hardcore band. There are plenty of those, and many of them are excellent. But while Ghost Key isn’t a metalcore band, they blend in well with those kinds of tours because they take liberties with song structures, drum fills, and even some rather gnarly riffage. Right away, I noticed how polished the band sounded. The production is less raw, but nonetheless in your face. In fact, arguably more so.
What sticks with me more than the music is the lyrical content. All of it is heavy and most of it is frankly a downer. What follows are a few memorable lines that stuck out to me and why.
Two of the most hard hitting lines on this album include “God can’t save you if you end up like me.” and “I hope the truth kills you when I turn up dead.” To the former I want to respond emphatically “It’s not like that man!” It might be in vain, but lines like that often inspire a knee-jerk reaction to want to engage with the lyricist in passionate conversation. Maybe that’s the goal here. Or maybe he’s just venting. Either way it’s powerful. To the latter line, I receive it as one of those things I can only respond to with “Wow.”
The weight of this album definitely sticks with you if you take the time to really pay attention to what’s being said, but fortunately there are brief glimpses of hope in the bleakness. “I have yet to find peace in life so I find it hard to believe that death would guarantee the same,” sounds hopeless at first glance but really it’s a jab at suicide and the thoughts that precede it. I’ve never seen someone take the logic that goes into such a dark decision and turn it against itself like that. I also really like the line “I free my neck from this rope I tied too loose.” It’s a poetic indicator of one’s will to survive.
“If I Don’t Make It” is a dark album title that in the end seems to be hypothetical. The lyricist (and those that relate to him) have a long journey ahead of them, but they know they’re headed somewhere good. In the meantime, we have each other and the pit ain’t goin’ nowhere.