Next review: » Ghost - Infestissumam
Released: 2013, Loma Vista Recordings
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
The thing about having a debut album that comes seemingly from out of nowhere and that is lavished with almost universal praise is that its successor has almost zero chance of living up to the hype of its predecessor, no matter how good it may or may not be. Such is the case with the mysterious band of ghouls known as Ghost - or “Ghost B.C.” now, the amendment to their moniker being a startling reminder of the price of fame and the web of legalities that accompany it. Their OPUS EPONYMOUS debut was a breath of fresh, blackened air – insanely catchy doom laden musical testimonials of Blue Oyster Cult and Mercyful Fate, overt occult themes, and a dose of visual theatrics that was refreshingly both spooky and shticky at the same time; it new, it was unique, it was original. Word of mouth spread like a 14th century plague, and what was once briefly a cult novelty quickly developed into an underground phenomenon.
So how’s a band supposed to follow that up? Best case scenario – it lives up to all of the hype built up around the debut and proves that Ghost isn’t just a gimmicky fluke. Worst case scenario – it falls short of expectations, and the internet trolls trample over themselves in a race to be the first to blog “TOLD YA THEY SUCKED, LOL!” The reality though, is that INFESTISSUMAM is somewhere in the middle of the two scenarios, albeit more the former than the latter. Musically, I found it to be a more satisfying album than OPUS EPONYMOUS, but it took multiple listens to get over my first impression of “I’ve heard this before, it’s been done, what’s the next track sound like?”
Which if I can offer any advice to potential listeners; it’s that INFESTISSUMAM requires a few spins for it to click. Primarily because it’s not new anymore and you kind of know what to expect. But once you’re able to get over your own prejudices, INFESTISSUMAM proves itself to be a solid follow up. Thematically, Ghost doesn’t stray far from the groundwork laid on their debut, but they’ve subtly nudged those boundaries just enough to avoid sounding like OPUS part 2. It’s a much “fuller” album – The Hammond organs are more pervasive, a chorus of chanting voices makes repeated appearances, and the production on the album is night and day compared to OPUS –it’s a TREMENDOUS improvement that thickens up the sonic presence of the arrangements.
The catchier, more “accessible” tunes are frontloaded on the album, which helps to lure the audience into a more exploratory second half. The opening trifecta of “Per Aspera Ad Inferni”, “Secular Haze”, and “Jigolo Har Megiddo” will quickly become fan favorites. Well paced, with dark hooks and sweeping, sing-a-long choruses, they infect in the same way that “Con Clavi/Ritua/Elizabeth” did on the debut. “Jigolo” may well in fact be my favorite song on the album, with its slow, swinging back beat and a keyboard tinkling that sounds like an alternate universe version of the Partridge Family. “Guleh/Zombie Queen” is a transitional track – partially a dark piano driven ballad, partially a 70’s styled prog rock epic, it’s essentially Ghost’s version of “November Rain.” Later tracks like “Body and Blood” and “Idolatrine” carry forward that 70’s prog influence with bouncy organ lines and tonal shifts, and serve as a reminder of why they were such a perfect fit for Lee Dorian’s Rise Above label. Even more so on album closer “Monstrance Clock”, a laid back, synth heavy dirge that beckons us all to “Come Together/Together as One/Come Together/For Lucifer’s Son”. Sign me up guys.
Some will hate INFESTISSUMAM because it’s different, some will hate it because it’s not different enough, and others will hate it just because Ghost is no longer their own little secret indulgence. But inevitably none of it matters anyway; the new album will only perpetuate Ghost’s presence in the metal community even further because they’re still a unique commodity and they still write great songs. Step away from the hype and your own unrealistic expectations and give these 10 new tracks the attention they deserve, and you’ll find INFESTISSUMAM to be exactly the album that it needed to be.
2. Per Aspera Ad Inferi
3. Secular Haze
4. Jigolo Har Megiddo
5. Ghuleh / Zombie Queen
6. Year Zero
8. Body and Blood
9. Depth of Satan's Eyes
10. Monstrance Clock
Papa Emeritus II – Vocals
A Group of Nameless Ghouls – All Instruments
Released: 2013, Universal Music
Most metal fans have heard of Ghost at this point (Ghost B.C. in the U.S. due to legal issues with the name). 2010’s OPUS EPONYMOUS won critical accolades world-wide and made the list of impressive recent discoveries for a few Metal Rules staffers and album of the year in lots of metal webzines. Considering the shroud of mystery cloaking the band’s identities (proving KISS was on to something back in the day), and the hilariously over the top Satanic/occult image and lyrics, the band already have enough elements to pique peoples’ interests. On top of all that, the music and song craft on OPUS was quite accomplished. Even the new album became embroiled in controversy leading up to INFESTISSUMAM’s release being delayed (several manufacturers refused to release some of the supposedly disturbing artwork depicting an orgy). Others have pointed out the obvious parody of the album cover to the movie poster for the 1984 film AMADEUS. Everything adds up to what has been one of the most widely anticipated metal albums in recent memory.
The second album was picked up by heavy weight label Universal, who reportedly threw financial largesse into the band and album, with some citing figures approaching the million dollar range. Considering the hype and the big label contract, there is every reason to suspect that the album could not possibly live up to expectations. I think the answer to that question will ultimately depend on each fan. For starters, INFESTISSUMAM is exactly the album that somebody wanted to make. Whether it is the label or the band is anybody’s guess. Strip away the mystery, the ghoulish, macabre lyrics and the imagery, and you have the distilled essence of what Ghost was and still is; a hard rock band. Despite this fact, OPUS EPONYMOUS married a sense of discomfort and danger in many of the songs coupled with the melodic pop. On INFESTISSUMAM, Ghost proves that actually they can be quite tame. “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” is a shining example of the tremendous 70s rock influence on the band with even some surf guitar tones. “Jigolo Har Meggido” is a downright happy song musically; bouncy and full of cheer save for the lyrics. It is definitely a cool tune, but not a heavy one.
Lots of people have compared Ghost to Mercyful Fate and Blue Oyster Cult, but they definitely lean more towards the latter on INFESTISSUMAM. The lyrics are much more Satanic, and certainly there are cool driving riffs and heavier tunes, like “Year Zero” or “Per Aspera Ad Inferi”, which hearken back to “Elizabetha” on OPUS. Overwhelmingly though, it is the softer more melodic songs that populate INFESTISSUMAM. The album sounds fantastic though, a well-produced album, with Papa Emeritus’II vocals fairly high in the mix. The first single, “Secular Haze” contains all of the elements that represent the new album; clownish organs, droning guitars, and Papa’s unique vocals.
Closing the album is “Monstrance Clock”, another sinister but light tune, dominated by a keyboard/organ riff and an infectious chorus that plants itself in the brain and will have you singing about Lucifer’s son in no time. In sum, Ghost keeps it pretty safe, not straying far from the formula established on OPUS, while incorporating more blatantly melodic pop, sometimes at the expense of that original sense of foreboding and freshness happening on OPUS. Perhaps the initial shine has worn off a bit, Ghost unable to sneak up on an unsuspecting public this time. I happen to really dig INFESTISSUMAM, but I cannot help but feel that somehow along the way we now have a much safer Ghost, despite the more overt lyrical pledges by the band to the contrary.
2. PER ASPERA AD INFERI
3. SECULAR HAZE
4. JIGOLO HAR MEGIDDO
5. GHULEH / ZOMBIE QUEEN
6. YEAR ZERO
8. BODY AND BLOOD
9. DEPTH OF SATAN’S EYES
10. MONSTRANCE CLOCK
Papa Emeritus II - Vocals
Nameless Ghoul - Guitar
Nameless Ghoul - Guitar
Nameless Ghoul - Bass
Nameless Ghoul - Drums
Nameless Ghoul - Keyboards