Firstly, I would like to thank my brother - who is possibly the only person reading this blog (if anyone else is, please make yourself known to me). He suggested I might like the band, shared with me their cover of an Abba song and that lead me to watching them endlessly on youtube until I finally decided to buy one of their albums. And oh, it's been playing on and off in my stereo ever since.
Ghost hail from Sweden and they are a band cloaked in secrecy. They formed in 2008, making them younger than most of my albums (let alone the bands) and perform on stage in robes. The vocalist is known as Papa Emeritus II, and he resembles a Satanic pope. The other band members are all merely Nameless Ghouls. This is their second album (I'm getting the first for my birthday) and it is an attractive affair. My brother recommended I acquire the NZ/Aus edition, which I purchased via the newly discovered WowHd whom with their free shipping and prompt delivery will probably now consume a generous portion of my expendible income. Either that or encourage me to participate in more online surveys, since I earn points that can be spent on $10 vouchers. Anyhow, I'm pretty sure mine is that edition as it cost somewhat more than the other versions and does indeed seem to contain artwork that some might percivably consider to be Heretical.
The cover pays homage to the movie Amadeus, with his anti-lordship, Pope Emeritus II, hands upraised above an infant in a manger. Behind him, the sun illuminates all in orange and sepia tones. Lucifer was, after all, the Light Bringer.
The BC was added for legal reasons (there's another band called Ghost) and according to the band, it's silent. It also contains a "Parental Advisory" sticker, although I do not recall anything in the lyrics. Maybe that is a warning against the artwork? Most of the lyrics seem to be either Latin or somewhat Satanic. Apart from the somewhat heretical nature of the art, the colour - oranges and browns, really appeals to me - and I must admit it, I'm not perturbed or offended by sepia images of orgies and of a more ghoulish nature. In fact, the surreal nature of some of them is excellent, and makes me want to stare at them again and again to take in all the details. I think my favourite is the giant cat, surrounded by three headed dogs, that seem to be choking a rather cadaverous man whilst being whipped by tiny men.
This album is about the antichrist. According to wikipedia, "Opus Eponymous" concluded with the birth of the anti-christ, and this is his rising.
The album opens with the chanted title track "Infestissumam": Imagine a choir of faceless monks, looming out of the darkness, revealed in jagged sepia-tinged light. Powerful and ever so slightly ominous. The music soars with their voices, overwhelming it and sweeping it away on an epic tide.
It links into the powerful opening rifts of "Per Aspera Ad Inferi" (through hardship to Hell) in which Papa Emeritus II's strong and melodious, almost sweet, vocals rise and soar. Heavy rhythms and the occasional snarled growl of a savage beast, the stirring melodies of keyboards, build to a beautiful symphony.
Papa Emeritus II has the sort of voice I would attribute to Lucifer, the Lightbringer, shortly after he fell. Glorious, melodious, but ultimately sinister.
Crazed out carnival rhythms lead us into "Secular Haze", an appealing progressively orientated number with jerky, staccato rhythms intermingling with the soar and melody of Emeritus's voice.
"Jigolo Har Megiddo" has a poppy, lively melody, with a late 70s, (perhaps, or maybe earlier, it makes me think a little of an evil Abba) vibe to it. It's quite heavy on the synth-pop feel with an added hint of menace. It is exceptionally playful and bouncy, sure to be a hit at parties and probably quite acceptable in the retail workplace, if one does not pay too much attention to the lyrics...
"I am the one who preys on weak - I offer everything they seek..."This band just screams to be played as loudly as possible. I hope my neighbours like Ghost too!
(and if they don't, tough!)
Sinister, dreamy, languid and soothing are all words to describe "Ghulel/Zombie Queen". Nobody can sing such macabre lyrics with such romantic beauty:
"Putrefaction - a scent that cursed be, undercoat of dust..."Then follow it up with delicate piano and soft guitars. It is nothing short of an oxymoron. There's the deep throated voice of an organ, then all turns faster, determined, sinister, enraged, surging into a melodious, triumphant chorus. The Zombie Queen has risen! There's even a bit of surf guitar in this track.
The menacing "Year Zero" (uncensored video, viewer discretion advised) is set to engulf you. It starts steady, pounding, with a looming undertone of threat. And, of course, there's the chants of:
"Hell Satan - Archangelo..."Modern in sound, melodious in verses, ominous in chorus. The looming menace is like an atom bomb mushrooming and heralding the apocalypse.
Tinkly, discordant, disconcerting, then Emeritus swoops in like a hawk on its prey, pinning the weak beneath his mighty "Body and Blood". With its keyboards and regular rhythms, it is rather reminiscent of something from a bygone era. Maybe the 70s.
"Idolatrine" has a haunting melody, it begins with a confused whirlwind of sound that sorts itself out into a straight forward, fast paced rhythm. Insanely catchy.
"Suffer little children to come unto me..."There are elements of Voivod's "Angel Rat" in the "Depth of Satan's Eyes". Slower and steady, with the cruising, soaring vocals and a somewhat mellow feel.
Low and menacing, we are treated to the steady tones of the "Monstrance Clock" (brand new video!). Eerie, ominous; the worshippers gather, marching through the dark with their black candles blazing to pay tribute to the monstrance clock. This is an anthem, a hymn, a celebration. Reflected in the video, in which fans "confess" of their love of Ghost.
(A "monstance" is an object of piety, one cannot help but wonder what a monstrance clock measures - the days til doomsday? Quite possibly, lyrics seem to indicate it.)
"Come together... together as one. Come together, for Lucifer's son."There's a lengthy pause after this track, before we are treated to the two bonus tracks. The first "La Mantra Mori" is slow and almost dreamlike, with a languid surreality. The lyrics are repetitive, simple:
"We focus on your deathThis is the entire lyrical content of the song. It is haunting and also rather ominous.
We focus on your death
You share not the blood of ours
Thus we focus on your death"
Final track "I'm a Marionette" is the compulsory* Abba cover. And what a cover! The original is pretty nifty too, being darker than your typical Abba track. Performed by Ghost, it takes on a new level of mechnical ominisity (look, I invented a word!). The poppy beats of Abba are heavier, leaden, jerky and disconcerting. The chorus is sublime and creepy. I'm glad I purchased the Deluxe edition.
Words cannot describe how I feel about Ghost. They are intensely addictive, beautifully contradictory. Their sinister lyrics intermingle with their tongue-in-cheek appearance and gloriously inspiring and stirring combination of modern sounds and more classic (rock) stylisations. They are also instrinsically catchy. I actually stopped listening to this album for a week or two - scared that I was overdoing it and would make myself tired of it, but then I was struck by a deep and demanding desire to listen to it again. And again.
This is definitely my favourite album for 2013, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next (or came up with first, since I'm getting "Opus Eponymous" soon).
In terms of the satanism... I listen to Christian music, I listen to Satanic music. I'm an agnostic-with-a-touch-of-pagan myself** but I prefer bands like Ghost and Mercyful Fate to the entire Norwegian Black Metal scene, because they are musically superior (and melodiously superior). One cannot help but wonder if Ghost are entirely, instrinsically Satanic, however, or just setting their tongue firmly in cheek. As long as they're not burning down beautiful wooden Norwegian churches or brutally murdering members of other bands, they can believe whatever they like.
I'm going to have to rank this another impossible 11/10.
(Since the last time I did this was with Diabloswing Orchaestra, I think we all have to agree that my brother has an excellent idea of what sort of music flies my kite).
* It is requirement for all Swedish bands to cover at least one Abba track during their career. Ok, so I made that up. But metal Abba covers are the best!
** As in, I'll invent my own religious beliefs if I have to.