Album Review- Infestissumam by Ghost
Posted by RiffRaff
Two years ago when my ear drums caught the crunchy Satanic grooves of Ghost’s debut album Opus Eponymous it was a bit of a musical revolution for me. First off, there was just no band that I had known about making modern music like them with that heavy 70’s vibe mixed with Black Sabbath style doom metal and a generous sprinkling of Mercyful Fate. The right amounts of heaviness and catchiness won me over immediately and to this day Opus Eponymous is one of my most frequented haunts at minimum getting a playthrough a week. Second off is the lyrical content. Ghost sings about Satan and Satanism pretty much to the point where it’s so over the top it becomes absurd and humorous. You can’t help but chuckle at how they were able to twist the words of the Our Father prayer into an Our Satan prayer on the tune “Ritual” or how they turn the much used Christian phrase ‘Stand By Him’ into meaning ‘Stand by Satan’. And they do all this with a perfectly straight-face trying to make you believe that they are serious in their Satanism, but you know deep down, they aren’t. And that is where I find the real fun in the genius of Ghost, if you give a listen to any Christian or faith filled band you will also easily hear how over-the-top it is with all of cheesy Biblical quotes and professing that ‘God’ is the only way and yadda yadda yadda. It’s such a fun little parallel. Finally there is the contrast of their themes and their musical output. On one hand you could call Ghost a metal band, but since there is a crap-ton of pop influence by way of bands like ABBA one does have to question Ghost’s metal cred. That contrast of super hammy yet infectious melodies and tunes to the super Satanic themes creates such a contrast that one has to wonder how it even works in the first place, let alone find an audience that could bring popularity to the band. Though one would think that the metal fans would find them too soft and poppy for metal stardom and the pop fans find their Satanic themes a bit too dark. Oddly enough, they did find an audience with this contrast as they became one of the biggest rising stars in the metal realm gaining big support from fellow metal artists like James Hetfield and Phil Anselmo and in the pop scene gaining lots of coverage in big name publications like Rolling Stone.
So with lofty expectations, a huge advance on their record deal, and music fans from both sides of the spectrum with their eyes on Ghost, the pressure was on and the final product is here for you all to hear. How did Ghost do under the pressure, better question how did they approach what could have easily been a one-trick-pony gimmick and expand on it. Well after listening to the new album Infestissumam (which is the Latin word for ‘hostility’) pretty much exclusively and multiple times a day since it’s album stream hit Pitchfork last week and it found its way into my Ipod I can definitely say Ghost are far from a one-album-wonder and show more than enough promise to grow into one hell of a powerhouse of a band. Infestissumam features Ghost getting even poppier to the point I wouldn’t even think of calling them a metal band and shows the band does in fact have some great lyric writing capabilities as they eschew uttering the word ‘Satan’ 200 times a minute. And as well as some huge influence from ABBA there is also a really nice prog rock sound to the album taking a big nod to bands like Yes and especially The Moody Blues. This venture into prog rock territories really allows them to maintain those damn catchy airs as well as write some compelling, exploitative, and engaging songs. But unlike Opus Eponymous it didn’t grab me nearly as hard the first few listens and I was let down a bit, it sounded good and all, but felt lacking. But now that I’ve really taken the time to absorb the record I am really impressed at the output they’ve provided here and hold it in the same high regard as their former.
For the most part each track singularly stands on its own. They each have a unique sound and style ranging from the nice and heavy “Per Aspera Ad Inferi” to the ultra poppy and groove filled sounds of my personal track “Jigolo Her Megiddo”. There is really a great deal of variety to be found here. Some of the biggest standout ‘singles’ of the record include the tune “Body and Blood” which I found to be a stroke of genius. Back I stated that the with the exception of preferred deity they worship Ghost isn’t much different from a Christian pop rock band. With this song they play into that aspect full force. If you were to listen to the song with no knowledge of anything else Ghost wrote nor the bands image halfway through the song you would swear it’s the latest single by a Christian pop rock band, but maybe take note of some foreshadowing of the quick diminished 5th notes they sneak in here and there. Then, 3/4 of the way through the make a complete tonal shift where Satan appears and bears his teeth before smoothly slinking back to let the outro of the tune to finish off with a renewed view-point in the listeners mind.
While I will never be able to erase the image of Robert Goulet with a pair of devil horns and a cheap Satan costume bought from your local Shop-Rite doing a goofy little jig from my mind due to the song “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen”, the fact that prog filled tune will go down as one of the best songs of the year more than makes up for that mental image. Starting out as a really mellow and atmospheric song much in the vein of a Moody Blues/Pink Floyd crossover song the real magic happens when it shifts from the “Ghuleh” section to the “Zombie Queen” half. Here Ghost takes on a totally tubular Surf Rock sound that blends with the prog-mindedness and dark themes oh so wonderfully. The different contrasts coming from so many different directions lead one hell of a dynamic listen offering new bits to uncover with each listen.
With a nice mix of songs that are either very straight forward like the lead single “Secular Haze” or more complex like the previously mentioned “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” I find that there is a lot to enjoy in the record. I mean how could you not love an album that has a song that is insanely poppy and happy while at the same time singing the lines “Suffer little children; To come onto me; Suffer little children; Grant me sovereignty; Suffer suffer little princes and princesses” with a neat Partridge Family vibe to the words. Just devilishly delightful. Some fans of Opus Eponymous may find the heavy push towards pop a bit too much and a big turn off and others may find the Satanic themes and prog rock styling either too much or too underused. All very valid criticisms, but me personally, am totally loving the record and Ghost have avoided the sophomore slump in my book. Infestissumam is highly enjoyable and Ghost is worthy of any acclaim they receive. Check it out (Album Stream Here) and let us know what you thought. Enjoy! Peace Love and Metal!!
Pro-Tip: You may have noticed that the album cover for Opus Eponymous is a tribute to the poster for classic vampire flick ‘Salem’s Lot. In case you’re wondering what movie poster Infestissumam is a tribute too click here.