Monday, January 30, 2012

CD Review - Ghost - Opus Eponymous

Now and again a band comes around that truly defies classification. Or at least goes so counter to what you expect that you are taken for a loop.

The Swedish group Ghost is one of those bands.

A colleague at work tried for literally weeks to get me to buy the band’s first (and only) album, Opus Eponymous and I resisted.

While I love this guy, his taste in music is far more hardcore than mine. Put it this way – I don’t have the new Disfigured Prostitute album but I am pretty sure he does.

I have told him a million times that I like melody with my metal. No screamo cookie monster stuff for me. Well, he must have been paying attention because Ghost is the most catchy devil music I have ever heard.

Yes – the band promotes itself as devil music, a la Mercyful Fate and the like. But I have to think it’s a ruse. The five-piece band dresses in black capes and cowls, with their faces obscured so you can’t see them. They don’t even have names – they are all called Faceless Ghouls in interviews and on promotional material.

The lead singer, Papa Emeritus, is like 70s-era Peter Gabriel from Hell. He wears religious vestments complete with huge bishop hat and his face painted with a black and white skull.

All of this raised the chuckle factor for me, but then I got a free offer for Spotify and really had no excuse but to stream up the Ghost album to pacify my friend. That was about a month and a half ago and now I own the album and will see the band tomorrow evening in Portland on its first ever U.S. tour.

If I were to publish a recipe for this band, I’d say blend 50 percent pure Black Sabbath with 25 percent Metallica, 15 percent Genesis, 5 percent Blue Oyster Cult and 5 percent Randy Rhodes-era Ozzy. Does that equal 100 percent? I dunno - math sucks.

The Sabbath and Metallica-infused dark riffage and speedy moments permeate the music, but it’s when they hit that prog-rock percentage that my ears really perk up.

The fifth track, Stand By Him, is a great example of this. Part-way through this very catchy rock song, the band busts into weird time signatures with spooky organ and Steve Hackett-esque hammer-ons and then goes into some very Metallica-inspired heaviness. The song winds its way back to the catchy chorus that sounds like a BOC outtake and ends with some great melodic guitar a la 70s Maiden. What the hell…

The closing instrumental number, Genesis (aptly named) sounds like an outtake from that band’s Foxtrot album. Ending a dark-assed CD like this with a gorgeous dual-acoustic passage is flipping genius.

Or take track two, Con Clavi Con Dio, which is pretty heavy overall but ends with dark-sounding Gregorian chants. Still, you feel like you know where the album is going at this point. Until track three, Ritual, starts up and sounds like 70s radio rock with chunky guitars and tasty arpeggios, giving way to the catchiest chorus I have ever heard promoting human sacrifice. I could not get it out of my head and had to look up the lyrics, which are “This chapel of ritual smells of dead human sacrifices from the altar bed.” Not Katy Perry-level pop but damn it’s just as catchy!

So – catchy music, kooky Devil lyrics, mysterious image, chameleon-like musical style. What’s not to like about Ghost? I will drop a full concert review if I make it back alive. Until then, here is a live version of Ritual from some sludge rock show in Europe. Enjoy!


sue hanes said...

Isorski - That's by far the scariest Post that you have written that I've read.


Chris said...

I picked this up on your raving recommendations, but so far I'm a little underwhelmed. Haven't really tested it at volume, though. I'm wondering what is going to separate these guys from Lordi, who were about as much of a theatrical "metal" flash-in-the-pan as you can have.

I'm hoping it grows on me. The best stuff always does.