Ghost - Opus Eponymous (Cover Artwork)


Opus Eponymous (2010)

Rise Above Records

I was raised Catholic. My family went to mass every Sunday and I'll never forget all the standing, sitting and kneeling on stiff, wooden pews. The air would be choked with the smog of burning incense as the ornately dressed priest, his back to the congregation, recited the dead language of Latin from a thick tome placed at the altar. Though I've long since abandoned the faith, I must confess to retaining a soft spot in my little, black, heathen heart for the arcane ritual and mysticism of the old church.

I think that's partially why I find Sweden's Ghost and their debut full length, Opus Eponymous, so endearing. The intentionally irreverent '70s-inspired retro rock, chock-full of Satan worship, invokes both feelings of amusement and nostalgia. It doesn't hurt that the tunes are great, too.

Sure, Satan and metal go way back. Songs about witches, human sacrifices and the occult in general are about as old as the genre itself. However, what separates Ghost from many of their modern metal contemporaries isn't their subject matter so much as their musical approach to it. Instead of blazing tempos, crushing heaviness, and indecipherable growls, Ghost places an unabashed emphasis on melodies and memorable song structures with pop sensibilities. Cleanly-sung vocals give way to big, soaring, yet foreboding and eerie choruses. These guys have far more in common with Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" than with the likes of anything Deicide ever did.

Opus begins with a short, ominous-sounding hymnal-like melody played on an organ and closes with a psychedelic, prog-influenced instrumental track that sounds like something culled from your dad's record collection. In the span in between, Ghost revels in all that is the unholy and profane, while sounding almost enthusiastically cheery about it: "Lucifer / We are here / For your praise / Evil one" the vocalist Papa Emeritus announces on "Con Clavi Con Dio," followed by some spooky, sinister-sounding chanting in Latin. "The Devil's power is the greatest one / When His and Hers holiest shuns the sun" he croons on "Stand by Him."

Rounding out the whole blasphemous charade are the costumes worn by Ghost in all live appearances and photo shoots: The vocalist as a skull-faced "evil" pope dressed in a black robe and hat bearing inverted crosses and the rest of the band in hooded druid robes. While I generally don't care much for bands or musicians that make it a point to dress up in costumes or as pretentious rock stars, in Ghost's case I'm willing to make an exception because the whole spectacle really ties everything together.

I'm aware that the vintage rock thing has already been overdone in some circles. And the Satan stuff, albeit as tongue-in-cheek as it is, may wear on some listeners. But as long as bands like Ghost keep churning out solid, time capsule-like, quality material that doesn't sound contrived, I'll be perfectly fine with that. Hail Satan, indeed!