Review Summary: Ghost has created the catchiest soundtrack to the Apocalypse you will ever hear.
I picked up "Opus Eponymous" by the enigmatic Ghost almost three weeks ago and haven't been able to get it out of my car stereo to save my life. Hailing from Sweden, Ghost was promoted as a Black Metal act in their press release and just looking at the guys, in their all black robes, faces shrouded and their singer dressed like Satan's pope with skeletal make-up, would have you believe that Black Metal is exactly what they play. Especially since Fenriz from Darkthrone has endorsed the band wholeheartedly, featuring them on his blog and having them play his Hammer Of Doom Festival. Was I in for a shock when I heard this!
Ghost is like Heavy Metal Deja Vu. They have been compared to Witchfinder General and Mercyful Fate by fans and reviewers alike but also carry a traditional Doom Metal vibe along with their influences from the First Wave Of Black Metal/New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Instead of blast beats, extremely over driven guitars, inaudible bass and screams you get very safe but solid drums, distorted yet clear guitars, a bass tone and resonance that stands out on every song and, my favorite part, super clean vocals that are easy to listen to while maintaining an eerie presence. Let's not forget about that organ either! This may come as a surprise upon first listen, but once you start to pay attention to the songs themselves and not the fact that Ghost sound like they're stuck in a time warp you begin to appreciate why they are the way they are.
I hardly ever like every song on a record or if I do I just like some songs more than others. On "Opus Eponymous", I can listen to the album from beginning to end without touching the skip button and I actually prefer to listen to it this way. Every song is strong in its own right, whether it be the catchy chorus for "Stand By Him", the hard-hitting riffs of "Ritual", the beautiful organ playing on "Elizabeth", the Antichrist lullaby named "Prime Mover", or "Con Clavi Con Dio"'s treacherous chanting. Dynamically, Ghost hits it right on the head. There is an abundance of tempo changes and soft to loud moments which allow the choruses to soar and the hooks, musically and lyrically, to grab a hold of you without any hesitation. The guitar solos scattered throughout are very tasteful and compliment the backing instruments instead of being a sole focus. The bass is a huge part of the band and rightfully so considering the hooded ghoul playing it is not only noticeable with what he chooses to play but is basically the heavy end behind everything instead of the guitar. The Black Pope's vocals seem to be the centerpiece for each track, adding an atmosphere in their own right with layered vocal melodies or spoken-word invocations that are chilling to say the least. The execution the band has is always dead-on and not one part of any arrangement is unnecessary, drawn out or out of place in the music. This concise formula works well for Ghost and allows the songs to be memorable instead of monotonous. The closer of "Opus Eponymous" is an instrumental entitled "Genesis" that lends itself to a more prog-rock feel of the 70s but still evokes the classic Metal sound while leaving you on a cliff hanger.
I must point out, considering most every review I've read has failed to mention, this band is ***ing EVIL. The lyrics are all essentially love songs to Satan or the Antichrist and glorify devil worship, the cruel acts of Elizabeth Bathory and the coming of the end where the dark lord comes to rule the Earth. The band themselves claim that every note, arrangement and all lyrical content was transpired by Satan himself or what they call their "ghoul writer". Ghost say they are a Satanic ministry that was called upon by their master to infiltrate the world of entertainment so that others may be prepared for the arrival of the cloven hoof as it were. You can believe in this or not, but I think this eccentric gimmick makes the band even more appealing as they have definitely sparked the intrigue of thousands, before they even released this album, by remaining nameless and spouting such obscure and diabolical propaganda. Not to mention that they look like they're attending a black mass when they play live and invite you to do the same as the singer holds communion with the "devil's blood" at the end of every show.
I would say that the only lackluster thing about this album in general is that the songs fade out quite frequently and some times fade out too quickly when you may have wanted that guitar part to go on a bit longer or the vocals to soothe your black soul for another few seconds.
This is a stunning release from a brand new band and it somewhat scares me because I don't know how they're going to be able to top a debut that already sounds like their best work. Then again if Satan is writing everything for them then I guess I have nothing to fear, right? If you like your Metal dark, evil, Satanic and a little dated but with a fresh take on the date and so catchy you won't be able to get the infernal rites of invocation out of your head, then by all means listen to "Opus Eponymous" and revel in the coming of Lucifer.
"Believe in one god do we. Satan Almighty."