Review Summary: The nostalgia trip...to HELL!
The problem with gimmicks is that they have a shelf life. Just ask any of the retro-rock darlings of the class of ’03. The Darkness, Wolfmother and Jet all burst onto the scene by resurrecting the '60s and '70s, both in sound and image, and shot to the top of the charts before falling into obscurity once the nostalgia faded. Fast-forward a decade and you’ll find Ghost B.C. (just Ghost to the non-Americans) taking more or less the same trip, but with a twist; they “worship” Beelzebub, you see.
is filled with all kinds of over-the-top '70s-metal goodness; baroque bel canto chorales, sunny harmonies, noodly Blackmore-esque guitar leads, and the all-important ever-present Moog synthesizer. The music is ripped right out of the Deep Purple playbook, but accompanied by an affinity for amusingly grotesque satanic imagery in the lyrics, artwork and stage accouterment of the band. The identity of the band members remains as closely guarded as ever, but in this post-Black Metal day and age the gimmick serves more as parody of the tropes of “Satanic Heavy Metal” than full-blown identification with the archetype.
Recording a retro record, even with the Satanic twist, is as limiting as it is refreshing. The '70s inevitably became the '80s and music moved in different directions. Ghost is therefore inherently limited in what they can accomplish through Infestissumam
. However, gimmick aside, the band delivers a solid album that is chock-full of catchy vocal, guitar and keyboard melodies threaded through proto-prog-rock song structures.
The one '70s trope that is subverted is the instrumental noodling, which, while present, is never excessive. The epic Ghuleh
is the longest song on the record at 7 and a half minutes, while most of the other songs are between 4 and 6 minutes long, despite having several instrumental solos. This conciseness in composition makes the album pass faster than one realizes and is quite refreshing for an album of this sort. The album has no real barn-burners in terms of tempo with the possible exception of the Per Aspera part 2
which is the most “metallic” song on the album. Most of the songs, such as Jigolo Har Megdido
, Body in Blood
, Depths of Satan’s Eyes
and Monstrance Clock
are built around guitar-and-drum stomps, while Secular Haze
is built around a dancing carnival organ piece.
The absolute high-point of the album is without a doubt Year Zero
which combines all of the band’s best attributes in the perfect ratios, right from the choir-interjections to the harmonized verses that build perfectly to the soaring chorus. Elsewhere on the album there are moments of brilliance such as the ebb and flow on Ghuleh
, the terrifically demented combination of cheery vocals and black-and-white horror movie organ melody on the amusingly titled Idolatrine
, and the guitar and keyboard contra-punctuation on the intro of Depths of Satan’s Eyes
. The strongest card the band plays is their talent for writing tunes that evoke their idols while moving just unpredictably enough to be unique. However, occasionally the band settles too much for idolatry and the sounds like a Blue-Oyster Cult reunion.
Ultimately, the album, despite its prima facie
heavy subject matter, is a bit of light-hearted disposable fun. It’s hard to tell how long the band’s gimmick will remain novel and it’s unlikely that they can continue to hold their audience’s interest with their Lucifer-worshipping brand of '70s rock. But, while the novelty lasts, this nostalgia trip is certainly a fun ride.
Ghuleh / Zombie Queen