Review Summary: It's not "Opus Eponymous, Pt. 2" in either style or quality, but it's a solid album in its own right.
Ghost (B.C.) certainly knows how to get attention. Between their adherence to anonymity, their impressive stage shows, and their ability to dress up Satanism in incredibly catchy rock/metal tunes, they've built up quite a following in the years since Opus Eponymous
. At any rate, they ensured that there would be a level of anticipation for their follow-up, Infestissumam
To cut to the chase, Infestissumam
is less of a straight-up "metal" album than Opus Eponymous
. Where the first album danced with a bit of a more overt metallic edge on songs like "Ritual" and "Elizabeth" (and even cuts like "Stand By Him" and) while packaging everything with a fuzzy, 70's-derived sound, the closest this album gets to that sound is "Per Aspera Ad Inferi", incidentally positioned as the opening number. From there, songs run the gamut from a carnival-waltz (lead single "Secular Haze") to surf-rock ("Ghuleh/Zombie Queen") to an early Alice Cooper sound ("Monstrance Clock"). If anything, the album skews to the softer end of what the 70s rock and metal bands were putting out, glossed up with high production values.
This isn't meant to dismiss Infestissumam
, though. If nothing else, the album succeeds in delivering what it set out to do: deliver Satanic lyrics and imagery in a more commercial, palatable shell. And the songs are generally well-constructed and well-performed; "Year Zero" is probably the single-strongest song on this album, delivering all of the promise that Ghost (B.C.) offers with their stylings while having enough of an edge to it to stay interesting. It's catchy, with plenty of hooks and some of the best lyrics on the album. "Per Aspera Ad Inferi" is simple, but it's memorable and well-done. And the lengthy "Ghuleh/Zombie Queen" is another notable standout; it successfully changes moods two minutes in from piano-driven ballad to surf-rock swagger, and it has some of the best riffs on the album.
Unfortunately, as a whole, the rest of the songs are pretty uneven. "Secular Haze" is a memorable and effective number, driven on by the carnival-sounding waltz-time organ that runs through the song. "Jigolo Har Megiddo" is pretty funny lyrically (about how Papa Emeritus II gets all the ladies), and it has a nice and hooky feel running through. The last four songs, though, are much weaker than the first half of the album, generally suffering from a lack of memorability. "Body and Blood" and "Depth of Satan's Eyes" are the weakest tracks, simply because they don't have anything to latch onto. "Idolatrine" hints at greatness, but it's undone by an uncharacteristic lyrical heavy-handedness that just doesn't suit the mood of the song (and of the band as a whole). "Monstrance Clock" is probably the best of the second half, even though it sounds a bit like an Alice Cooper B-side.
The last thing to note, besides the "softer" sound, is that the production of the album has resulted in a much cleaner sonic quality. While the first album had this interesting low-fi fuzz to it (and sounded like a low-budget 70's album), this one sounds like the album after the band got their big record deal. Clean isn't bad, by any stretch (and the band definitely eschews taking part in the War of Record Loudness, which makes me happy); it's just that the slightly "worse" production infused a bit more character into their ditties about Satanic greatness. The band's performance overall is good, though; Papa Emeritus II showcases a bit more vocal range and delivers a stronger overall performance than Papa Emeritus I did (they're almost certainly the same person), and the Nameless Ghouls are still very good instrumentalists across the board.
The takeaway lesson, at any rate, is that this album isn't Opus Eponymous, Pt.2
. It's a good album that lacks the heights of its predecessor ("Elizabeth" and "Ritual" are stronger songs than "Year Zero"), but it being worse than its predecessor isn't the worst thing for Infestissumam
[The deluxe versions of this album include, among other things, a cover of ABBA's "I'm A Marionette". It's a good version of the song, though it's by no means essential to the album overall.]