Review Summary: 'Opus Eponymous' is a twisted yet amazing album that will lure you in with it's excellent sound, archaic references and soaring vocals. This album is great for those who are seeking something different that feels famialiar.
The satanic Swedes, Ghost, enlightened us in early January of 2011 with their debut album; 'Opus Eponymous'. This album is a refreshing and chilling reminder that no matter how innocent something may seem, hidden a little deeper is something sinister.
Without knowing anything about the band, the first thing that is immediately obvious is that the sound is unmistakably dark, however, this is punctuated by some of the most pristine vocals that have ever graced my ears. The lead singer, Papa Emeritus, has the voice of an angel and the tongue of the Devil, for the lyrics are put in a stark contrast that highlights the overall eeriness. Lyrically, the subject matter is focused on, well, the Devil. Worshiping him, making human sacrifices for him and overall praising his wickedness. The lyrics vary from being direct in their meaning, to requiring some deciphering (especially when a few choice phrases are sung in Italian), however, they are all generally fixated on Satan. The lyrics are straightforward, yet with each listen there are different ways to interpret them.
In a visual sense, the band members give you all you need for a decision to be made on what their lyrical content might mean. Papa and the Nameless Ghouls provide a dark and entertaining visual concept. The lead singer, Papa, has his face cloaked in a mask covered with paint in a guise which is inspired by a human skull of sorts. Add in a tall hat, some dark robes and a necklace bearing an inverted cross and you have yourself a satanic Pope front-man. The other members are faceless, their identities hidden away underneath identical masks and their voices filtered through speakers that disguise them. All in all, a great way to keep the attention focused on the music, not the personal lives of the people behind it.
The overall sound created by the 'Ghouls is very fitting for the devilish theme they have created for themselves. The guitar work is impressive and definitely gives this music it's driving force, this is particularly evident in 'Con Clavi Con Dio' and 'Stand By Him'. The drummer has some talent and this gives the music a supportive backbone. The bass is also a key element in their sound and so far I cannot fault any of the instruments. To judge for yourself, I recommend giving the instrumental track 'Genesis' a listen. The opening track, 'Deus Culpa' consists of a minute and a half church organ solo and is yet again another example of their musical talent, even with some very unique instruments. What an introduction! I was unprepared for what I heard and it definitely left me wondering what the rest of the album would sound like. I was not expecting what came next, however.
Rather than turn this into a track by track, I will point out the best examples of Ghosts sound;
The following track, 'Con Clavi Con Dio' is definitely one of the best on the album, it immediately plunges you into a bass guitar lead assault which builds into a duet of guitar and drums driving an attack on the senses. All this energetic metal then melds into the unexpectedly clean vocal declaration of religion by Papa Emeritus; 'LUCIFERRRRRR!' 'We are here' 'For your praise' 'Evil one'. Basic? Yes. Does this make the song simple? Absolutely not. It's hard to explain the effect that the juxtaposition of soft vocals and heavy instrumentals have on you, but this track definitely showcases it. Automatically, though, you are left wondering if he really did just sing 'Lucifer' in the tone of someone who is happy as can be. This stark contrast leads you in with an awry sense of confusion, so much so that you almost NEED to hear the rest of the song to prove one way or another what the topic of this song is. The chorus, if it can be called that, slows down a little and has a catchy melody that will have you singing along in no time, another bonus to the simple lyrics. After the immediate chorus, there is three lines of Italian which are sung in a very tantalising way, almost as though it was a prayer. This basically repeats, with fresh lyrics and a great rhythm, with the song ending with a fade out of that Italian 'prayer' on repeat. Excellent choice for the first taste of what Ghost can offer.
Without seeming extremely obvious, the next track, 'Ritual', may be my favourite of them all. It has probably the catchiest chorus of all the songs on the album. And the lead in is a killer example of all the Nameless Ghouls skills. The lyrics are simple, yet chilling and are sung to perfection by Papa, who even indulges in some heavier singing styles at certain points in the song. The guitar riffs are, while brief, solid features. I would recommend this song as a first listen, since it is the catchiest and probably the best sounding of all of the songs.
The final song I will elaborate for you is 'Death Knell'. A darker sounding song with a heavier tone and deeper guitar 'thrums'. The lyrics are still sung quite cleanly, but are definitely more sinister and have a dark atmosphere about them, including the spelling out of S.A.T.A.N. in Papa's bright yet menacing voice. All in all, this may be the creepiest song on this album, and definitely one of the greatest sounding.
So, the tracks I strongly recommend are;
*Deus Culpa (just for it's uniquity)
*Con Clavi Con Dio
Buy this album for it's excellent sound, archaic references and uniquity, as well as its ever-present feeling of 'ghostliness'.