Review Summary: Lucifer, we are here.
Ghost have been quickly garnering a reputation of being one of the best rock bands to hit it big in the past decade. A combination of a unique, eyecatching motif and masterfully crafted heavy metal music have captured a wider audience than many rock bands can claim. Everyone who likes rock, no matter the age or sub-demographic, seems to have something good to say about the ghoulish group with the larger than life personalities and, let's be honest, their personalities are one of the biggest reason they've become so recognizable. Call it a gimmick, but the idea of having this intimidating cult leader dressed as a Satanic Pope front a group of masked men known simply as “Nameless Ghouls” is a stroke of marketing genius, one that leads to greater interest in the subject matter of their lyrics and themes. As a big fan of the fantasy genre, a band with devil worshiping overtones and a nearly flawless dedication to kayfabe is something that pulled me in immediately. How could it not?
It's difficult to look at 2010's Opus Eponymous
with fresh ears. It is a prime example of a band that sounds rough around the edges, but has loads of potential for the future. To enjoy Ghost's debut to its absolute full potential would be to listen to it first to see where they started out, and go from there. This review is going to do its best to hear Opus Eponymous
through the ears of said listener, someone who saw the ghastly image of Papa Emeritus, wondered what all the hubub was about, and decided to start at the very beginning. Through those ears, this album is a delightful psychedelic metal romp filled with infectious melodies and lyrics that feel like the theme to a Saturday morning supervillian.
clearly takes inspiration from the virgining metal scene of the 70's. Influences of Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult feel the most prevalent as you hear the chugging power chords, electric organs, and melodic structure of the choruses. “Ritual” and “Stand By Him” stand out as some seriously effective earworms that dig its way into your brain like the words of the devil and just will not leave. The more atmospheric “Con Clavi Con Dio” and “Death Knell” fall more into the doom metal category with slower tempos and the extended holding of vocal notes. They build an interesting image of summoning ancient evils within gothic structures, not unlike the one on the album cover that shows Papa Emeritus raising his hands in praise in the background. It's certainly fun to turn your brain off listening to Opus Eponymous
and letting your mind create these scenes.
On the topic of vocals, it is purely fascinating how the voice of Papa Emeritus fits so inexplicably well with this music. His voice is relatively high pitched, quite nasally, and hardly the first thing you'd imagine when seeing the man, yet it works so well. Music like this lends itself well to deep rasps or the wild highs of King Diamond, voices that one would associate with power. Papa's voice is far from power, but what it lacks in oomph it makes up for in atmosphere. He sounds ominous, convincing. It almost sounds as if he's honestly trying to turn you to the dark side. The way his voice harmonizes is seriously spooky and adds to the theme of the band very well. Combining that with the clearly lower budgeted production, and you have an interesting expierence of finding some cursed, underground tape. It has the aura that you shouldn't be listening to this, but you are, because you're just too curious to listen to superstitious warnings. It's an interesting experience that I can't say any other album has been able to provide me.
That feeling tends to fade after a while after you take a deeper listen into Opus Eponymous's
lyrics. They have a tendency to be, frankly, unbarable. The problem isn't the subject matter. It's how eyerollingly tropey they are. I can't exactly say I'm a conniseur of Satanism, however lyrics like “Lucifer, we are here for your grace, evil one”, “The devil's power is the greatest one”, and reciting phrases like “666”, “S A T A N”, and “Nema”, feel disappointingly bogstandard. It gives an overwhelming tongue-in-cheek feeling that takes away from the authenticity of the act. It makes it feel more like an act than the skeleton pope already did, and they can occasionally be too cornball to bare. Papa's voice doesn't always do many favors. As impressive as he is, there are times where he simply does not sound good. Whenever he tries to get deep and gravelly, such as in the afforementioned “Ritual”, he sounds unimpressive and a bit ridiculous. The chorus of “Elizabeth” is another moment where Papa truly struggles to reach the notes that he reaches. He sounds incredibly nasally and it is simply not a good look.
, on it's own, is a very good throwback album with fun, if cringey, play Satanic (playtanic?) themes and some great melodies to sing along to. That said, it's time to look at it from the eyes of someone who has listened to every current Ghost album. If you have a thing for listening to albums in chronological order, you won't be disappointed by starting with Opus Eponymous
. However, if you want something that shows the raw talent of this band and just how captivatingly great they are, there are other albums I can recommend starting with before working your way here. Later on, the band's production becomes more polished, they start taking their writing more seriously, and everyone simply grows as performers. Don't get it twisted, this album is very good and if you like this style of music, I have no doubt in my mind that you'll enjoy spinning this, but above anything else, it shows the potential of what is to come rather than blowing us away with what is already here.