Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ghost - Infestissumam

Republic Records/Universal Music Australia

One of the most talked about groups to rise up from out of nowhere in recent years has to be Linköping (Sweden) based outfit Ghost. Led by the living dead cardinal-like figure Papa Emeritus II, and backed by five cloaked and hooded Nameless Ghouls, Ghost certainly caught the attention of many with their mysterious presence. But while some thought the whole anonymity approach by the band was nothing more than a theatrical gimmick, the band did have one ace up their sleeve – a critically acclaimed debut to their name. Despite the hype surrounding the band, and the overwhelming success of their ‘Opus Eponymous’ release from 2010, I was a bit of a latecomer to the band. But needless to say, when I heard Ghost, I was an instant convert.
It’s been three years since the release of ‘Opus Eponymous’, but Ghost (Or Ghost B.C. as they are known by now in the U.S.) has finally completed work on their highly anticipated follow-up release ‘Infestissumam’ (Which is Latin for ‘Most Hostile’). And as expected, the album is sure to generate as much acclaim and damnation as their first album did.
With such a long gap between albums, there’s was always going to be a degree of change on the new Ghost album. And sure enough, there’s a definite change evident on the album’s opening title track ‘Infestissumam’. Starting with the sounds of a huge choir (Performed by St. Trident Tenors Of Tinseltown), ‘Infestissumam’ soon sees the band seamlessly coming in to create what is a stunning introduction to the album. Led by a dominant drum sound, and catchy guitars, ‘Infestissumam’ is an infectious short instrumental intro that provides a perfect introduction to the follow-up track ‘Per Aspera Ad Inferi’. Maintaining the military styled drumming of the former track, ‘Per Aspera Ad Inferi’ showcases the band’s deliberate move towards a more organic ‘70’s sounding hard rock/progressive rock sound, with the guitars placed a little lower in the mix, and the drums and keyboards dominating proceedings. But despite the lack of metal in the band’s sound, the band’s song writing strengths are evident in their clever use of melodies, Papa Emeritus II’s captivating and haunting voice and the over the top Satanic themes that run through the lyrics.
‘Secular Haze’, which was the first single lifted from the album, is an obvious stand out with its creepy spiralled carnival-like keyboards, up-front bass throughout and Papa Emeritus II’s mix of melody and eerie whispered lines, while the swinging and upbeat ‘Jigolo Har Megiddo’ reveals a touch of ‘60’s pop into the band’s sound with its greater keyboard presence.
In terms of fan favourites, ‘Ghuleh / Zombie Queen’ is sure to earn its place in no time at all. This lengthy epic begins with the first half of the track sounding like a sombre and spooky ballad, which sounds reminiscent of Alice Cooper during his missing ‘80’s period. But it’s the second half where the song really takes off, with the guitars taking on a surf-rock tone (Which reminds me of The Ventures), the keyboards are given a bit more depth and the choruses soar. Many may dismiss the ‘Ghuleh’ part of this dual epic, but when combined with its partner piece ‘Zombie Queen’, the pair makes a memorable impart around the middle of the album.
‘Year Zero’, the second single lifted from the album, marks a return of the choir, and a reprisal of sorts of the song writing theme and structures that made up the title track. But while there’s some similarities between the two (Which most comes from the lines chanted by the choir), there’s also a strange industrialised Mortiis vibe (2001’s ‘The Smell The Rain’) that makes its way through the song via the keyboards. It’s a bizarre hybrid that is hard to describe, but works quite well.
‘Body And Blood’ is by far one of the album’s most melodic and laid back rock efforts, despite its horror based lyrical stance, while ‘Idolatrine’ once again veers towards a ‘60’s pop sound with a killer chorus that will have you obliviously humming along to ‘Suffer little children/To come unto me’ in no time at all. The same could be said for the Blue Öyster Cult tinged ‘Depth Of Satan’s Eyes’ too. Although it has to be said, that if there’s a weak track on the album, I’d choose this track. It’s not a bad track as such, but in terms of a memorable chorus, this track doesn’t have quite the same impact as most of the tracks on the album.
Finishing up the album is the powerful ‘Monstrance Clock’, which cleverly disguises sexual innuendo and Satan on the lyrical front, while distracting listeners with its enticing mix of echoing Church-like organ work, enchanting choir and mesmerising choruses.
Some may feel that ‘Infestissumam’ may be a step too far in the wrong direction for Papa Emeritus II and his horde of Nameless Ghouls after ‘Opus Eponymous’. Sure, the production has some flaws, but overall, I believe ‘Infestissumam’ proves that Ghost isn’t merely a one trick pony relying solely on image and word of mouth. ‘Infestissumam’ is so much more than that. It’s an album that’s full of quality song writing, strong melodies and filled to the brim with subliminal evil that lurks just below the surface. And while their classic/progressive rock sound may be a throwback to a bygone era, they manage to make it sound fresh and exciting (Which is no mean feat in my eyes). As far as I’m concerned, Ghost has produced another winner, and quite possibly one of the best releases for 2013.

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© Justin Donnelly

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