Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ghost - Infestissumam

It's not every day that you come across a band that can be classified as "the complete package."  You'd be even more hard pressed to find a band that's rightfully deserved the following that Sweden's Ghost has accumulated since their 2010 debut Opus Eponymous.  The live performances...the music...the mythos...Ghost's identity is dependent on them all.  They're a band that the metal community not only deserved, but also one that it needed.  To say that the release of their sophomore effort, Infestissumam, is highly anticipated would be a gross understatement.  Even with the bar set so high, Ghost proves with their latest release that not only are they able to meet expectations, but they can also go above and beyond.

I can't think of a more accurate adage to describe Ghost's sound than "what's old is new."  Blue Oyster Cult is an obvious reference in terms of musical style but to say they're the only influence is to neglect how deeply Ghost actually delves into 70's rock.  Perhaps what makes the Ghost listening experience the most jarring, at least upon first listen, is the blatant satanic lyrics. However, fear not, the listening experience quickly transitions from jarring to whimsical and even comical.  While Watain is certainly one end of the spectrum in terms of satanic metal, Ghost would represent the other, more light-hearted end.  You've never had as much fun singing about the devil until Ghost came along, that's for sure.  This kind of capricious attitude was present on Opus Eponymous and is even more so on Infestissumam.

What ultimately sets Infestissumam apart from Opus Eponymous is the tendency to err more on the side of rock than metal.  While there still is a tangible heaviness to Infestissumam, there aren't really any songs that live and die by heavier riffs like "Con Clavi Con Dio" and "Elizabeth" did on Opus Eponymous.  Infestissumam's biggest strength lies in the anthemic nature of the album's cohesion.  Everything feels more grandiose, regardless of the musical focus of each track.  While tracks like "Per Aspera Ad Inferi" and "Year Zero" may focus on catchier guitar riffs, tracks like "Secular Haze" and "Idolatrine" may focus more on campy church organs.  The track listing is well balanced and doesn't feel like any one song-type is lumped together too much, which makes for a fluid listening experience.

Ghost certainly isn't infallible, however.  Fans who were hoping for Infestissumam to be just as, if not more heavy than Opus Eponymous will be sorely disappointed.  They do craft an overall more satisfying album experience than Opus Eponymous but at the cost of not having as many heavy hitting singles.  In addition, the whole satanic clergy gimmick isn't going anywhere.  While I'm sure most would view this as a positive, the downfall is that the lyrical content isn't going to make any dramatic changes.  What you'd expect is what you're going to get.

Ghost makes an overwhelmingly positive impact with Infestissumam.  While it may lack the heaviness of their debut, it makes up for it by crafting a more anthemic and satisfying album experience.  More attention was given to diving deeper into the realm of 70's rock whether it was through the vocals, guitars, or vampy organs.  Give me the option of taking either their debut or Infestissumam and I'd pick the latter any day of the week.  Think of it like an actual church service.  While Opus Eponymous was the sermon given that caught everyone's attention, Infestissumam was the closing hymn that will get everyone to stand up and sing along loud and proud....especially the catchy-as-hell closing line to the album.  But I won't spoil anything.

- Mick

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