Is the interest in occult heavy rock rooted in 70′s hard/stoner rock a new hype these days? – This was one of the status messages from my Facebook profile a few days ago, after I realized there are so many bands who tend to play in this musical style. As the term “hype” floats too much in the underground circles when it comes to this band (not from a music aspect, as you might expect), I’m thrilled to write something up about an album which has received such polarized reviews.
Covered with a veil of mystery and dressed like evil priests, Ghost seems to be pretty serious (or at least pretend to be serious) about their Satanic imagery. Let me tell a story about this dark hipsterism: The band, whose line up is held in a strict secrecy, has started to receive much more attention after Fenriz, a member of a cult Norwegian black metal act Darkthrone named them as “the band of the week” on his personal blog in April 2010. Soon after that, the band appeared with the album I’m planing to discuss here, released on Lee Dorian‘s Rise Above Records in October 2010 and finally, with popularity that has struck like a Japanese tsunami (Ouch, too soon –Ed), the band has been confirmed as one of the acts which will participate in the upcoming Roadburn festival.
Enough with the history, I’ll get on with describing what Ghost has to offer with Opus Eponymous. As I mentioned, their roots are planted in occult hard/stoner rock with elements of psychedelia and doom. Don’t get confused if you find out on their record label’s website that this album is put under the black metal mark, you will not hear anything of that genre in their music, but we could say that lyrically this album deals with occultism and Satanism, though any other connections end there.
Opus Eponymous is something that comes up if you combine Mercyful Fate, the ubiquitous Black Sabbath, Angel Witch, Witchcraft and The Devil’s Blood. A lot of witches, one may say. The album opens with an intro called Deus Culpa, that sounds as a sort of a lamentation which leads into Con Clavi Con Dio, a hard rock piece driven by stony riffs and strong organs. And just when you think there will appear strong and harsh vocals, the one of the six unidentified band members who carries the vocal duties appears with a kind of mellow voice, more characteristic of pop rock stuff. In my opinion the band has already failed from this angle. Other than that, the crew shows off good instrumentation, which also gains upon 70′s progressive rock domain.
The track Ritual comes out with a dose of poppiness from the very beginning, but it takes not so long until the track gets a bit heavier, coming closer to Merciful Fate-like heavy metal, but still keeping away from the real of true heaviness. Elizabeth is a track with kind of a twisted melodiousness, with simple drumwork, but a nice guitar solo. Merciful Fate again with a rather poppy approach with a lyrical theme about, you guessed right, Elizabeth Bathory!
The band stubbornly walks the line of hard rock, thus the next two tracks Stand By Him and Satan Prayer are very similar to the tracks at the beginning of the record. Things seem different with Death Knell, in these hellboys imply different approach here, with a bit of a proggier sound and with the addition of vocal harmonies.
Primer Mover cries out for a bit of agressiveness, but the singer’s tiny voice just leaves you hanging. The guitar is excellent, but the vocals just don’t fit it. It’s very disappointing. The album closes with Genesis, which sounds as a filler track to this almost 35 minutes long album.
It’s obvious that these guys have the potential and skills to make something good out of this band, all they need to do is be serious about it. There are plenty of other bands that dwell craft occult hard’n'heavy pseudometal, but even if the only country you look at is Sweden, there are plenty of bands who do it much better, such as Graveyard and Witchcraft (to name just a few).
1. Deus Culpa
2. Con Clavi Con Dio
5. Stand By Him
6. Satan Prayer
7. Death Knell
8. Prime Mover