02. Per Aspera Ad Inferi
03. Secular Haze
04. Jigolo Har Megiddo
05. Ghuleh/Zombie Queen
06. Year Zero
07. Body and Blood
09. Depth of Satan’s Eyes
10. Monstrance Clock
[Loma Vista Recordings]
Swedish enigmas Ghost have been a hot topic in music circles since the success of their debut album Opus Eponymous in 2010, which was a caricature of occult rock and metal culture with over-the-top theatrics and tongue-in-cheek lyrics promoting Satanism. Ghost captured the attention of the underground and mainstream alike not just because of the ironic Satanic frolicking, but because the band’s sound — which has drawn comparisons to Black Sabbath and a darker Blue Oyster Cult — is genuinely catchy and fun. Ghost are the odd band that manages to have an aged sound, yet have an overall air of originality about them. In a time where modern doom metal bands were all beginning to sound like incessant Electric Wizard and Sunn O))) worship, Ghost took the sound back to basics and made it larger than life. An album more hyped in 2013 than Ghost’s sophomore record Infestissumam would be hard to come by. Fortunately, this is one of those few albums that not only lives up to expectations, but surpasses them entirely.
Infestissumam sees the band becoming even more grandiose with their conceptual occultism, which was first signified in this album cycle by the band’s public induction ceremony of “a new frontman” in Papa Emeritus II. In reality, this shift was the ushering in of a new era for Ghost, who are much more confident and ambitious. It’s safe to assume that the events leading to the formation of Ghost and the subsequent release of Opus Eponymous was shrouded in uncertainty; the band’s outrageous execution and “Scooby Doom” sound could have failed to resonate with audiences. Now that the Ghost way of doing things has been a proven (and somewhat surprising) success that gathered them a legion of followers, this band of anonymous musicians are free to explore their influences further and expand their palette without fear. As such, Infestissumam is much weirder.
Where Opus Eponymous was largely a fairly straightforward homage to proto-metal with more listener-friendly melodic hooks, Infestissumam is practically an avant-garde metal record in comparison. The band’s palatable ABBA influence seeps into Infestissumam, which contributes to the record’s bizarre vibe. Across the record, doom-laced riffs are juxtaposed against disco beats, organ leads, and a fully-outfitted church choir in a way that creates a bit of welcomed cognitive dissonance. It’s hard to be surprised by music these days, but when the band goes from piano-driven ballad to explosive surf rock in ‘Ghuleh/Zombie Queen,‘ one can’t help but wonder what in the actual fuck is going on. There’s also something hypnotically catchy about the hook in the almost industrial ‘Year Zero,’ wherein the choir simply recites six different names for Satan in what could be the silliest earworm of the year so far.
In that regard, one can’t help but think that the band’s gimmick is starting to wear thin once the musical novelty wears off; each song is still about religion and how groovy Satan is. Perhaps some new subject matter would be too much to ask for, but Ghost are running out of things to say despite the outstanding musical backing. Many initial fans who hoped that the band would explore heavier and more sinister territory will be sorely disappointed, as well. It won’t be much of a surprise that metalheads will bemoan the album’s overall softer sound, despite how much more extreme the band has gotten in some of their thematic and experimental respects. The riffs aren’t all that outstanding, and the keyboard work often takes prominence over guitar, which would add a nail in the coffin for many traditional metal fans.
Despite the limits of the band’s conceptual dedication and the decidedly less metal focus, Infestissumam is a step up for Ghost in the grand scheme of things. The band are fast approaching their full potential as a true modern creative force and not just a mere nod to the 70’s, which is where many of these vintage style bands fall short. The records that defined a genre don’t need to be made again; if anything, they should be further elaborated upon in a modern context, and Infestissumam succeeds at this in both form and function.
Ghost – Infestissumam gets…