Ghost // Opus Eponymous
Rating: 4.5/5.0 —Satanic rites done right!
Label: (EU) Rise Above Records |(US) Metal Blade Records
Release Dates: EU: 18.10.2010 | US: 01.18.2011
How can this be? Yet another metal treasure nearly escaped the watchful eye of Steel Druhm and makes me feel shame for failing to include it in my Top Ten(ish) of 2010. Please forgive this epic oversight as I belatedly introduce you to Opus Eponymous, the debut by Sweden’s Ghost, which is a goldmine of expertly written and played mega-retro 70’s style satanic heavy metal. Taking inspiration from old Mercyful Fate, Witchfinder General, Pentagram and every horror film about satanic cults ever made, Ghost operate in a time warp where metal was as much about mood as sheer musical heaviness and where melody and accessibility were king. Opus Eponymous sometimes feels like the soundtrack to The Exorcist and at other times like Anton LaVey’s satanic mass set to music but it’s compelling, instantly likable and a lot of evil rocking fun for those among us in the left lane of the highway to hell.
Although this isn’t a wickedly heavy album by any means, it is plain wicked and cries out for a burning at the stake (it has an evil Pope on the cover for Pete’s sake!). The best points of comparison are the first two Mercyful Fate albums. As they took traditional metal and soaked it in lyrical tales of the occult and Satanism, so does Ghost, although they’re less aggressive and far more accessible than Mercyful Fate ever was. There’s that same eerie and evil vibe on Opus Eponymous as there was on Melissa and Don’t Break the Oath but mixed with healthy doses of Witchfinder General and Blue Oyster Cult. Similarly, the unnamed vocalist (all members of Ghost apparently go without names and wear corpse masks and robes when playing live but word on the street suggests members of Watain and Repugnant are involved) does at times sound like King Diamond without the falsetto and he turns in a very solid and enjoyable performance here. No screaming, no death gurgles or shrieks, just clear, clean singing and it fits perfectly. The mystery guitarists provide a series of classic riffs and solos that would have fit on any of the early Judas Priest albums, and the unknown keyboardist generates a plethora of evil church and horror movie worthy runs. All of this results in some excellent and memorable songs like “Con Clavi Con Dio,” “Ritual,” “Genesis” and album highlight “Elizabeth” (yes, it’s about Countess Bathory). Toss in some Latin incantations, church bells, lots of “hail Satans” and an occasional dark foreboding background voice and you have a whole lotta Rosemary’s Baby going on!
All the songs are short, none longer than four and a half minutes and it’s a very short album overall at only thirty five minutes. Due to the extremely high level of song quality and large fun factor, it goes by too quickly and definitely left me hungry for more. The production is ultra-clear and organic sounding and fits the music like a coven mitt. You can even hear everything the bass does and whoever is playing it does some cool and interesting things. Pretty much everything is a major success here and I can see why Fenriz of Darkthrone championed these guys in the past.
While I’m sure some stopped reading when I used the dreaded “retro” word, it would be a mistake to miss out on Opus Eponymous. These masked men are really onto something here and what they created is clearly the Devil’s work and should be heard by all those currently in a bowling league with Satan. If the power of Christ repels you, Opus Eponymous may just have your number (of the beast). Mr. Crowley commands you to check this out!