Music review: Ghost's 'Opus Eponymous'

Ghost may hide behind stage outfits, but their music stands on its own merits.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2011 – Stockholm’s Ghost is a secretive group currently making waves across the heavy metal community. In one fell swoop, they’ve disinterred the genre’s original form and given it a ghoulish update without sacrificing the reek of retro status. Their 2010 (and only) full-length “Opus Eponymoushas spread through the music world like a zombie plague, its catchy songwriting infecting the hearts of hard rock and pop fans almost as often as legitimate metalheads. Perhaps most interestingly, the band’s six members have achieved such feats without the public knowing who they are.

What has followed is one part guessing game over Ghost’s identity, one part debate over the outfit’s music and one final portion arguing over whether or not they’re an elaborate, post-modern prank. There’s plenty worth chattering over – the band’s ornate but blasphemous costumes, their hokey art or their blatantly satanic lyrics. It seems there’s a thin line between evil hymns and tongue-in-cheek humor, one Ghost expertly straddles before listeners ever play the album.

Ghost&squot;s "Opus Eponymous"

Ghost’s “Opus Eponymous”

Crank up “Deus Culpa” and most doubts about Ghost’s seriousness will be exorcised faster than Linda Blair at the Vatican. The eerie organ solo perfectly sets the tone for “Con Clavi Con Dio,” a psychedelic barnstormer that’s as menacing as Black Sabbath but as trippy as Blue Oyster Cult. “Ritual” is much the same, letting lush, shimmering melodies tickle listeners’ ears before blindsiding them with grooving guitars and sinister sing-alongs.

“Elizabeth” is the record’s best tune, its molten guitar melodies cascading like magma. This hot-and-heavy tone is further accentuated by the lusty chorus, a mantra so seductive it’ll get stuck in one’s head for weeks. “Stand by Him,” meanwhile, switches between thick guitar riffing and soaring, organ-tinged sing-alongs with deceptive ease. “Satan Prayer” starts with a somber bass line only to slowly grow into a rhythmic rocker that will have people singing the band’s praises.

“Death Knell” rumbles with a rolling drum beat before settling itself into a stop-start duel between keyboards and guitar riffs. “Prime Mover” hits much harder, its fusion of stomping rhythms and ethereal wails giving the track a sense of urgency its predecessor lacks. The instrumental “Genesis” proves the album’s grand finale, its whirling keyboard effects clashing with arena-ready guitar work and even a delicate acoustic passage at the end. It’s an introspective number, one more inspirational than the insidious songs found elsewhere on the disc.

The sorcerers who conjured up this album may remain unknown but their music is powerful magic on its own. Its song-writing casts a spell that isn’t quickly shaken, and its malevolent lyrics will frighten even the staunchest listeners. “Opus Eponymous” resurrects the spirit of heavy metal’s earliest incarnation, breathing into it devilish new life.

Tracklisting

“Deus Culpa”

“Con Clavi Con Dio”

“Ritual”

“Elizabeth”

“Stand by Him”

“Satan Prayer”

“Death Knell”

“Prime Mover”

“Genesis”

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

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Read more of Mark’s work in Heavy Metal Hensch and Out and About D.C. at the Washington Times Communities.


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Mark Hensch

Mark Hensch is a heavy metal fanatic who has been scribing about the genre since 2003.  A Grand Rapids, Mich. metalhead, Mark also writes for www.thrashpit.com while serving as its editor.  He maintains a recurring column there called "Hensch's Hometown Heroes" which spotlights unsigned heavy metal bands.  He apologizes for any subsequent ear bleeds readers incur while checking out his music blog. He also writes about restaurants and mixed martial arts for the "Washington Times" in addition to extreme music.

 

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