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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Album Review: Ghost - Opus Eponymous

Ghost - Opus Eponymous
2011 Metal Blade Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Yes, the cover of Ghost's Opus Eponymous is a rip on the seventies' horror nouveau artwork for the telefilm adaptation of Stephen King's vampire classic, 'Salem's Lot. There's a bigger reason at-large than meets the eye.

More attention is being heaped upon Opus Eponymous for its devilish haunts, but this isn't quite so much a black rock hymnal for Satan. Okay, I'm lying, it is. Really, though, Opus Eponymous is a sojourn back to the seventies space toaster rawk of Blue Oyster Cult and trash cult horror flicks such as Blood On Satan's Claw, The Devil's Chidren, Satan's Daughter, Touch of Satan and Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby. At least that's the vibe that projects from purported Swedish occultists, Ghost.

The band projects a rather menacing stage presence in cloaks and hoods and a papal-like leader presiding over Ghost's apocalyptic liturgy. So too did Martin Ain project a ghoulish anti-monk presence on Celtic Frost's last major tour in support of their Monotheist album. Ghost, on the front, appear to mean huge business. Who cares, though? It's the music that matters and Ghost says far more in that department.

Forget the themes of Opus Eponymous. You'll either appreciate its lyrical summoning to Countess Bathory (i.e. "Elizabeth"), demonae and Lucifer ("Stand By Him" and "Con Clavi Con Dio") or you won't. Target instead the Blue Oyster Cult, Hawkwind and Pentagram grooves driving Ghost's throwback heavy rock sound. Particularly in the case of BOC, there was always a sinister underworld lurking beneath much of their music that's rubbed off the ears of casual classic rock heads.

It certainly wasn't lost on Ghost, who writes Opus Eponymous partially in the key of Spectres and Fire of Unknown Origin and late 60's psych, only with more blatant hails to Beelzebub and hellish funeral organs pounding overtop their slinking grue. Even the high alto vocals showering Ghost's phantasmagorical crunching signals BOC. All of that's actually paying them compliment. The haunted atmospherics from Ghost suck you in, whether you consider the devil a tool or not. In the case of the later tunes, Ghost amps up and delves out more metallic tones before presenting a well-crafted closing instrumental "Genesis," which strides forward on Emerson Lake and Palmer-styled gusts and a gorgeous flamenco sequence for its finale.

Though the most frightening depiction of Satan still oddly remains the one raising Hell in Fantasia, there's nothing disarming about Ghost's Opus Eponymous. If you're a longtime veteran of horror films, BOC (and an avid reader of Heavy Metal the magazine), you get what this is about, even if Ghost on the front seem to keep blackened bibles tucked in their instrument cases.

Whether or not the players in Ghost are actual satanists doesn't matter. They could be giving us the next Welcome to Hell, as in evil shtick for evil shtick's sake. The only thing you really need to take serious about this album is how well it rocks instead of bludgeons and tortures. Opus Eponymous is a chunky but entertaining nostalgia ride through seventies rock and horror under the guise of black metal. Diatribes be damned, Ghost are highly effective at their yesteryear craftsmanhip and bloody addictive on top.

Rating: ****

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What is the name of the rock band in Look Whats Happened to Rosemarys Baby? Adrian and a bunch of other young people dance to pounding rock music in a casino. The band was made up of three guys and one woman and their song is sinister and evil. Hard rock or heavy metal describes them.