After a shockingly cool debut in the form of 2011 album Opus Anonymous (here's our review of that one), Swedish occult rockers Ghost took the rock & metal world by storm with their melodically smooth, often upbeat melodies which create a surprising counterbalance to their blatantly satanic lyrics. World tours and critical acclaim followed in its wake, and the praise was well-deserved, as the band brought something entirely new to the dark metal landscape. Ghost (now called "Ghost BC" in the US) made an eagerly awaited return to the studio, and has summoned forth their sophomore album Infestissumam. The new record's arrival was preceded by the single “Secular Haze” and a nudity-filled music video for “Year Zero” depicting a sex-magic ritual with a coven of witches and an elderly gentleman whom we should presume is Lucifer himself.
All the band's hallmarks are back in Infestissumam (which means “hostile” in Latin), including the haunting ceremonial tone and the serene, slightly pop-infused melodies strongly reminiscent of classic bands like Blue Oyster Cult – the tracks "Per Aspera ad Inferi" and "Monstrance Clock" sound for all the world like lost cuts from that band's catalog. But this project also proves they can take that vintage vibe to a new level, with darker tones, more complex song structures, and expansive production including symphonic and choral passages, proving that the band is far from a one-trick pony.
The title track, which plays like a funeral dirge, indicates that these “nameless ghouls” can call up music that is just as spooky as their wildly demonic lyrics, and "Year Zero" brings in chanting choirs for a memorable and darkly cinematic feast. The vocals by skull-painted frontman Papa Emeritus II (all band members still remain steadfastly anonymous) also surpass those of their debut, demonstrating an impressive range and surprising variety of styles. “Secular Haze” captures the all of their strengths perfectly, with its waltz time signature creating an ominous dark-carnival feel. The video, which plays like a musical guest appearance on a '60s TV variety show, is the ideal presentation for the band's vintage rock sensibilities, as you can see here:
Sure, the old school pop-rock elements that dominated Opus Anonymous are still very much in play here, especially in cuts like "Jigolo Har Megiddo” and “Body and Blood,” but the band also blazes proudly into progressive rock turf for "Ghuleh/Zombie Queen,” which brings lush keyboards, piano and psychedelic guitars to bear in an eight-minute epic that stands among the group's most compelling work. They rock even harder on the tracks "Idolatrine" and "Depth of Satan's Eyes,” which have a much more aggressive edge than I expected, in the mode of a hard and fast jam; while it's rougher and meaner, it falls nicely into Ghost's irony-free spirit of fun... which is still so much at odds with their lyrics that I sometimes have trouble wrapping my head around the whole thing. But these songs are so incredibly hooky that it's worth the occasional confusion, and I find myself raising horns high yet again for Infestissumam. If Ghost's output continues to be this infectious, I expect they'll be baffling and delighting dark rock & metal fans for years to come.
Below is the work-safe edit of the “Year Zero” music video... but if you're up to the challenge (and old enough, of course), the uncut version can be seen at the band's official site.