"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Ghost - "Opus Eponymous" (CD)

Ghost - "Opus Eponymous" CD cover image

"Opus Eponymous" track listing:

1. Deus Culpa (1:33)
2. Con Clavi Con Dio (3:33)
3. Ritual (4:28)
4. Elizabeth (4:01)
5. Stand By Him (3:56)
6. Satan Prayer (4:38)
7. Death Knell (4:36)
8. Prime Mover (3:53)
9. Genesis (4:03)

Reviewed by on January 11, 2011

"But clichéd Ghost isn’t; if by 'a message of pure evil' you really mean tush-wiggling devil music, then yes, Satan is here to stay."

The press materials that came along with the review copy of Ghost’s debut full length, “Opus Eponymous,” tell a familiar tale. “Ghost is the name of an anonymous devil worshipping ministry, that in order to spread its unholy gospels and, furthermore, trick mankind into believing the end is ultimately a good thing, have decided to use the ever so popular rock music medium as a way to achieve their ends.” It goes on like that for a while, describing how the “sexually pulsating heavy rock” will bring “a message of pure evil” and “weave their melodic spell” and so on. But clichéd Ghost isn’t; if by “a message of pure evil” you really mean tush-wiggling devil music, then yes, Satan is here to stay.

Ghost isn’t a standard black metal band living in the woods with corpse paint and church-burning sticks ready to go. They play melodic rock and roll with Black Sabbath style jam-y, noodle-y, and doom-y touches. Easily the catchiest song on “Opus Eponymous,” “Ritual” combines a killer guitar lick with the slightly off-kilter clean vocals for a very Stepford-wives-like experience: everything seems happy and pleasant, but there is something lurking under the surface. But just like the wives, Ghost never reveals the musical demons (we get the demons other ways, see below), and the metal volcano never quite erupts. The closest the magma gets to flowing over the lip and down the mountainside is on the album closer, “Genesis,” which is a fantastic heavy prog jam.

This is how it should be, as Ghost never gives in to modern heavy metal clichés. Owing more to 1970s AOR like Kansas and Deep Purple than Burzum or even Maiden, Ghost rocks out with a purpose. But the band isn’t a new breed of denim-and-beard-clad riff monster either. They sound positively pleased singing the chorus in “Stand By Him” and the Hammond organ fade points to Neil Young, not Nocturno Culto.

But everything isn’t rainbows and puppies; Ghost’s lyrics are dark. Real dark. Try the opening lines to “Satan Prayer:” “Believe In One God Do We / Satan Almighty / The Uncreator Of Heaven And Evil / And The Invisible And The Visible.” Well that’s more like it! All nine chunks of layered guitar-and-organ rock and roll bathe horribly dark and depraved praise for Satan in bright waters. And it gets even better – eschewing corpse paint, bullet belts, and spiked gauntlets, Ghost wears masks and Catholic-style priest robes on stage. Some have written off the costumes, mystery (none of the band members are known to the public) and general schtick, but at some level it is refreshing, and fun.

So what the heck are we supposed to do with these guys? They blatantly ignore the instructions on how to be good Satanists, they can’t get the costumes right, and the music is way too catchy to be the bleak soundscape of the devil. I know I’m not supposed to like this stuff - it isn’t that heavy! It isn’t bleak! It isn’t troo! But I just can’t resist playing “Opus Eponymous” again… and again… and again…

Highs: The layered guitar and organ harmonies are phenomenal.

Lows: Sometimes the music builds but doesn’t go quite far enough – it could stand to get a little bit heavier at times.

Bottom line: Odd amalgamation of lyrics, music, and costumes still make for a phenomenal debut album.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)