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In the two-and-a-half years since Opus Eponymous first came out on Rise Above Records, a lot has changed for Ghost. Such as their name, for instance — now officially Ghost B.C. in America thanks to some apparently litigious members of the spectral realm. They’ve also seen their Opus re-released on the much larger Metal Blade Records, only to subsequently sign to the even bigger Loma Vista Recordings, a subsidiary of the Universal Music Group. They’ve played festivals and T.V. shows. They’ve inspired countless half-baked “occult rock” thinkpieces and graced the cover of Decibel’s 100th issue. Now, a stream of their new LP Infestissumam sitteth on the left hand (side) of Pitchfork, inviting the mongrel hordes to pass judgment on what will either burst their speculative bubble or help them cross over to a massive audience no metal band has reached since Mastodon’s mid-aughts heyday. No pressure, though.
The truth is, Infestissumam will lose the Swedes a lot of fans. Those who jumped on the bandwagon because of the overtly satanic lyrics and massive, hook-filled choruses of Opus won’t find much of the Ghost they fell in love with here. The band’s show-stopping theatricality hasn’t changed, but the music they use it to deliver has, and it’s easy to imagine the more nuanced arrangements failing to resonate with everyone.
We live in an age of musical excess, when our inboxes bow under the weight of promos we can’t remember signing up to receive, Bandcamp links from friends, and Amazon newsletters telling us what we have to buy, even if we haven’t had time to hear it. Opus Eponymous became a hit because, for all its stuck-out-of-time sonic elements, it was sympathetic to those fiercely modern realities. It only took one listen to bury its hooks in you, and before you knew it, you’d heard it 10 times and knew every word. Pair that immediacy with Papa Emeritus’ evil-pope corpse paint and his anonymous, hooded co-conspirers and you’ve got more than a band — you’ve got a story.
That Ghost is willing to play with that notoriety to challenge listeners more on Infestissumam is a huge boon for the material. Each of the record’s 10 tracks walks down a different path, while the Papa’s greatly improved vocal range ties them all together. When lead single “Secular Haze” was released a few months back, it forced people to recalibrate their expectations. One popular sentiment was that it didn’t sound much like a lead single at all, and that’s the brilliance of Infestissumam. There are no lead singles, but there are no weak songs.
It’s become more difficult to pin Ghost down to their points of reference. On Opus Eponymous, you could practically hear them cherry-picking their riffs and melodies: “Some Blue Öyster Cult would go nicely here, after the Thin Lizzy but before the Mercyful Fate.” In stark contrast, Infestissumam is the sound of Ghost becoming Ghost. It hardly even seems fair to lump this band with the occult rock movement anymore. Hell, it hardly seems fair to call them metal.
“Secular Haze” remains a highlight, its insistent pipe organ indeed the sonic harbinger many either hoped or feared it would be. That organ anchors many of the album’s best tracks, and guitars in general have to do a lot less heavy lifting than they did in the past. Take the gorgeous “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen,” which starts as a creepy piano ballad that suggests an alternate-universe Billy Joel before using a honky-tonk chord change as a springboard into a thumping piece of arena metal menace. “Zombie queen/Black light guides you/Ghuleh, ghuleh!” could easily become this album’s “This chapel of ritual/Smells of dead human sacrifices/From the altar bed,” the biggest difference being how many more moving parts this song has compared to “Ritual”.
Ultimately, that’s what makes Infestissumam so impressive. Ghost conquered hooks-first trad metal as well as anyone in this generation of bands ever has on Opus Eponymous. Simply making Opus 2 would have been totally forgivable, and in all likelihood, totally awesome. What they gave us instead suggests a more rewarding discography to come, even if it loses them fans in the short run. It’s going to be an interesting ride. Buckle up, and as ever, hail Satan.
Stream Infestissumam via Pitchfork, and head below for updated tour dates and video of the band discussing the origins of the songs “Idolatrine” and “Jigolo Har Megiddo.”
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GHOST BC – 2013 TOUR DATES
Sunday – April 14, 2013 INDIO, CA Coachella Festival
Monday – April 15, 2013 LOS ANGELES, CA El Rey Theatre
Thursday – April 18, 2013 DENVER, CO Ogden Theatre
Friday – April 19, 2013 ALBUQUERQUE, NM Sunshine Theatre
Sunday – April 21, 2013 INDIO, CA Coachella Festival
Tuesday – April 23, 2013 TUCSON, AZ Rialto Theatre
Thursday – April 25, 2013 SAN FRANCISCO, CA Regency Grand
Friday – April 26, 2013 PORTLAND, OR Wonder Ballroom
Saturday – April 27, 2013 SEATTLE, WA Showbox At The Market
Monday – April 29, 2013 VANCOUVER, BC Commodore Ballroom
Tuesday – April 30, 2013 CALGARY, AB Republik
Wednesday – May 1, 2013 EDMONTON, AB Starlite Room
Friday – May 3, 2013 WINNIPEG, MB Garrick Centre
Saturday – May 4, 2013 MINNEAPOLIS, MN Mill City Nights
Monday – May 6, 2013 TORONTO, ON Opera House
Tuesday – May 7, 2013 MONTREAL, QC The Corona Theatre
Wednesday – May 8, 2013 QUEBEC, QC Theatre Petit Champlain
Friday – May 10, 2013 BOSTON, MA Royale
Saturday – May 11, 2013 NEW YORK, NY Webster Hall
Sunday – May 12, 2013 PHILADELPHIA, PA Trocadero
Monday – May 13, 2013 WASHINGTON D.C. 9:30 Club
Wednesday – May 15, 2013 MILWAUKEE, WI Turner Hall
Friday – May 17, 2013 DETROIT, MI St. Andrews Hall
Saturday – May 18, 2013 PITTSBURGH, PA Mr. Smalls
Sunday – May 19, 2013 COLUMBUS, OH Rock On The Range Festival
Tuesday – May 31, 2013 MADRID, Spain Sonisphere Festival
Tuesday – June 1, 2013 BARCELONA, Spain Sonisphere Festival
Tuesday – June 4, 2013 WARSAW, Poland Impact Festival
Saturday – June 8, 2013 MILANO, Italy Sonisphere Festival
Sunday – June 9, 2013 AMNEVILLE, France Sonisphere Festival
Sunday – June 16, 2013 DONINGTON, England Download Festival
Friday – June 21, 2013 GRAZ, Austria See Rock Festival
Sunday – June 23, 2013 CLISSON, France Hellfest
Thursday – June 27, 2013 NORRKÖPING, Sweden Bråvalla Festival
Saturday – June 29, 2013 SINGEN-AACH, Germany Open Air Arena
Sunday – June 30, 2013 DESSEL, Belgium Graspop Metal Meeting
Saturday – July 6, 2013 OBERHAUSEN, Germany Open Air an der KöPi Arena
Saturday – July 20, 2013 HELSINKI, Finland Olympiastadion
Friday – August 2, 2013 CHICAGO, IL Lollapalooza Festival
Thursday – September 19, 2013 RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil Rock In Rio V
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