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The Internet is a funny thing. Ghost's debut album (Rise Above/Metal Blade) has been so hyped that it's already gotten a backlash, all within a few months. The North American release date of today seems positively quaint.

Both the hype and its backlash puzzle me. Much of Ghost's appeal probably comes from the fact that metal tropes (Satanic lyrics! Wearing hoods on stage!) are appearing in a seemingly novel context: actual songs with actual singing and actual melodies. Songs one can remember - imagine that! Extreme metal is so starved for them that initially Ghost seemed like a breath of fresh air to me.

But the more I heard this record, the less exotic it became. It's basically a '70s rock record with occasional flatted seconds/fifths and Mercyful Fate prog betraying metalheads behind those hoods. The squeaky clean production and bloodless performances make this as threatening as a Judy Collins record. Your mother might like Ghost.

That might be the point, though. Demonic vocals and hellish murk à la Deicide's S/T fit the subject matter more. But they scare away the unconverted. So perhaps Ghost see potential converts in people tapping their toes to catchy ditties about human sacrifice. Fat chance - this record is marketed to the converted, and Satan seems nowhere near its vicinity. His force is stronger in Taylor Swift.

There's an idea, actually. These songs could very well appear on the radio, at least the classic rock station. Ghost would fit in next to, say, early Alice Cooper. That's a testament to Ghost's songwriting abilities. The melodic/harmonic deftness here is astounding. Assuming that these guys are also in metal bands, they're not applying their songwriting chops to those bands. Otherwise, those bands would be the best metal bands ever.

In this age of buzzy/Burzumic/psychedelic/sit-down metal, songwriting is at an all-time low. Even first-album, before-they-were-good Accept seem like Leiber and Stoller compared to 99% of extreme metal today. The standard has fallen so low that just having songs one can tell apart has become an achievement. Ghost have achieved that. In fact, metalheads will probably remember their hooks for a while. Occult metal? No. Catchy, well-written pop? Absolutely. Its lessons to offer are technical, not spiritual.

— Cosmo Lee

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HEAR OPUS EPONYMOUS

"Ritual"

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"Death Knell"

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"Satan Prayer"

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BUY OPUS EPONYMOUS

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