Ghost (now known as Ghost BC due to a lawsuit, but I’m going to continue to call them Ghost) is a metal band. Their songs are about Satan. They are fronted by lead singer Papa Emeritus II, a devil pope who wears a skull mask. He is backed by a group of musicians known only as the Nameless Ghouls. Here are a few of the song titles from their newest album, Infestissumam: “Secular Haze,” “Per Aspera Ad Inferi,” “Depth of Satan’s Eyes.”
But Ghost isn’t a metal band. Papa sings in a soaring falsetto that lends itself to the huge choruses present in just about every song. The final song on Infestissumam is an ABBA cover. Its most musical extreme is probably the palm muted riffs the band uses on maybe half of the songs on this album. I guess I could compare the group to Blue Oyster Cult, but frankly BOC are far more extreme.
I like to call Ghost pop metal, because that’s really what it’s doing. It’s all the accoutrements and stereotypes of traditional heavy metal without the actual heavy metal. I’ve been fascinated with the band since I discovered it, as there isn’t anything around that is quite like what the artists do. It’s a style that worked incredibly well on their first album, Opus Eponymous. Does it work on Infestissumam?
For the most part, yeah, it does. Ghost’s combination of pop and ridiculous Satan worship is one that works unbelievably well. Songs like “Year Zero” and “Per Aspera Ad Inferi” combine memorable riffs with catchy choruses in a way that only Ghost can. The songs are also pretty absurd lyrically, (the chorus of “Year Zero” goes “Hail Satan, archangelo/Hail Satan, welcome year zero.”) which is either something that is going to click for you in a ridiculous self aware kind of way or simply drive you away. I think the lyrics are both hilarious and enjoyable, so it works for me. The album is also Ghost’s first major label release, and it benefits from some seriously tight production. Everything is mixed precisely and sounds as big as the theatrical presentation of the band themselves.
However, the fact that Ghost is essentially doing what they did on Eponymous is also one of the problems with the album. They branch out a little bit, which either works (the fun circus riffs on “Secular Haze”) or comes of as absurd in a not fun way (the surf rock/ballad of “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen”), but these experiments are fairly few and far between and uninteresting when they do appear. For the most part, the band is riffing on the same formula that made “Ritual” such a brilliant song, but the group never actually manages to reach that song’s height.
Which isn’t to say Infestissumam is bad, because it’s not. It’s quite enjoyable, sometimes great, but never excellent. There aren’t any totally awful songs on the disc (except for the ABBA cover, that one isn’t very good), but there are only a few truly stand out tracks. Ghost is still a band that definitely gets by on a combination of presentation and music, and if the presentation doesn’t do anything for you, the music isn’t going to be enough to really make this album worthwhile. However, if you do enjoy a bunch of Swedish dudes signing pop metal jams to Satan, you’ve come to the right place.