Now officially known as Ghost B.C. here in the United States (I like that name better personally), Ghost is one of the more interesting bands in today’s mainstream metal scene. They gradually acquired a cult following after the release of 2010’s Opus Eponymous for their over the top Satanic image and throwback occult metal sound, two elements that aren’t quite as groundbreaking when you’ve listened to any underground metal from the last twenty years. It can be safely said that their sophomore album is as controversial as ever, though not for the reasons that one would think.
For starters, it’s a pretty big stretch to refer to Infestissumam as a metal album. The content and presentation are as theatrical as ever but the debut’s Mercyful Fate influence is nowhere near as prominent and there is much more genre experimentation afoot. Instead, we have a more rock-oriented album with influence from pop, heavy metal, classical and choral music, circus themes on “Secular Haze,” and even disco on “Year Zero.” It kinda sounds like what would’ve happened if Sigh had started out playing doom instead of black metal but it could also be described as a culmination of all the styles Alice Cooper and KISS messed with during the 70s.
The band dynamic has also undergone some changes since their debut. The Nameless Ghouls playing the guitars and bass have more of a backing role this time around and allow the keyboards and choral vocals to define the album’s tone. The only element that seems to be securely held in place is frontman Papa Emeritus II, whose voice grabs the listener’s attention in a way that seems to be more hypnotic than charismatic.
Fortunately, the songs themselves manage to stay fairly consistent despite being a pretty mixed bag. Nothing on here is that riff driven, but just about every song still finds a way to stand out. “Jigolo Har Megiddo” and “Idolatrine” serve as upbeat romps as the choruses on tunes like “Body And Blood” and the closing “Monstrance Clock” should be pretty secure in your head for some time. “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” has also earned its reputation as an early fan favorite thanks to its spooky ballad beginning and more upbeat second half.
But with that said, there are moments where either awkward song structuring or the lack of a strong guitar presence makes things rather rocky. This can best be seen in “Year Zero,” an odd disco rock bonanza that actually ends up being the album’s most memorable track. The Gregorian chants and funky verses are enough to make one want to sacrifice a goat while dancing like John Travolta, but the song seems to overlook these elements in favor of spending a little too much time on its jarringly slow chorus. It could be argued that such tantalizing leads to higher replay value, but it also makes one realize that the band was just an adjusted structure away from the biggest cult hit of 2013.
While some listeners may be crying foul over Infestissumam for the numerous modifications that Ghost has made to their sound, its flaws seem to be more related to songwriting than anything else. Continuing the riff-driven sound that was so prominent on Opus Eponymous probably would’ve made this an easier pill to swallow, but some tighter structuring may have served it better in the long run. Fortunately, the music is far from bad and the fun factor does warrant further listens. It’s hard to tell where the band will go from here but the debut still makes for a more solid initiation.
“Jigolo Har Megiddo”
“Body And Blood”