A lot of bands that are perceived as Satanic are usually anything but. Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi has his interest in the subject, but is not a satanist, Marilyn Manson is a priest of the Satanic church, but I don't buy his commitment beyond its use as a marketing tool, Glenn Danzig has been said to be a Satanist, but I don't really buy it from him either. Then there is Behemoth, which strike me as more anti-Christian than Satanic. What does this have to do with Ghost? Well, they could possibly be the real deal. From their lyrical content, artwork, costumes, and the fact they are not named all seems to point towards something a bit more legitimate. It is also possibly they are just really good at making the perception appear to be reality.
In the end, I don't think it really matters all that much. At least not to me. The bottom line is whether or not the music is any good. In the case of Ghost's debut album, Opus Eponymous, the answer is very good. It is strongly reminiscent of the 1970's, kind of like a mixture of Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Blue Oyster Cult, and Mercyful Fate. It is crisp, clear, fuzzy, and very groovy. Layer in themes of Satan, sacrifice, rituals, death, and witches and you have the makings of an interesting brew.
They eschew conventions of modern metal. It is like they have ignored a few decades of rock and metal progression favor of a late 70's identifying sound as their vehicle of destruction. It is not fast or extreme, not exactly technical, and not low-fi. This is a band that has come together with a singular goal and they go after it with absolute sincerity and eloquence. They do not sink into cliches or the usual retro-rock/satanic schtick that other acts have used.
There is something about Ghost and their approach that feels genuine. It doesn't hurt that the music is rock solid. The music is not terribly heavy, is easy to get into, and is filled with atmosphere. There are moments where the music reminded me visually of The Blind Dead films. Odd, I know, but there it is. Occasional use of acoustic guitar and a sprinkling of organ music throughout add to the considerable atmosphere the music has.
Vocals are clean and have a surreal, dreamlike quality to them. Guitars are a little fuzzy, bass also fuzzy and just a little groovy, and the drums are there to keep time and reinforce the old school sounds. From "Con Clavi Con Dio" to "Elizabeth" and from "Stand by Him" to "Death Knell," Ghost never loses focus, delivering interesting music that has a great ebb and flow to carry you through. It almost lulls you into a state of contentment.
This is a really good album, no matter your beliefs. It features great production values and has a sound that is distinctive and stands out from the crowd.
Article first published as Music Review: Ghost - Opus Eponymous on Blogcritics.