Ghost
Infestissumam

Seems like Ghost (or Ghost BC, as the lawyers like to call them now) has made a deal with the Devil. They got a major advance for their sophomore album – $750,000 buys a lot of face-paint and incense. You can hear it in the production and atmosphere, as thick and as decadent as blood poured on tits in black velvet. You’ll see it on their current world tour, sure to feature an even more impressive stage show than last year’s theatrical, fog-shrouded seances. And you’ll know it’s worked when the band has finally made the climb from the metal underground to the racks at Hot Topic.

And I’m happy for their success. I loved Opus Eponymous and its saccharine, satanic retro-occult shtick (which one reviewer brilliantly termed as “Scooby-Doom”). Yet something didn’t turn out quite right on Infestissumam. It sounds fantastic, and it brings in new elements like ABBA worship and surf rock shimmy, but for Pinhead’s sake, where are all the hooks?

“Ritual” was a perfectly subversive pop song, a shot of devilish glee (and viral-savvy success) that combined churchyard organs and doomy riffs with deliciously blasphemous lyrics. Most of all, it had an insidiously singalong chorus that wormed its way into your brain and pulsed there like a parasite. First single “Secular Haze,” by comparison, features creepy carnival organs with a lurching rhythm, but the chorus is as lifeless as a corpse in a failed, well, ritual. That’s a real sin, especially for a pop song. (Loved the ’60s Top of the Pops-style video though.) “Per Aspera ad Inferi” has the same problem – the verses are a pounding Gothic dirge, but the chorus is all crescendo, no climax. It’s a relentless serial-killer chase that somehow never catches its quarry. At least “Secular Haze” and “Per Aspera” sound like eerie ear-candy; “Body and Blood” and “Idolatrine” abandon the sardonic, minor-key menace that made Opus Eponymous so memorable. If “Ritual” was a sugar skull filled with bile, then these two songs are little more than Halloween cookies.

Onto the good stuff: the remaining five tracks on Infestissumam are closer to ‘Goddamn!’ than ‘Fail Satan’. “Year Zero” is the real standout here – a thundering, tell-tale heartbeat complete with Gregorian vocals, Grand Guignol organs and a soaring and dramatic chorus. With its anthemic chant of “Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer,” it’s “Year Zero,” and not “Secular Haze,” that should be freaking out parents across the country as their kids don T-shirts emblazoned with the death’s-head grin of Papa Emeritus II. “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” is the other campy album highlight, and strands David Bowie, Dick Dale and ABBA on a deserted island with the Horror of Party Beach. It’s really two songs in one – the first half a piano-driven croon, and the second a psychedelic surf rock shamble. Another great chorus too, especially with the wild organs echoing in the background. “Jigolo Har Megiddo” is a gloomy, organ-grinder Beach Boys tune with burlesque-swagger drums and a creepy-cool falsetto during the solo/bridge. The album closes with two solid spook-rockers, “Depth of Satan’s Eyes” and “Monstrance Clock.” Both feature the sinister lyrics and hooky melodies that made tracks like “Elizabeth,” “Death Knell” or “Stand By Him” so much fun on the debut.

There are also two bonus tracks if you get the deluxe version of Infestissumam – “La Mantra Mori,” an understated and atmospheric ballad, and an off-kilter cover of ABBA‘s “I’m a Marionette,” a song which was already kooky and theatrical to begin with. Ghost‘s version just makes it a bit creepier, but it’s nowhere near as inspired as the brilliant, dark transformation of The Beatles‘ “Here Comes the Sun” from Opus Eponymous.

Remember what Mia Farrow said at the end of Rosemary’s Baby when she sees baby Andy (Christ) for the first time? He’s a perfectly formed little baby, all pink and warm and full of promise, but his eyes! “What have you done to it? What have you done to its eyes?” Infestissumam is unholy, but it’s also uneven. Despite the superior production, atmosphere and overall listenability, it should have been bristling with better hooks – especially given the band’s subversive pop ambitions. The Nameless Ghouls have plunged their gilded dagger into the mainstream, but they slice an artery when they could have punctured the heart.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
April 19th, 2013

Comments

  1. Commented by: Daniel Zidar

    For a 2nd album, I think it’s amazing. The first one was so simple, yet really catchy…ear candy, basically. This one will appeal the more you listen, I think…. It’s weird, the feedback that I have read so far is, all who hated the first one seem to love this one, and vice versa.


  2. Commented by: LongDeadGod

    I have the exact same problem with this album, aside from year zero it is missing all the hooks that made you keep humming ritual, elizabeth, and death knell all day, then listen to them again on the ride home from work.


  3. Commented by: gordeth

    I agree with Dan. Their first one didn’t do anything for me, but I’m digging the atmosphere of this one. All of the artwork for it is great too.


  4. Commented by: E. Thomas

    Dont get these guys at all….


  5. Commented by: Ace Barker

    I gotta go with LongDead on this’un….the first album was ridiculously catchy and addictive. The term “replay value” was an understatement with the first album, for me personally. With whiskey and beer in system I gave the new one two spins last night. Very good material, it will just take some extra spins is all.


  6. Commented by: Daniel Zidar

    So…is there any version of this with the ABBA cover on it? Or is that on a single only?


  7. Commented by: gabaghoul

    You mean “I’m a Marionette?” Must be, plus there’s another bonus track on Spotify called “La Mantra Mori.”


  8. Commented by: Daniel Zidar

    I see there is a “deluxe” CD version with those 2 songs. Yeah, “I’m A Marionette” is a ABBA song.


  9. Commented by: gabaghoul

    La Mantra Mori is a quiet ballad, atmosphere is nice but it’s slow and repetitive. I think “I’m a Marionette” is an interesting choice for a cover but for me it’s a far cry from their cover of “Here Comes the Sun” from the Japanese release of Opus, which is one of my favorite Beatles covers ever. Brilliant.

    Obviously they chose “Marionette” because ABBA is Swedish and it’s already a kooky off-kilter song, but I would have chosen something out there and bombastic from the 70s for the Ghost treatment, like something by Meat Loaf or Queen…


  10. Commented by: Luke_22

    Great review. I’ve never given these guys a listen. I guess I’ve been turned off by how gimmicky and over-hyped they seem to be. I should try them out i guess before making judgments.


  11. Commented by: Old Pick Axe

    The B-side of the “Secular Haze” single is “I’m A Marionette.” However, I have yet to find a deluxe version of “Infestissumam” anywhere. Not even on Amazon. Nor Best Buy. Nor Barnes And Noble. Maybe in Europe.


  12. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    this disc is trippy as fuck. I love it.


  13. Commented by: gordeth
  14. Commented by: vugelnox

    I’m with Erik, I don’t see their appeal at all. Gave this several listens and nothing.


  15. Commented by: peridot

    I don’t feel like it lacks hooks at all. I’ve found the entire album very catchy (other than “Per Aspera,” but then again I was one of those weird folks who didn’t completely “get” “Death Knell” either.) I catch myself singing “Idolatrine” all the time at work.

    I feel that this album is superior to the first one. It’s, to my ear, every bit as catchy as the first, but also has more depth. My only complaint is they turned the audible menace down a couple notches.


  16. Commented by: Daniel Zidar

    I picked up the deluxe version at Best Buy last week for $11.99. They had multiple copies.


  17. Commented by: Odovacar

    I need to let this album sink in more. Though Year Zero has definitely got its parasitic hooks in me!


  18. Commented by: gabaghoul

    if every song here were as awesome as Year Zero this would be one of my favorite albums of the year.


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