The year is 2010. Halloween is about to strike in full force, and Swedish ‘metal’ band Ghost bursts onto the scene with their debut album, ‘Opus Eponymous’.
The album (titled in Latin –naturally –to mean ‘Self-titled work’ or thereabouts) is a quintessential slice of the modern metal genre. Except, it’s difficult to really call it metal, at all. Ghost has always been a mixing pot of various musical types and genres, melted down together with a vague theme of Satanic power rock and dark, metal-eqsue lyrics. Though, as has been written on many online forums before me, their debut, ‘Opus Eponymous’, is their most metal installment thus far.
A perfect blend of psychedelic 70’s rock, Black Sabbath-like concepts and riffs, and lyrics guaranteed to make a nun blush, ‘Opus Eponymous’ is a selection of nine tracks laden with dark, lavish goodness. Well, more like eight, to be precise. Following the normal trend of many modern-day metal albums, the record begins with the simple ‘Deus Culpa’, a minute-and-a-half organic intro that bleeds into the first real track: ‘Con Clavi Con Dio’. At this point, the eagle-eyed among you will have clocked that Ghost like their Latin, a trait shared by many rock/metal bands into their dark, ghostly themes.The gimmick with Ghost, it must be said, has always been their Satanic ‘anti-Pope’ of a lead singer. Papa Emeritus, as he is so eloquently known, is the grandfather of Swedish, anti-Christian rock here. Dressed on stage with full religious vestments, a mitre adorned with upside-down cross (now their iconic logo –The ‘grucifix’) and a mist-lacing thurible, Papa –as the fans lovingly call him –is a truly terrifying sight. He also wears a mask painted with all the features of a human skull, and is backed by the mysterious ‘Nameless Ghouls’, a group of musicians that merely play the roles Papa gives to them. They wear masks and robes. They are surrounded in anonymity, clad in darkness. Papa Emeritus, of course, is actually Swedish songwriter Tobias Forge, and Ghost is his masterstroke, having now conquered much of the Western rock/metal market and even bagging a Grammy along the way. The other continuous theme with the band is that after each album is released, Papa ‘dies’ and is replaced by a younger, much more attractive, ‘brother’, thus fulfilling the Emeritus bloodline (this trend only bucked by their most recent record on the plague, ‘Prequelle’, where the lascivious ‘Cardinal Copia’ is anointed as frontman instead).
But, I digress. Back to the music. The reason all this is important, however, is because Ghost is a band with a very rich history. Though at this point in time, not quite yet. ‘Con Clavi Con Dio’ is a chilling opener, setting the perfect atmosphere with a bassline so strong it could cut through metal. As Papa chants the chorus through instrumentals straight out of the 70’s, it settles you in for what’s to come.
‘Ritual’ is next, and arguably one of the best Ghost songs of all time. It’s guitar intro is iconic with the band now, and tells the tale of a ‘..Night of Ritual, smells of dead human sacrifices from the altar bed.’. It’s even complete with a carefully-constructed reversal of the Lord’s Prayer to be extra blasphemous. There’s not much more to say to this one other than that it’s nearly five minutes of sheer brilliance. Even those who like gentler rock will find themselves pledging their lives to this one in a Satanic pact of sorts.
‘Elizabeth’ is a song focused on the notorious story of Elizabeth Bathory, a Hungarian noblewoman suspected of bathing in the blood of virgin peasants, in order to keep her pristine youth. You might think Ghost handle this in a regal way –And they do, after all Tobias Forge is a large fan of regal rock band Queen, as he admits –but they certainly bring the house down with catchy riffs and lyrics, too.‘Stand By Him’ is a slightly poppier one, but don’t let that fool you –It still rocks with a vicious bite. ‘’Tis the night of the witch…’ Papa Emeritus sings, before drums and guitar bring majestic music to your ears. In all the sinful ways, of course. ‘Satan Prayer’ and ‘Death Knell’ are tracks all about, well, Satan. ‘Six, six, six… receive the Beast!’ about sums these two up. They sound amazing, and the songwriting of the former is some of the best committed to record in a long time.‘Prime Mover’ is, for me, the only track that lets the album down slightly.
Whilst some of the album can take a little while to grow on you, I’ve tried time and time again and found this particular song suffers from not entirely going anywhere for its nearly four minutes. It’s mined in the same vein as the rest of ‘Opus Eponymous’, though – so don’t let my words put you off. It’s still Ghost, and therefore practically impossible to hate.‘
Genesis’ is the final of the nine-track suite. An instrumental odyssey of guitar that supposedly chronicles the coming and birth of the Antichrist (previously conceived in the album’s highlight, ‘Ritual’), it’s shockingly good for something without any Papa – a character you come to love despite his ghoulish appearance –and a beautiful end to the album. It’s a comedown after some absolutely incredible tracks and brings you softly back down to earth. Overall, ‘Opus Eponymous’ is such a refreshing take on the modern metal sound, implementing countless techniques forged over the years in multiple cross-genres to create something wholly unique. It’s easy to see why the album shot Ghost on their way to stardom, and it stands as a testament to how hard rock and metal can never truly die.
‘Hear our Satan Prayer, our Anti-Nicene creed…’