Ghost (known as Ghost B.C. in the United States for copyright reasons) is a heavy metal band from Sweden comprised entirely of anonymous members. The band’s lead singer, known only as Papa Emeritus II, is accompanied by five “Nameless Ghouls,” who play the instruments. On stage, Papa Emeritus II wears a papal garment and skull mask, and the Nameless Ghouls wear black, hooded robes. Ghost’s debut album, Opus Eponymous, received very positive reviews and was nominated for the Swedish version of a Grammy award in the “Best Hard Rock” category. It also earned them a nomination at the 2013 Revolver Golden God Awards for “Best New Talent.”
Infestissumam, Latin for “hostile” is the band’s major label debut and features stronger production values than their debut. The band has expressed hope that their newest album will catapult them into the spotlight and help them reach a wider fan base.
The album’s introductory track, Infestissumam, starts off with a repeated Gregorian chant, performed in Latin, which in essence, signifies the coming of the Antichrist. The Nameless Ghouls that comprise the musical elements of Ghost play in the track’s background, over the continuing chant. The track is the first sign of a continued trend of deceptively beautiful music. Though Ghost’s music may be considered easier on the ears than a lot of metal music out there, its lyrical message is dark and satanic just the same.
The album continues as the intro leads into Per Aspera Ad Inferi, the album’s second track. According to the band, the Latin phrase’s translation is “through hardship to Hell,” and it deals with the human ambition to become something else, especially through the practice of a religion. There is a big drum presence on the track, even more so than the guitar work in some parts. There is also a set of whispered backing vocals that sound almost like Parseltongue from the Harry Potter movies. Papa Emeritus II sings melodically on the song’s bridge, “Oh Satan/ Devour us all/ Hear our desperate call.” Here, Ghost calls their audience to come worship Satan with them. The song is enchanting despite its satanic overtones, and that’s part of what makes Ghost so appealing: their ability to combine dark themes with catchy music.
Secular Haze, the next track, has a carnival or circus music-like intro, which continues throughout the song along with a set of screeching guitars and hypnotic drum line. The song is about the “fog” of Satan that surrounds all of us, which Papa Emeritus II refers to as the “secular haze.” “Weave us a mist/ Fog weaver/ Hide us in shadows/ Unfathomable/ Wall less maze/ A secular haze,” he sings on the chorus. He then ends the track with a whispered, “Come mist eternal/ Come secular haze.” The song is one of the album’s highest points, and is a perfect combination of everything Ghost wants to be. Jigolo Har Megiddo is directly about the Antichrist, and may actually be sung from his point of view. He is depicted as incarnate lasciviousness. It is yet another hypnotic offering that deliciously combines upbeat rock with lyrics of pure darkness. The track contains female backing vocals throughout the second half, which are whispered hauntingly behind the vocals of Papa Emeritus II and also between lines of the final choruses.
Ghuleh / Zombie Queen, one of two songs on the album longer than seven minutes, starts off with a quick, somewhat distorted piano instrumental before leading into a soft whisper “Ghuleh,” which is repeated many times. Ghuleh, also called “Zombie Queen,” is the name of the succubus about whom the song is written. It is uncertain whether how Ghuleh is related to the coming of the Antichrist, but it’s possible that she could be an accomplice in the end times, or even his wife. The song is full of upbeat non-string instruments; even the cymbal crashes sound happy. Toward the end of the song, there is another Gregorian chant, like the one in the title track, but much shorter, and it is heard mostly in the song’s background. “Ghuleh / Zombie Queen” is another track with dark lyrics sung in an uplifting way. In the second half of the song, Papa Emeritus II sings, “Up from the stinking dirt/ She rises ghastly pale/ Shape shifting soon but now she’s/ Rigid, stiff and stale.” This kind of delivery is found in many places on the album.
The album’s sixth track, Year Zero, is perhaps the most over-the-top song on the album, full of dark imagery gospel choirs, chanting, intense guitar riffs, and heavy drumming. It begins with a chant, “Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub/ Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer,” all of which are names of demons (many are names for Satan himself). This chant is repeated throughout the song. The majority of the song’s lyrics are softly sung. They can be heard, but the instruments often overpower them. This adds to the powerfulness of the song in general. The last minute of the song acts as an interlude to the seventh track. It features soft, unintelligible whispers, and quiet dog barks and police sirens.
Body and Blood is a song about the Catholic tradition of Communion, but it is portrayed as a cannibalistic act, rather than a holy one. “Receive, Consume/ Receive, consume/ Digest/ Defecate,” Papa Emeritus II whispers on the bridge. The song’s chorus is done in a singsong way that almost sounds like something you’d hear from a youth church choir: “His body and blood/ Sharing in common/ His body and blood/ His body and blood/ Serving messiah/ Son of God.” If a parent wasn’t listening closely to the lyrics, there’s a good chance they would assume it was a Christian pop rock song. That’s another example of the brilliance that is Ghost. They do a fantastic job of portraying their message in a way that seems innocent enough and will get stuck in your head.
The album’s eighth track, Idolatrine, seems to be about the coming of Satan’s army, which is apparently hidden in the bowels of Earth (which “hides the pits of Hell”). It is done again in a singsong way, but this time it seems like too much. It’s not that the message is too dark, but it just seems overdone in this song. “Idolatrine” is one of the album’s weakest tracks, but it still manages not to fall into the depths of mediocrity. The next track, Depth of Satan’s Eyes, is written as somewhat of a love song to Satan himself. There is still no shortage of disgusting imagery, (“The swamp of feces/ That is the world/ Flatulates a whirlwind storm/ In which you swirl”) but it is sung in an almost-infatuated way. It’s certainly one of the oddest tracks on the album, but there’s so much there both lyrically and musically, that it’s worth multiple listens.
The final track on the album’s standard edition is the second of the seven-plus minute epics, Monstrance Clock. Papa Emeritus II’s vocals are rough and almost growled at the beginning, but they soon return to the melodic tune to which fans have become accustomed. The song is about a huge clock, which rings in the reign of the Antichrist. Each song on the album is accompanied by an intricate drawing in the album booklet. The drawing that accompanies “Monstrance Clock” is of a giant clock in the shape of a crucified Christ, with his “halo” acting as the clock’s face. The clock is shown radiating great light as townspeople watch from nearby buildings.
The deluxe edition’s first bonus track, La Mantra Mori, is truly a mantra. The lyrics are almost entirely comprised of the phrase, “We focus on your death,” with a couple other lines occasionally thrown in. Despite not being lyrically diverse, the song isn’t bad. It’s actually chilling in a haunted sort of way. It didn’t belong on the standard edition, but it makes for an interesting bonus track.
The second bonus track is a I’m a Marionette, and ABBA cover. ABBA, also a Swedish band, may seem like an odd choice for a band to cover, but Ghost does a fine job making it their own. It has a lighter feel in the beginning, but it slowly gets darker as the song progresses. Ghost uses the song to mean that they are simply puppets of Satan, a message ABBA surely did not intend when they penned the song over 35 years ago. The song was likely considered as a track for the standard edition, as it fits well with the rest of the album, but in the end, Ghost made the right decision in making the regular album completely original.
Ghost’s sophomore effort will likely achieve its goal of reaching a larger audience. It’s catchy verses and hypnotic chorus will leave listeners entranced long after the album is finished. The band does a fantastic job incorporating all sorts of elements into their music on top of the vocals, guitars and drums. From Gregorian chanting to gospel choirs to synthesizer keyboards, they strive to achieve their desired sounds by any means necessary, and they succeed in doing so. Infestissumam is one of 2013’s strongest rock albums to date, and it will take a fair amount to knock it from the top shelf.