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Ghost has polarized listeners since their inception, with naysayers calling them gimmicky, soft and unoriginal. While they definitely take cues from some '70's proto-metal (à la Blue Oyster Cult,) they definitely aren't an outright copy of the sound that they are most often compared to. Infestissumam goes even further to distance themselves from that stigma. Their debut, Opus Eponymous, was a very catchy record that spent quite some time in my rotation, and they've expanded on the sound that will get stuck in your head for days.
One common complaint about their first album is it's lack of "heaviness." If that's something that turns you away, you definitely won't find respite on their sophomore effort. The guitar riffing often takes the back seat to synth-laden melodies, and oftentimes the bass line even sounds more prominent than the leads. That's not to say that there aren't some catchy riffs or neat little solos, but it's definitely scaled back even more this time around. Examples include the first single to be released, Secular Haze, which is essentially a dark, evil waltz. The synthesizer gives it a very eery, grotesque circus-vibe while still carrying that proto-metal charm.
A big surprise is the inclusion of the epic seven and a half minute Ghuleh/Zombie Queen. For the first three minutes, the track is driven by a calm and almost plaintive sounding piano/synth line. Completely new for Ghost, the beginning almost makes the track the band's first "ballad." But after that mark, the track quickly goes back into the psychedelic/proto-heavy weirdness that is the band's namesake.
The result of this experiment is quite honestly one of the most addicting listening experiences I've ever had. It's a fairly straight forward record, all things considered, but it keeps me coming back for more. There aren't any bands that have done this quite so well. I do note the similarities with other bands, but Ghost has the most flawless execution out of any of them. It's exciting music, catchy, and surprisingly fresh considering the decades-old influences.
Aside from the songwriting, the production quality could have used some extra work. It's hard for me to pinpoint the exact problems with the mastering, but sometimes it just sounds far too muddled. Almost like someone went a bit too far on the reverb. It doesn't take much away from the listening experience, but it's there, and every now and then you might wonder if you have a poor rip even though it's a 320. I haven't listened to it lossless, but I have to assume that the mastering problems will still rear their ugly head. Still, a small blemish on the record.
It's these few surprises, and additions to the sound, that set Infestissumam apart from it's predesessor. But even for diehard fans of the debut, there is a lot to like. Tracks like Body and Blood and Jigolo Har Megiddo would feel right at home on Opus Eponymous, even with the extra synth thrown in. The whole package comes together as a very decisive expansion of the sound, and should solidify Ghost as a band that will be remembered for at least these two instant classics.
Standout tracks: Secular Haze, Jigolo Har Megiddo, Ghuleh/Zombie Queen, Body and Blood, Monstrance Clock
Originally written for http://tipofthehat.forumsmusic.com