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Ghost (or Ghost B.C. as they are known here in the States) is one of the only modern metal bands that I can say I'm absolutely nuts for. In a style that has become rampant with stale ideas, horrid production values, and lazy, uninteresting songwriting, Ghost's throwback nature, pleasant-yet-heavy sound, and preference for secrecy when it comes to just who the men behind the black masks are drew me to their debut record Opus Eponymous and forever sucked me into their world. Satanic Blue Öyster Cult mixed with traditional heavy metal as performed by five guys in hooded robes and an evil Pope? What about that wouldn't have made me interested in them? The formula worked, and I fell in undying love with every single song on that record. Now two-and-a-half years later and one new Papa Emeritus later (although it's still the same guy as before), Ghost have unveiled, as they would prefer to call it, their newest "ritual" in the form of Infestissumam, and not is it as good as Opus Eponymous was, it might even be a little better.
On this record, the band have put their new found fame and advanced payment from Universal to excellent use, expanding beyond Opus's 70s-styled nature for something much bigger and more epic than before. Throughout the record are bombastic elements such as Gregorian chanting, full fledged choirs, and even the occasional symphonic flair such as the beginning of "Body and Blood". Musically the band has begun to experiment with different styles beyond their original throwback roots, incorporating elements from circus music on "Secular Haze", really evil disco with "Idolatrine" (love the pun, by the way), and even a kind of Danny Elfman vibe throughout the closer "Monstrance Clock". Each song contained within this record's covers has its own identity, from the heavy metal riffage of "Per Aspera Ad Inferi" to "Jigolo Har Meggido"'s feeling of if "Call Me" by Blondie was about Satan to "Year Zero"'s absolutely epic chanting chorus to, as a friend of mine put it, the "Christian rock Alice Cooper" vibe on "Body and Blood". They haven't forgotten where they came from though, as is shown with "Depth of Satan's Eyes", easily the most Opus sounding song on the record. The pinnacle of this experimentation however comes in the form of "Ghuleh/Zombie Queen". Beginning as what can only be described as the most evil song The Beatles never wrote, the song morphs into a depraved Halloween jamboree. Papa Emeritus even incorporates an extreme metal shriek at one point, adding to the unhinged nature of the song. Even though it drags a little bit near the end due to its 7-and-a-half minute run time, I'm more than willing to overlook that as the rest of the song before that brief minute is pure excellence. All in all it's a remarkably great collection of songs that will refuse to leave your head no matter what you do.
While the guitars may have taken a bit of a backseat throughout most of the record to the keyboards and other assorted non-stringed elements, they still shine through with easily identifiable riff work and, though even rarer, fitting solos. The two Nameless Ghouls responsible for these instruments play with precision and, as mentioned, their playing style is incredibly identifiable even to someone not as familiar with Ghost as a seasoned veteran of the first record is. The bass is played just as well here as it was on the first record, and even though the instrument isn't as noticeably audible on this record as it was the last due to the bigger, more bombastic production, you can at least still make out what the Nameless Ghoul is doing. The drums on this record are simply excellent, perfectly fitting the music despite not having too many "flair" spots and expressing the necessary energy required for any given song. "Ghuleh/Zombie Queen" is where the instrument shines most however, contributing much to the song's crazed nature through punk-styled playing. Papa Emeritus II once again proves that he's a damn good singer, as was already known to those that listen to the alleged Papa Tobias Forge's previous band Subvision. He has a lot of character in his voice, able to switch from a quiet, softer voice to a loud, energetic one with no problems whatsoever. As mentioned, the production on Infestissumam is much bigger and more epic than the previous album's style, which is kind of necessary for the much bigger, more epic music this record holds. Although the loudness is slightly overwhelming at a couple points, such as "Ghuleh/Zombie Queen"'s chorus, it's not complete shit as many other modern metal and rock albums sound, and the loudness can actually help what the band are going for at times, particularly in the chorus of "Year Zero" which is designed to be as huge as it possibly can be. Even though my own personal tastes regarding album production prefer the warmer, more organic sound of the debut, the production style of this record actually fits what the music is doing and isn't just loud for the sake of being loud.
Bigger in both size and scope than Opus Eponymous, clocking in at nearly 15 minutes longer than the previous album on the standard edition and nearly 30 minutes longer on the deluxe edition, Ghost with Infestissumam have proved that not only are they not just some flash in the pan throwback nostalgia act, but that they are capable of building upon that throwback style and have created something truly magnificent. Love it or hate it nature of the band aside, Infestissumam is an unequivocally spectacular outing from the Swedish mystery men, and will leave the listener wanting more and more with each and every successive listen. I can only wait with utter excitement as to what the future holds for this band, who are rapidly becoming more and more popular by the minute beyond pretty much everyone's expectations. Considering that they have cemented themselves as the great songwriters that they are with Infestissumam, I'm certain that that future is as bright as it can possibly be.