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And here we have it fellow metal brothers and sisters, the latest in hipstercore, Ghost’s long awaited sophomore long-play: Infestissumam. I actually enjoyed their debut, though found it nowhere near as fantastic and groundbreaking as some of my friends and a great deal of the international metal community claimed it to be. The inherent catchiness and freshness of Opus Eponymous can’t be denied, though it’s definitely not the 8th Wonder of the World and I totally understand that not everybody loved it. So a part of me wanted the sophomore to succeed and surpass its precursor. That would have been the perfect way for me to stop scratching my scalp and finally understand and accept Ghost’s status as one of the most beloved and championed metal bands of late. Unfortunately, things turned out to be the way my logic had anticipated.
In their short but successful career, Ghost’s musical quality has diminished as fast as a punctured air-filled balloon. Their mysterious image is no longer a novelty, at least for the serious music fan, so the focus of interest rests solely on their brand of retro-doom metal mixed with 70’s pop aesthetics, which sadly has lost its charm. Musically, they’re out of tricks now, as mediocrity rears its ugly head, though they still rely on image to fetch attention. The cover is either a homage or a metal adaptation of Peter Sís’ poster design for the 1984 Miloš Forman’s Amadeus movie, though this record comes nowhere as near as iconic or compelling as that film… or the poster itself. I actually prefer the “controversial” booklet illustrations made by Zbignew Bielak II. They’re pretty amazing and it’s shame they got censored. Unfortunately, as everybody knows, good cover art and design doesn’t automatically mean that the music will possess the same excellence. This case staunchly confirms that assertion.
Another incorrect assumption is that the more material, the merrier the listener. Well, just look at the more recent work from Metallica, Maiden or Exodus, and you tell me dear metal brother or sister. Infestissumam’s only 50 minutes long, but it’s like an endurance test, and I just couldn’t make it. Those yawns kept coming, and by the time the album ended, my jaws ached. It seems all the good riffs were hoarded by the greedy debut, leaving virtually none for its newest sibling, which can only cry in frustration as loud as possible for the denial of quality. I honestly didn’t found a single song here that grabbed my attention throughout its entirety. Add to that the elongated durations of tracks whose musical ideas are as complex and varied as a two-minute tune by The Ramones, and you’ve got yourself a helluva looser. Damn, even the short title-track intro seems overlong.
Ghost’s sophomore proves that these guys just want to tap on their established formula, and have no real musical ambition. There’s no growth, no evolution and no sophistication. Most songs remain in slow to mid-tempo, but unlike good doom metal, there’s nothing remotely heavy or interesting to be found in them. The riffs are plain boring, they’re not even good Tony Iommi rip-offs. In comparison, Orchid’s latest sounds like a masterpiece, and so does Ghost’s own debut. The guitar tone is one of the blandest I’ve heard in a “metal” record. There’s no weight, no flavor. The keyboards are varied, but they never go beyond providing unimpressive poppish melodies or the 50’s horror movie sounding organs. That said, they’re usually more interesting than the guitars. Bass and drums just linger there, audible but ball-less. And finally, we have Pope Emeritus retro-vocals. They’re ok, and they still work fine in some choruses, but by the fifth track they start to become tiresome. The guy uses the same register and intonation the whole time, which makes me think people that compare Ghost to Mercyful Fate or King Diamond must have been dropped when they were babies.
Amidst all the wasted space, there’re some catchy moments, like the chorus of “Body and Blood”, bits of “Zombie Queen” and the least bad of the bunch, in my humble opinon, “Idolatrine”, which has the best vocal parts of the whole album. And to be fair, the church-like choral parts are also enticing to a degree. Fleeting moments of what could have been, not what it is. Why this album has made it to many “mid of the year - Best Of” lists (and probably will also appear in many “Best of the year” lists) is beyond me. The only explanation is that this band is backed by hordes of “metal” fans… or should I say, hipsters, which just want to see their trendy new favorite band at festivals and backing up the big names of the scene. I do enjoy a great deal of retro bands, from different styles, ranging from Havok to Jess and the Ancient Ones, from Enforcer to Zombiefication. There are other examples out there in which the music is compelling despite lacking originality or being merely revivalist. Ghost certainly aren’t the worse insult to real metal ever, but Infestissumam is for sure one of the most hyped albums of our time, bringing nearly nothing to the table, its reputation contrasting with its actual quality like day and night.