Sunday, 31 March 2013

March Metal Hammer Calendar Challenge - Ghost

March's Metal Hammer calendar page features Ghost. I've been excited about this month ever since I started this challenge, because when I first discovered this band, I fell in love almost instantly, not only for their music but for their theatricals, their overbearing religious theme and simply their blunt name - Ghost. Anyone going by the name of Ghost must be revolutionary, right?

What. A. Band. Ghost are so unique in the way they approach their music. They've got this kind of 70s spark that's been lost in the music industry lately, and that's what I love about them. You'd almost expect them to have been brought up alongside the likes of Black Sabbath, but the great thing about them being a relatively new band is that they'll hopefully be around for a lot longer!

Ghost's identities are unknown. Their vocalist is known only as Papa Emeritus II, and the other members known only as Nameless Ghouls. According to Wikipedia, they've firmly refused to comment on rumours of their identities, and I love this defiance and secrecy about a character band, often when you find out who the real person is behind the face paint, it loses its spark. Comparable to early Slipknot before we knew the guys beneath the masks? Even their tracks are attributed to 'A Ghoul Writer' - these guys are giving nothing away.
I'm absolutely gutted I missed them at Download last year, but I'm hoping to rectify that as soon as they're touring somewhere nearby, hopefully with their new album.
As their new album is to be released next month, I only have their debut Opus Eponymous to review in March, but it's a hell of an album! Speaking of hell, if you're religious in any way, I would advise you to keep your distance from Ghost. They make no odds about references to satanic rituals, and let's face it, if you're religious and still reading about a band that dress up as cardinals with skulls for faces, then stop now. Seriously, stop, I'm about to review the tracks...

Deus Culpa - As instrumentals go, this is the best way to open this kind of album. Setting up the religious theme with the organ, I'm convinced I heard the same tune played when the Pope was inaugurated this month.

Con Clavi Con Dio - Catchy. As. Hell. You can guarantee you can't walk while listening to this song without walking in time with the bass. Also, I can guarantee you'll be somewhat well-versed in Latin by the end of this album. I can't guarantee you'll understand what any of this means, but it'll teach you an awful lot more than the ending to Evanescence's 'Whisper' did. Anyone remember what 'servatis a periculum, servatis a maleficum' means? Probably not, but if you've heard the song, the saying will stick in your head forever.

Ritual - Ritual is a lot lighter and more playful than the rest of Ghost's repertoire. To me, Papa Emeritus' vocals echo the 80s tones of A-Ha and Roxy Music, but he'd probably be insulted by the comparison. The guitar work in this song really reminds me of something, but I can't for the life of me think what it is. If anyone's reminded of something by Ritual, please leave a comment, because it's killing me not knowing! This is the one song I can't wait to see them play live, I'd love to be part of the atmosphere around them.

Elizabeth - An energetic track like Ritual, Elizabeth was their first single and definitely not what I expected from Ghost, it's all very optimistic in an obscure sense. The guitar in Elizabeth reminds me of early Metallica, and the use of the trademark synthesizer-esque keyboard in the background brings the 80s theme even closer. It's so hard to describe Ghost in words, I guess you really need to hear them for yourself.

Stand By Him - This is the track that I'd recommend to anyone wanting to start out listening to Ghost. It's everything you can expect from Ghost - powerful guitar, catchy lyrics, haunting vocals.

Satan Prayer - Satan Prayer is just the kind of song I expected when I first heard about Ghost, not just in its title and lyrics, but its sometimes remorseful tone and its likeness to Blue Oyster Cult.

Death Knell - Papa Emeritus' vocals are much higher in this while the bass is down low, and the contrast makes for one creepy track. It really makes light of the implied satanic ritual, even the tolling bells add to the atmosphere, I'd love to see them perform this live, because I can't see how Papa can keep a straight face sometimes.

Prime Mover - The guitar used throughout this song strangely reminds me of a slower interpretation of My Chemical Romance's Drowning Lessons, with the heaviness of Black Sabbath. Bet you never thought you'd hear a comparison like that, eh?

Genesis - The keyboard returns for possibly the greatest soundtrack-worthy instrumental. This wouldn't sound out of place in an action scene from Flash Gordon, in fact, the middle of this song sounds identical to Queen's track Flash To The Rescue, which instantly shoots it to the top of my Ghost favourites. And just as it closes, an acoustic brings a rural Mexican vibe. I'm emotionally exhausted by this track, but if a song can make me feel a million and one exhilarating emotions in the space of four minutes, it's a damn good song.

Bonus Track - Here Comes The Sun - If you've never heard a heavy metal cover of The Beatles, then this where you need to start. I used to love the Beatles original, and I love the way the organ fits into this cover as if it was always meant to be there. It's actually a lot lighter than I expected, I was anticipating an earth-shatteringly heavy cover, but they've stuck to the original very well while putting their own Ghost spin on it effortlessly.

So from satanic rituals through 80s echoes and arriving at rural Mexico, this album really rips you from reality and drops you somewhere you've never been before. When I first heard all the tracks, I felt light-headed for hours! I'm rarely so moved by music but Ghost have this kind of expertise that makes it impossible to avoid being plunged into their realm.

Would I go to see Ghost live?
OF COURSE. I'm dying for them to return to the UK on their next tour, because I'll move heaven and earth to catch them this time.

Favourite track?
Genesis, closely followed by Ritual, then Here Comes The Sun. I love me a good Beatles cover.

Would I listen to more Ghost?
Oh trust me, I intend to. As soon as their album Infestissumam is released in 9 days, I'll definitely be playing it. I have high hopes, Ghost, so let's hope you don't disappoint!

So if I haven't persuaded you to give Ghost a listen, I never will. But perhaps you'd be more interested in what April has to offer with Upon A Burning Body. Like Miss May I, this is another band that I've been convinced I'd love, but I've never had the chance to give them a proper listen through. All I know is I'm going to be gutted when these months pass, because I want to use both the Ghost and Upon A Burning Body posters and they're on the same piece of paper... Hmm, teenage music magazine problems.

What's your take on Ghost? Any album recommendations for Upon A Burning Body?

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