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Opus Eponymous

Rise Above (2010)
Rating: 7/10

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding these spooky Swedes. But for me, the jury is still out. The album cover and band image suggests something entirely Gothic in stature, and you wouldn’t be wrong. The organ led intro of ‘Deus Culpa’ provides the creepy atmosphere, but once we’re thrown into the hocus-pocus of the cauldron I’m finding it very difficult to escape the King Diamond / Mercyful Fate comparisons, particularly in the vocal delivery of Papa Emeritus I, although the tone is less squeal and more placid chant than Mr Diamond. The whole atmosphere is heightened by the fact the members of Ghost refuse to reveal their true identities, and so instead act onstage like some hooded cult. But despite the gimmicks, it wears thin rather quickly.

The overly Satanic lyrics, the dark, menacing style of riffing – which sees the album slip between Blue Öyster Cult-style grooves and stoner rock, with a doomy underbelly – brings to mind Candlemass, especially the doom ’n’ roll creak of ‘Ritual’, which also borrows from so many 70s progressive bands until it dips into a demonic chug (although in general the record lacks weight) before flitting back into some 70s horror film-style celebration.

Opus Eponymous is one of those albums I so desperately want to like, and maybe if I’d never heard King Diamond or Mercyful Fate then I’d find this oaken soundscape an endearing listen. But Ghost really lack something, despite their attempts to praise “Satan almighty”, as they like to call him, on several occasions.

There were far stuffier and scarier albums released in the late 70s and early 80s, and while instrumental ‘Genesis’ tries its best to alter the rather formulaic tone, I’m feeling a need to reach for Mercyful Fate’s Melissa (1983) or King Diamond’s “Them” (1988) in search of a more authentic horror show. But there really is something amusing about watching and hearing these guys. Maybe it’s the monk-like robes and cardinal outfit they sport at the live shows, or the aping of 70s rock, or the fact that seemingly centuries after Alice Cooper’s blood spattered inventions, metal like this can still exist.

I wait with baited breath for their next record in the hope they’ll add a touch more variety amidst the spooky gloom. Until then, I’ll stick to playing my old 80s vinyl backwards and thumbing through crusty copies of Dennis Wheatley novels.

Neil Arnold

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