When Ghost popped out of nowhere in 2010 with their debut release, ‘Opus Eponymous’, it’s fair to say that they confused a lot of people. Their brand of deliberately old fashioned, traditional heavy metal was a far cry from much of the metal scene as a whole. Since then, they’ve released two EPs and two other full length records, 2013’s ‘Infestissumam’ and 2015’s ‘Meliora’. Along the way, they’ve done nothing but gain more popularity and further polarize their detractors. In today’s metal scene, they’ve earned a spot with Mastodon, Lamb of God, Cradle of Filth, and a handful of others as the most popular acts of the 21st century. By the way, as mentioned above, they’ve accomplished this by being in many ways a retro band. Just how retro are they?
‘Meliora’ opens with the wonderful track “Spirit”. This track, along with others throughout the record (which we will get to momentarily), paint existential questions about the existence of God. This is quite an interesting thing to note, because many people have been fooled by the impression that Ghost are a blatantly Satanic band. This is far too simple of an explanation for them and, one could argue, not an accurate impression. The following track, “From the Pinnacle to the Pit”, is Ghost paying homage to Led Zeppelin (Anyone else reminded of “Trampled Under Foot”?). Further, the track “Cirice”, which won them a Grammy and has since become their signature track, plays with the idea of God and the Devil. Following the narrative of this track leaves the listener questioning whose point of view the song is being sung from, God’s or Satan’s. This example here is precisely what Ghost do so well. The knee-jerk reaction, considering the band’s image and general aura, would be that the song is sung from Satan’s point of view. Is this really the case? Well, who knows? Ghost have successfully crafted a clever caricature of Satanism that, at its most potent, is more spine-tingling than Satanism itself. They don’t bombard the listener with how awesome the Devil is, they ask a fundamental question: What is the difference between God and the Devil? Are they the same entity? Furthermore adding to the slyness of this band is their deceptively melodic sound. Many bands that shamelessly promote Satanism are quite extreme. Ghost use this deceptive melodicism to further enforce their philosophical nature. By matching extreme subject matter with pop hooks, they’re able to let their own contrasting nature reach many different listeners. A once more perfect example of this on the record is the placing of “He Is” and “Mummy Dust” back to back. Give it a listen for yourself.
So yes, Ghost are on a hot streak right now and they’re confusing and pissing a lot of people off along the way. Good for them. It’s quite refreshing to hear them on the music scene circa 2017, especially in the world of metal, which is becoming so fractured with endless hordes of metalcore and deathcore/djent shit. Take it from yours truly, Ghost are the saviors of metal. They are the perfect band for this particular moment in time. Since their arrival, other old school bands like Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats and Windhand, for example, have popped up. Thankfully, there is finally relief for those of us metalheads who can’t stand Whitechapel and Periphery. If you aren’t in tune with this band, you’re missing out. The future is flowing through them and we’re all the better for it. Does that answer the question of how retro they are?