By Gruesome Greg
Took me a little while to get my hands on this critically acclaimed Rise Above release. Not for lack of availability, mind you. While most writers have been singing the praises of this one, Opus Eponymous has driven a wedge down to the depths of the doom-metal community. On the one hand, some artists I have a ton of respect for, guys like Karl Simon of The Gates of Slumber, Andy from Black Pyramid and a couple of the dudes in Argus are really into this record. On the other hand, there are quite a few detractors, and they’re not limited to those who badmouth every band that’s ever left Shadow Kingdom and think Cathedral went south after Forest of Equilibrium.
Let me be frank. Although it’s got the Lee Dorrian seal of approval, this is not a doom metal album, by any stretch. And while I’m at it, I’d like to address some of the other criticism this Opus has received from disgruntled doomsters.
-Sounds like a second-rate Mercyful Fate:
The main riff in “Elizabeth” coulda been stolen from Hank Sherman, and while the song title might bring King Diamond to mind, and the high-pitched swooning about Satan kinda makes you think of the King, there is nothing resembling that classic falsetto to be heard here. “Satan Prayer” and “Death Knell” are equally evil to early ‘Fate, but with a lot more organ.
-They’ve really bought into the Blue Oyster Cult:
“Ritual” definitely has that BOC crunch, and the vocal harmonies on the chorus also bring the ‘Cult to mind. Ditto the refrain to “Stand By Him,” very Eric Bloom, and the outro solo has shades of Buck Dharma and co, fo’ sho’. That said, I can think of worse bands to imitate. Hell, I come from the land of Nickelback, need I say more?
-Their Satanic schlock is Cheesius Maximus:
Okay, that nasal Swedish whine does make the lyrical matter seem less serious, I’ll give you that. But while the ancient lettering is a little hard to read, at first glance their lyrics do seem more articulate than, say, Glen Benton’s.
-Doom? Pfft, this ain’t even metal. It’s a fucking POP album!:
Sometimes the riffs are perhaps a little too clean and too friendly, and I’m reminded of bands like Europe, or even Bryan Adams. But to call Ghost a pop band is absurd. The only time they might be mentioned alongside crap like Ke$ha, Bruno Mars or Maroon 5 is at the Swedish Grammys. (Seems to me Watain won one of those last year, and one/some of its members are rumoured to be behind the hoods, so there you go.) If you consider Opus Eponymous to be a pop album, you probably think Yes and Genesis are pop bands, too. Erm, wait a minnit. Well, I can’t say I see Ghost going down that route, anyways. After all, it won’t be the 80’s for another 69 years…
Alas, while I don’t side with the Ghostbashers, I’m not about to kneel at the altar of the Corpsepainted Pope, either. This record does stand out within the tepid “occult rock” genre for being something more than rehashed Black Sabbath worship, but it would not have been one of my top albums of the year even if I had heard it in 2010. Ghost, I hereby banish you to the middle of the pack, not to be heard from again until I feel the need for some Hammond organ and warm, soaring vocal harmonies singing songs in the vein of Venom.
(Rise Above / Metal Blade)