Rise Above (2010)
As if esteemed U.K. correspondent Greg Moffitt’s dead-on-balls 9/10 review in the December issue wasn’t enough to persuade you (every word of it was true), the omnipotent puppetmasters over at dB HQ have asked us to hammer the point home with the 90 lb. sledge we keep by our desk in order to fend off rodents, bill collectors and the local drunks who occasionally hurl themselves against our security fence in futile attempts to plunder the fruits of our trusty applejack still. One of these days, when said puppetmasters finally start paying us the lush four-figure salary we so obviously deserve, we’ll have that thing electrified. And then, friends, all bets are off.
But for now, the Royal We should probably start wrapping this thing up by saying that if we’d heard Opus Eponymous before we’d submitted our personal top 20 to the puppet-masters for tallying purposes in Decibel’s Top 40 of 2010 list, it’s quite possible that it would’ve occupied the #1 spot—on our list, that is. Or at least #2 with a speeding hollow-point. And that’s because, fucking A, they do not make them like this anymore. Witchfinder General, Mercyful Fate and—yeah—Witchfynde used to, back in the early ’80s, when metal had a hell of a lot more in common with its dear old dad, that grizzled and occasionally bloated motherfucker known as rock ‘n’ roll. But until now, no one had bothered to fashion this righteous triad of heaviness into, well… anything. Much less something that lends itself so easily to the psychotic repeat treatment.
As best we can tell from the scant information available, Ghost are six masked, painted and purposely unnamed Swedes with a penchant for doomy Uriah Heep-style organ work, vintage horror panache and the more dramatic tenets of Satanic tradition. Their ringleader is a skull-faced pontiff who sounds like a remarkably relaxed King Diamond singing sweet black paeans—there ain’t nothing but love songs here—to Lucifer while coming down from a particularly vivid lysergic power-jag through what we can only assume is/was a kaleidoscope of alternate realities. All of which took place between 1971 and 1983. You can practically hear the doors of perception being slammed shut, we tell ya. Meanwhile, the band delivers hot Satanic riff rock in the style of the aforementioned masters—and uh, The Masters. Sabbathian overtones? Shit, that might as well be Geezer himself manning the four-string thunderfucker on “Con Clavi Clon Dio” and “Satan Prayer.” And catchy? Goddamn, kilogram. We dare you to get through “Stand by Him” or “Ritual” or “Death Knell” without at least feeling the barely controllable urge to sing along come chorus-time. These cats even had the brass balls to work some flamenco guitar action into closer “Genesis.” (It works.) But best of all, Ghost deliver a truly satisfying and flat-out face-ruling full-length where fellow pseudo-satanic/retro-rock troupe the Devil’s Blood—after a stunning debut EP—could not.
Of course, the Big Question is: Who are these masked men? All rumors—which is to say, our own wild speculation based on nothing more than a vague knowledge of certain folks’ sonic preferences and an assumption that the band’s purported location is accurate—point to a supergroup comprised of members of In Solitude, Nifelheim, Portrait and Watain. Maybe even an ex-member of Entombed or two. But who knows? More importantly, who cares? Music this awesome requires no pedigree beyond a killer record collection. Or at least access to one. Either way, Ghost are the best new band of 2010. —J. Bennett