Spinefarm Records UK
review by Alistair P
It amuses the fuck out of me that an openly Satanic Occult Metal band, with a clearly stated aim of ‘toppling spires’ of the establishment and destroying the Christian god is winning awards all over the place, including a Grammy, and going mainstream.
Despite kvlt stylings being near compulsory in Viking lands, Black Metal has always been anti-establishment, although – I have heard – that there are special rescue dogs tasked with locating corpse-painted musicians lost in snowy forests whilst shooting footage for their videos, and guiding them home to their mums for a warm bath and some hot cocoa.
Whilst a few of the dudes have done some very naughty things like killing their bandmates and burning a few churches, all that getting lost in the woods seems to have meant that none of them have got particularly far in terms of actually raising the devil and destroying the establishment and mainstream religions in a Satanic stylee.
Ghost, however, have a plan.
On the evidence of their recent output, and most lately this Popestar EP, Ghost’s plan is to produce some perineum-tighteningly beautiful music, and to reinvent the cliché of the Satanic Metal band to offer an accessible fifth-wave alternative to all the goat bothering bollocks that defined the diabolic in Metal until now.
For purposes of context, let’s have a brief interlude about Satanism: First Wave Satanism was the fairly obscure medieval stuff that was probably just the wank fantasies of ergot-addled monks, Second Wave was the dabblings of the pre-revolution French aristocracy that was also probably mostly about adding something a bit exotic to shagging when they’d got bored of deliberately infecting each other with syphilis, and the Hellfire Clubs of the 18th century, which were definitely about the shagging and drinking – and by the way no, I know what you’re thinking will be next and Crowley wasn’t a Satanist, no matter what Alamo-bothering ant-snorter Ozzy has to say – Third Wave was American groups that started with Our Lady of Endor and grew into Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, which were essentially atheistic ego-centric Objectivist political statements of the Ayn Rand ilk, this was, however, when musicians started to get properly involved and you had people like King Diamond, Marc Almond and Marilyn Manson become actual Satanists, whereas before this the accusations of Rock’n’Roll being the devil’s music were a load of arse.
This wave of Satanism did however have some interesting and fairly radical things to say about personal responsibility and leaving other people the hell alone and Marilyn Manson, at least, was pretty articulate about how the things that his beliefs were in opposition to were things that were fucking up the heads of the generation that many of his fans came from.
Then you had a fourth wave of offshoots of the Church of Satan, such as the Temple of Set, as well as the Order of Nine Angles in the UK. Now, these ones were a load of shiteybabble and seemed to take it all a bit far in a craptastic way, believing in real evil deities and human sacrifice, and inspired some bands that took it all a bit literally and seemed to doing despicable things in the hope that being a pissgargling arsedick and chucking sheep’s blood about and carving things into their heads would cause the Devil to appear. This was probably the phase that some of those lost-in-the-woods Black Metal bands took a bit too seriously.
Anyway – the Fifth Wave, which Ghost would appear to be a part of, is mostly taking the piss and using satanic imagery to make political points. The Satanic Temple, an American group, is doing some lovely, lovely work campaigning against right-wing Christian groups trying to insert themselves into the nation’s children and their education, and fighting against attempts to control women’s reproductive rights and sexual health by taking government money for ‘abstinence only’ programmes. They’re not against religious people per se, as they’re also offered to help protect groups such as Muslims who are facing backlash and persecution in America on a personal level. Additionally, The Satanic Temple is offering ‘After School Satan’ clubs to counter the Christian Right’s indoctrination attempts in the education system.
Ghost’s music offers a gateway into this kind of anti-establishment Satanic thinking, and they are absolutely knocking it out of the pit in terms of producing lyrical content that promotes freedom in place of the thought-prisons of religion, and selling this with some supersexy swinging earworms.
In a world that might just have Donald Trump with nuclear weapons soon (because 2016 be fucked up, yo) y’all motherfuckers really do need some moar Satan in y’all’s lives.
The Popestar EP is one original track and four covers. The original track, Square Hammer, is an instant classic anthem that’s got a chorus with brain-hooks in it, which invites the listener to join in an initiation and swear before the devil. The lyric ‘are you on the square, are you on the level…’ shows that although Ghost may well be taking the piss, they do have a bit of a clue about actual occult ritual, as it’s reminiscent of masonic terms. But this isn’t a closed shop for posh boys only. Ghost are offering this for us all. I mean… that fucking chorus… I am not joking when I saw this is an instant classic anthem. Massive festival crowds are going to be singing this back to the band before long.
(See what I mean – this is fucking awesome)
The covers are interesting. A track from Echo and the Bunnymen and one from Eurythmics are excellent choices that Ghost handle in a fun way. They even nail Eurythmics’ trademark harmonica groove on Missionary Man and the song is good fun cheese with a sinister slant. Echo and the Bunnymen come with their own slightly occult history, but here the song Nocturnal Me is powerful anti-choral dirge.
Where Ghost do something new for them is on a cover of Simian Mobile Disco’s I Believe. The original is synth electropop that’s a bit gay club glorious, but Ghost stake their claim on new ground by turning it into an Enya-like trance dry-ice cool chillout piece. Papa Emeritus’ vocal uber-competence really comes over like never before on this song.
The finale is a song from fellow Viking-land-band Imperiet, Bible, which reminds me of… oh sweet Satan, I’m just going to say it… it reminds me of something like Greg Lake’s I Believe In Father Christmas or that one by the Monobrowed Purveyor of Ultimate Filth, Chris De Burgh – the one about the alien going nanananananana, which SPOILER ALERT – is really about the baby Jeebus (and which I am going to insert here because I hate you all):
Some of Ghost’s other material is clearly inversions of medieval choral church pieces, but this is ganking a style from attempts to cash in on Christmas in the seventies. The song Bible tells the story of how the Christian god is a bit of a dick, but putting it in that style – soaring synths and mile-wide multiple harmonising choirs – is evil genius. It’s both hilarious and disgusting and beautiful.
Now, this EP might just be something that Ghost have tossed out there to try out new styles and experiment away from the conservative world of Metal, but the production values on it are superlatively high-level and whilst it is a petri-dish, it’s not been casually tossed off. There’s some heavy lifting being done here.
If Ghost really are serious about taking on the establishment and showing anyone that’ll listen that there are ways to think for yourself and shake out of the structures of society, then they’re going the right way about making their message even more accessible and listenable.
Now, some of the DEATH TO FALSE METAL turbotossers out there are going to hate this because it’s doesn’t align with their boring conservative formulaic idea of what Heavy music should be, but you know what – they can fuck off back to their Megadeath and Metallicker boring arse shite.
Because Ghost are The Good Shit.
And if they really manage to sell Satan to the masses, and get people to turn their backs on all the horribleness that’s ruining everything right now, they might just save the world too.
Verdict: 666 out of 10
Oh, and if you haven’t seen the video for their Grammy winning song Cirice yet, just bloody watch it. Look, I’m trying to say sorry for the Chris De Burgh one, okay: