Feb 122014

Part of the popular attraction of Sweden’s Ghost B.C. is their anonymity — and the masks, make-up, and costumes with which the members conceal their features. Fans and music writers have speculated about who the Nameless Ghouls and the band’s frontman really are, but no names have ever been officially revealed. Last September, the current frontman — Papa Emeritus II — appeared without make-up in a mini-documentary about the band. In the clip, he spoke Italian, and, having revealed his face,  it became clear that he had also appeared in Ghost’s official video for “Year Zero”. But he didn’t sing, and there was still some lingering doubt about whether we were seeing the real deal. Any doubts have now been erased. Or have they?

During their recent Australian tour, Ghost stopped by the studio of Music Feeds and played three songs live: “Ritual”, “Year Zero”, and their cover of Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts” (from their 2013 covers EP). Videos of the three song performances surfaced on YouTube yesterday, and Papa Emeritus II appears without make-up — and yes, it’s the same dude who is interviewed in that mini-documentary.

I still don’t know who the guy is, and his position in the band appears to have a shelf life — one day, there will be a Papa Emeritus III. But the dude can sing, and for all Ghost fans, the following videos will be fun to hear and see. I’ve collected them after the jump, followed by that documentary clip.  (via Blabbermouth).

But… it appears that even Papa’s face without the skull make-up is still… a mask. See for yourself. Clever Ghost trolling.

Feb 012014

Welcome to Part 17 our list of the year’s most infectious extreme metal songs. For more details about what this list is all about and how it was compiled, read the introductory post via this link. To see the selections that preceded the two I’m announcing today, click here.

I’ve called this the “Exception to the Rule” edition of this list, because both songs today involve clean singing. At least measured by how often I’ve heard them, they are also two of my favorite songs of the year. Some newcomers who aren’t aware that we make exceptions may be disappointed. But it would be hypocritical of me to ignore these songs.

SHINING

One One One is a very different album from this band’s startling last release, Blackjazz — more stripped-down, more hook-focused, more “approachable”. As DGR put it in his review for us:

“Whereas the last disc was what four guys who are incredibly accomplished on their chosen instruments could do with absolutely no one stopping them or telling them to tone it down a bit, One One One sounds like what happens when the group chooses to exercise a bit of self-restraint — to see if they can still produce that same effect with a more minimalistic sound…. A lot of One One One brings to mind the old axiom that just because you have the ability to do something, doesn’t mean that you should. Everything feels strategically placed so that the band get the maximum impact for a more minimalist amount of showmanship, and it works. Really, really well.”

Jul 032013

To the sound of the monstrance clock
Air is cleansed, assembled flock
Black candles burn all night tonight

As the parish sighs in smoke
Enters lady revealed of cloak
To the haunting sound of the monstrance clock
Singing:

Come together, together as a one
Come together for Lucifer’s son

The music of “Monstrance Clock” sounds so sweet, but really, it isn’t. It isn’t my favorite track on Ghost’s latest album Infestissumam – that would have to be “Year Zero” — but it’s my second favorite, and so I’m quite happy to report that Ghost have released a new video for it. Directed by Rob Semmer, it sets the magnetic music to scenes of the band’s performances at the El Rey in Los Angeles and Webster Hall in New York City. Watch it next…

Jun 052013

Two and a half years ago I wrote a post about “Banjo Metal” that continues to be visited and still leads to the occasional e-mail contact from people interested in the subject (Google “banjo metal” and see what comes up first). That post focused on metal bands who have used the banjo in some of their songs (plus an obligatory item on the magnificent Béla Fleck). Today brought us news of a different type of banjo metal — a banjo cover of a metal song.

Okay, some of you might quarrel with applying the term “metal” to Sweden’s Ghost. Hell, I’ve quarreled with myself about that. But hey, they do sing about Satan!

The cover is of Ghost’s best-known song, “Ritual”, and it’s performed on video by Erling Bronsberg, a skilled banjo player who e-mailed me about the cover last night. He’s based in Örebro, Sweden, and performs with a group called the Black River String Band. He uses “standard sawmill tuning” for this song, which probably means something to banjo players but to me simply sounds cool. His cover is cool, too. He puts a bluegrass spin on the melody without completely losing the song’s familiarity, and the picking is tasty. Check it out:

May 272013

My NCS comrades and I were busy little beavers over the weekend (scabby, rabid ones, of course), making headway on new reviews. But I also heard a lot of new individual songs that grabbed me, so I’ll be dropping those morsels into round-up posts today in between a slew of album reviews — starting with this one.

GHOST B.C.

When Ghost B.C. released their new album, Infestissumam, in Japan, they included a bonus track. It’s a cover of “Waiting For the Night” by Depeche Mode, from their 1990 album Violator. Late last week Ghost released the song to YouTube for those of us who like the band but can’t get our paws on the Japanese version of the album. The original song doesn’t mention Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Satanas, or Lucifer, but it does include some other Ghost-ly lyrics: “I’m waiting for the night to fall / I know that it will save us all / When everything’s dark…”

Even though there’s not any typically overt Satan worship in the words, Ghost do put their own spooky stamp (and some beefy low-end riffs) on the music. Cool song (and an exception to our Rule, of course). Check it next.

Apr 302013

When I intend to listen to an album with the thought of reviewing it, I usually avoid reading other reviews. I want to form my own impressions based solely on the music and pick my own words to describe it; this may explain why my reviews leave so much to be desired. However, I read several reviews of Ghost’s new album Infestissumam before hearing it, because I wasn’t thinking about reviewing it for this site. After all, the music is barely metal, if it’s metal at all. Also, it has actual singing in it.

The reviews I read weren’t in mainstream publications or on mainstream sites, though Infestissimum has been reviewed in plenty of those places. I was reading reviews on metal blogs. I couldn’t help but notice that even most of the positive reviews had a defensive or apologetic tone, a kind of “they’re good for what they do, as long as you’re not expecting X, Y, or Z”. And the negative reviews panned the album for not having enough X, Y, or Z — whatever the reviewer was demanding but couldn’t find in the music, such as heaviness or gripping riffs.

Some of the negative reviews came from people who seemed to really like Ghost’s first album, Opus Eponymous. This later puzzled me after I listened to Infestissimum, because it’s not like the band made some kind of radical course change without putting on the turn signal.  I don’t think it’s different enough from the first album to turn praise into a pan.

I began to have a sneaking suspicion that Ghost had become the victim of a combination of two things that don’t go over very well here in the underground: success and gimmickry.

Mar 302013

On this lazy Saturday morning, I found these items of interest while surfing the waves of our metallic ocean.

GHOST B.C.

I’m still having trouble typing “Ghost B.C.” instead of “Ghost”. And as if legal problems with their original name weren’t enough bullshit to endure, this Swedish band seem to have encountered fresh new bullshit in getting the CDs produced for their new album, Infestissumam.

According to Spin.com, release of the album has been delayed from April 9 to April 16 because four different U.S. compact disc manufacturers have refused to print a piece of artwork (shown above) that was destined for the deluxe version of the album. More from Spin.com:

“We kept on getting turned down because of the CD art, which is basically a 16th century illustration of an orgy,” a source close to the band told SPIN. The NSFW illustration, inspired by the work of Gustave Dore, showcases what looks like a forest nymph orgy, but it’s the religious iconography at the top that convinced manufacturers to turn off the printing press.

Mar 252013

The Nameless Ghouls in Sweden’s Ghost B.C. have jealously guarded their true identities, which makes it so surprising that without much fanfare they’ve now revealed them for all the world to see.

Earlier this month the band released a track named “Year Zero” from their forthcoming second album Infestissumam (Latin for “hostile”), which is due for release on April 9. Today they premiered an official video for the same song. Apart from cryptic images of children, the main action consists of a group of women of different ages assembling for a visit by their lord and master and a light repast of raw steak, grapes, and goblets of wine.

All of this proves to be simply spiritual and material nourishment in preparation for donning the costumery of Ghost B.C. and finishing off the track in the garb to which we Ghost fans have become accustomed.

So there you have it. Secrets revealed. And that’s not all that’s revealed: we get to see the band members buck nekkid when they change clothes. Which means this video is NSFW.

Feb 042013

The purpose of this post is to provide info about two tours announced today. The first is Haze Over North America, headlined by the mysterious Swedes in Ghost, with support from a west coast trio known as Ides of Gemini. The month-long run will commence on April 18 in Denver and continue through May 18 in Pittsburgh.

I know all I need to know about Ghost. Though not an immediate fan, I grew to become one on the strength of two live shows I saw in Seattle. Yessir, I will definitely line up to see these guys again. I’m less sure about Ides of Gemini. They released a well-reviewed album of “ethereal doom” last year named Constantinople. I’m going to stream a Scion A/V-sponsored video after the jump and come back and watch it a bit later.

The second tour is certainly more clearly in my own personal wheelhouse. It’s a spring U.S. tour by Virginia’s Inter Arma (whose new album was the subject of an NCS feature just this past weekend) and NY-based Mutilation Rites — and I dig them, too..

I’m very happy to report that both tours will stop in Seattle. I know you were extremely curious about that since it’s an issue that directly affects my own happiness. Both schedules are after the jump . . . along with that video from the Constantinople album.

Dec 162012

From me to you, new things discovered today . . .

GHOST

I became an acolyte of Ghost after witnessing their live ritual twice in the last year. The music was already growing on me before those shows, but they sealed the deal.

Now we have a new Ghost song and a new live video performance of the song to go with it. Ghost began rolling out the song on-line, one recording track after another, and now the entire song is available for listening — and it’s also a free download.

“Secular Haze” has the rhythm of a waltz and fancifully begins and ends with the sound of a calliope. Like so many of the band’s songs, it’s poppy and catchy, and yet moments of ominous tension find their way into the melody. The song didn’t grab me as fast as some of the tracks on Opus Eponymous, but by the third listen I was hooked.

To hear the song and get it for free, go to this location and enter your e-mail address. You’ll then receive a download link by e-mail. To watch the new video, continue on past the jump.

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