IF YOU'RE up to date on modern metal, you have an opinion about Ghost. The Swedish band appeared suddenly in 2010, quickly claiming international notoriety after a three-song demo and a full-length titled Opus Eponymous. While Ghost's shrouded, mysterious persona plays a large part in sparking interest, their odd, pop-sensible, satanic heavy rock has also helped to expose their music to more than just headbanging longhairs. A fairly large cross-section of critics and heshers are delighted with Ghost's existence, but there are just as many who aren't amused. You'd think the community would embrace something creative and different, considering metal is ripe with resurgence lately, but it doesn't work like that. There are rules, and Ghost is breaking a few.
Metal is steeped in tradition. No matter what sub-genre you enjoy, from doom to thrash, black to death, fans demand certain elements stay true to their progenitors. Experimentation is permitted, as long as the experimenter tastefully adheres to most of the attributes of whatever sub-genre they're toying with. It's also important that heaviness always be present. Ghost's first, and most major misstep? They've extracted aggression from the equation.
Ghost definitely play classic heavy metal, and it's being produced by musicians with the chops to play it the way it should be. However, they've fronted their band not with a screeching, squealing wailer, but with a breathy, melodic pop singer. Opus sounds like Mercyful Fate, Witchfinder General, and Blue Öyster Cult had a séance that was interrupted by Duran Duran. Instead of taking satanic metal down the same old left-hand path, these Swedes decided to make it accessible. To most bangers, accessibility is threatening because it means your mom or neighbors might actually like what you're cranking from your stereo.
Ghost's musical style is perplexing and unique, especially after you see photos of them. The band appears in black hooded cloaks, completely hiding their identity. The singer dresses like some kind of wicked cardinal wearing a skull mask. As the mouthpiece for the band, he does interviews as "The Nameless Ghoul." Each interview is rife with references to Satan and all kinds of other silliness.
It's tough to take seriously, only because nobody really should. It's an act. This band is from Sweden, where there are hundreds of other bands these guys could come from. If Ghost is a real cult of devil worshippers performing rituals every night in front of sold-out crowds, then I'm a fucking wizard, and POOF! You're gullible. They're clearly an all-star band of some kind, and boy, are they having fun.
Naturally everyone wants to unmask them, which I feel is a big mistake. Doesn't anybody enjoy well-done mystique anymore? Thanks to the almighty internet, every mystery can be solved and every question answered at any moment. You can find out what your favorite band had for breakfast if you look hard enough. So why do we need to ruin the fun? If Ghost were to be unmasked, the show would be over. Take KISS, for example. They were inhuman rock 'n' roll superheroes throughout most of the '70s, until they took off their makeup and seven-inch platforms to reveal that underneath were a bunch of hairy, greasy dudes. By showing the world their true identity, believe it or not, KISS lost a lot of their credibility. Who could believe mortal men were responsible for such over-the-top-rock? They were supposed to be larger then life.
Personally, I believe we owe Ghost a debt of gratitude. God forbid we allow anyone to bring something new and interesting to the table. Nobody has ever been able to say "Metal Is Dead" because it can't be killed. That being said, evolution is necessary for the survival of the species. We've come a long way since Black Sabbath, so why shouldn't we enjoy the ride?