It's very rare in this day and age that an album emerges that is so remarkable, so special, and so different that you just have to keep listening to it time and time again. But, on reflection (and that's why it's taken so long for this review to finally see the light of day), Opus Eponymous is just such an album. A heady blend of at times Britpoppy melody, psychedelic organ washes and - and this is the clincher - sheer heavy metal grandeur a la Mercyful Fate, this album is quite, quite wonderful. Let me tell you about it.
After a small amount of portentious scene-setting, we're away with the first track proper, Con Clavi Con Dio, a solid enough entree but really no harbinger for the marvellous fare that's to follow. it's a jaunty piece of what used to be called heavy metal in the early seventies, all double time snare work, and highly melodic vocalising, but it pales against next track, the utterly awe inspiring Ritual.
If you'd told MaF that this was a long-lost track from Mercyful Fate's Melissa sessions, dropped from the set for being just too damn melodic, well, we'd have believed you. An exhorbitantly compelling track, Ritual melds pure early eighties black metal with a solid gold chart-bothering chorus and some top draw riffing and tuneful soloing that'll have you reaching for that old cardboard guitar before you know what you're doing. Ritual is,quite simply, the best track your reviewer has heard in aeons.
The metal ante is significantly upped on the following track Elizabeth (because, like all Satanic heavy metal albums - and make no mistake, Ghost are a Satanic band- you have to have a song about Countess Elizabeth Bathory, right?), with King Diamond's devilish Danes once again in the frame as major sonic influences. I'd really like to commend some of the band on their stupendous performances at this point but, amusingly , everyone involved with Opus Eponymous is shrouded by a cloak of anonymity (even live the band plays in costume, adding to the air of Satanic skulldeggery and subterfuge) presumably so they can go about their goat-bothering businesses in peace... suffice to say an album of this quality could only be birthed by supreme musicians and songwriters.
Did I mention songwriters? Well they come up trumps again on the sleekly attractive Stand By Him, which once again manages to fuse some impressive retro-metal shapethrowing to an infernally catchy chorus, whilst Satan Prayer, perhaps the most psychedelic offering here, is also the most unlikely in it's appeal. Apart from some tasteful staccato riffing, the whole thing is like nothing so much as the late, lamented Syd Barrett jamming with Britpop bozos The Kaiser Chiefs, which, against all the odds, is not half as bad as it sounds, thanks once again to more delicious musicianship and another scintillating chorus.
Death Knell continues the psyche rock bent, adding a bit of Sabbathy menace to the mix, whilst once again hitting the spot with yet another stupendously catchy chorus. Next up is Prime Mover, sadly not a Satanic take on Zodiac Mindwarp's gonzoid eighties trash rock anthem, nor indeed a reappraisal of Rush's popular prog rock opus through Dionysian eyes; It is though a rather spiffing reaffirmation of what Opus Eponymous is all about, if you are still looking for same at this point in the album.
The band wrap things up with the excellent instrumental Genesis (and who, really, embodies our horned master in human form more than Phil Collins?), which, though smacking a little of filler is still actually a pleasure to listen to, no matter how irrelelevant it is in the context of the album.
So there you have it. To these ears a near perfect synthesis of everything that makes heavy music great. It's not metal as fuck by any stretch of the imagination, but there aren't many bands treading the boards these days claiming that particular mantle that could match this album blow for blow for sheer intensity of purpose or skill in execution. Brilliant.