THIS MONTH IN METAL No. 18: Ghost’s “Opus Eponymous”

The Legacy

October is here and spooks are afoot.  Some vampires, some devils, but most importantly, ghosts are coming out of the woodwork.  What better way to celebrate Halloween spirit than with the titular Ghost?  There are plenty of tricks, treats and seed-spilling rituals to go around with this one, all to the glorious tune of what could easily be a lost Scooby-Doo score.  It’s the one that started it all for what could very well be the most defining rock/metal act of the 2010’s: Opus Eponymous.  October 18th marks the 10th anniversary of Ghost’s Latin-translated self-titled, still steaming with Satan’s stamp of approval.

“Opus Eponymous” cover by Basilevs 254 / Photo: Genius

“They’re the dead pope band, the band that has an old pope in corpse paint” I kept hearing, and naturally I expected something in the realm of black or death metal with some costumed gimmick.  That would be the first of many surprises Ghost would have in store, because not only did the dead pope band have an accessible sound, but it was damn catchy.  Metalheads knew how fun Satanism could be, but not the masses.  It may not have been the tipping point to flood the radio and soak into the Grammys, but Opus got the ball rolling.  Every track is a certified cobwebbed-castle banger guaranteed to get everyone in the mood for a ritual orgy. 

Opus-Era Ghost / Photo: Stereogum

Plenty of criticism still spikes up, of course, with metal elitists in desperate need of tidy genre and subgenre boxes akin to calling the cops on next door’s party.  If there’s one thing Ghost proved right off the bat with Opus Eponymous, it’s that this pope can’t be put in a box–not even a confessional!  Why desecrate a church when you can build your own?  Ghost did, and continues to renovate it with stronger bridges between the masses and old-fashioned devil worship all in the name of good fun.  Break the barriers; Satan is for everyone!



Death of a Clergyman
Ghost – “Opus Eponymous” 10th anniversary

The tough thing about doing a loose Ghost tribute is there’s already so much imagery to work with.  All the Papas, ghouls and set pieces don’t leave much room for interpretation.  That’s just proof of great world building and branding, and it’s also one of the biggest reasons I won’t really do straight up Ghost fan art.  I say leave it to the official works commissioned by the band, because they know what they’re doing and how to execute it appropriately.  I can, however, work with the themes of the church, death and the devil.  More specifically, clergy in the face of blasphemy.  The cardinal depicted is on the brink of death, but instead of being embraced by the arms of God, the Devil emerges from the dark to triumph over his soul.  Death is said to ride a pale horse,  but here Death has been relocated (you do the work) to mock the clergyman at the Devil’s command.  You could perhaps place the Death Knell lyric of “receive the beast” dead center.  Ghost has always pulled the unexpected, and what’s more unexpected than a life prepared for a divine death to be replaced with vain?   

See more heavy hitters in the MONTHLY METAL GALLERY


RIP Papa Emeritus I