The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019, #5: Ghost, Opus Eponymous
MetalSucks recently polled nearly 180 prominent metal musicians and industry insiders to determine The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019! (You can read all about the voters and the methodology behind the poll here.) Over the next few weeks, we’ll be counting down the entire list, one entry per day.
The countdown continues today with Opus Eponymous (Rise Above), the 2010 debut from Ghost!
“Lucifer, we are here! For your praise, evil one!” The first words on Ghost’s 2010 debut album, Opus Eponymous, are an absolutely sublime introduction not just to the record, but the band in general. It’s almost as if Tobias Forge knew that a decade later the band would be one of metal’s biggest and most universally loved.
Other people seemed to know, too, as catchy numbers like “Ritual” and “Elizabeth” were quick to catch on in the metal underground, as much for their immediate hooks as the band’s mysterious, masked aesthetic. Metal Blade, to their credit, were on the pulse too, becoming the distribution partner for Ghost’s label, Rise Above, and eventually bringing the record to North American shores for the first time.
Other people weren’t so sure, though, and I count myself among those. “It’s a gimmick,” I said. “Sure, the songs are decent, but they’re not amazing, and would people care if not for the masks? What’s the big deal?” Here’s one I still see out there to this day: “I don’t get it.”
Not only would it prove not to matter what the naysayers offered — sure, masks are a gimmick, but an oft-used one in metal, and who cares anyway? (we eat that shit up! metal is inherently silly and ridiculous!) — but I was dead wrong on both counts: the songs, I would later realize, are fucking stellar, and the “un-masking” of the band as a result of a lawsuit did absolutely nothing to halt their rise in popularity.
It was the perfect storm for Ghost, really. Opus Eponymous landed at a time when interest in occult, doom and psychedelic metal was on the rise, and Ghost executed it better than anyone else, focusing on the tried-and-true trope that musical success starts and ends with songs. I’m gonna say it again, because it bears repeating: songs! Mix those two things with the visual aesthetic and developing mythology of the band, and it’s kind of amazing that anyone thought there could be any possible outcome other than Ghost becoming one of the biggest bands in the world.
Tobias Forge would refine his songwriting craft in the years to come, with “Cirice,” “Square Hammer,” “Dance Macabre” and others becoming timeless genre classics that took the band to new heights. But it all started on Opus Eponymous, where just about every track clocks between three-and-a-half and four-and-a-half minutes, and let me say it once more for you folks: songs! Every one of them has a hook. In addition to the album standouts at the top of this piece, “Stand by Him” had the undeniable “it’s the night of the witch” refrain, while the monotone “six… six… six…” chant in “Death Knell” was an instant crowd-pleaser. You’re singing along in your head right now, I know it.
To those of you who insist Ghost aren’t really metal, or simply that they suck, grow the fuck up (also: you’re wrong). Frankly, we’re lucky to have this band as the torch-bearers for metal in a non-metal world, showing folks from disparate walks of life that metal is fun. They wear masks, they have their own mythology, they sing about spooky shit… what more could you ask for?? Oh, right — songs — and they’ve got those too.
The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019:
#25: Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas, Mariner (2016)
#24: Triptykon, Eparistera Daimones (2010)
#23: Pig Destroyer, Book Burner (2012)
#22: Yob, Clearing the Path to Ascend (2014)
#21: The Black Dahlia Murder, Ritual (2011)
#20: Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (2014)
#19: At the Gates, At War with Reality (2012)
#18: Meshuggah, Koloss (2012)
#17: Gorguts, Colored Sands (2012)
#16: Between the Buried and Me, The Parallax II: Future Sequence (2012)
#15: The Ocean, Pelagial (2013)
#14: Kvelertak, Kvelertak (2010)
#13: Judas Priest, Firepower (2018)
#12: Metallica, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016)
#11: Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind (2012)
#10: The Dillinger Escape Plan, One of Us Is the Killer (2013)
#9: Rivers of Nihil, Where Owls Know My Name (2018)
#8: Deafheaven, Sunbather (2013)
#7: Baroness, Yellow & Green (2012)
#6: Power Trip, Nightmare Logic (2016)