Occult music is subject to a tough set of strictures. Making music that evokes a sense of mysticism, worship and something beyond human understanding can leave little room for the actual music. It feels like to some degree, every occult band compromises when they decide to take that otherworldly feeling and bend it to fit within the confines of a song. As a result, there is a choice between music and the underlying message, and a continuum of bands making their own choices on how much to prioritise each aspect of the genre. On one end of this continuum you have the hardcore, out there, part-noise, part-music of bands such as awesome self-described Italian occult psychedelicists (hey look, I made a word) Father Murphy. And closer to the other end you find bands such as occult rockers Ghost (or Ghost B.C. for our American readers) for whom music is king and the occultism, while still a heavy part of the sound, falls second to writing a killer song. The occult side of the music is conveyed through the tone, harmonized vocals and the band’s masks-and-robes wardrobe choices when they play live. The rock side speaks for itself.
Despite the corpse paint, Ghost’s sound is closer to psychedelic rock than black metal: fuzzy and warm with stomping riffs and echoing leads, a tradition they continue on new track Cirice from upcoming album Meliora. Featuring all the vocal hooks, cracking guitar parts and lovable kookiness we have come to expect from Ghost, Cirice is a rare beast: a six minute song that almost feels too short. At the end of its run time I genuinely could not believe the song had passed and had to double check the player to make sure I’d read the time right. And in a way, maybe the ability to distort time with the hypnotic quality of a bitchin’ rock song is as mysterious and strange as anything an occult band has ever written. Except for Father Murphy. Those guys are fucking crazy. You can lose track of time for yourself with the video for Cirice embedded below and fill the time between now and Meliora’s August 21st release date with Ghost’s back catalog on iTunes.