Off Topic: Beginner Guide to Traditional Wet Shaving

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Note: the original post was written in January 2017 and updated in December 2017 based on changes in the wet shaving market and my opinions.

Traditional wet shaving has been making a strong comeback in the past several years. Given the size of the market (think of ALL the men in the world), this put many companies on high alert. The result is there are quite a few products out there if you look for safety razors, shaving soaps or some sort of a kit. Here I’m going to share what I’ve learned over the past year and a bit of traditional wet shaving.

If you’ve ever thought about switching to wet shaving and tried doing some research, you must have asked yourself the following questions: what stuff do I absolutely need and what should my budget be? should I get a kit or should I get the items separately? where should I buy from? who are the reputable companies? I’m hoping to answer these questions here.

First of all, why even consider traditional shaving? I mean, shaving with the cartridge or a disposable razor and canned foam or gel works just fine doesn’t it? Well it turns out that for some people it does not. If you look at men nowadays, you will see many of them walking around with noticeable stubble (I’m not talking about people with nicely groomed beards or men doing a no shave November type thing). A single-day ‘shade’ might be a nice touch for a casual event, but a 3- or 4-day stubble is a bit off-putting and can be viewed as unacceptable in some professional settings.

Something is wrong with the modern shaving world and the evidence is right in front of our eyes. You might say that people have very busy lifestyles and just can’t find time for shaving. However, men still groom themselves: they put cologne on, they ‘do their hair’, they pick out their outfits, etc. Also, shaving can be done at any point in the day, not just in the morning when you might be fighting for the bathroom with your room mates or a significant other. Shaving regularly is really a matter of choice, not time constraints.

So why do men avoid shaving? A lot of people quote irritation when shaving with modern gear and a high cost of replacement cartridges. Both points are valid. I can’t say I’ve gotten a lot of irritation (razor burn of bumps) from cartridge razors, but this was probably because I used to shave very infrequently – every 4-5 days. By the time I put the multi-blade cartridge to my face it already felt like hell from the itching and me constantly scratching my chin and neck. So it was only going to feel better after the shave. When I tried to shave more frequently, say every 2 days, I definitely noticed some burning – it’s hard to tell whether that was the result of the canned foam or the razor burn. Whatever the cause, it could not shave regularly and didn’t look my best on most days.

Truth be told, shaving with canned foam and a cartridge razor is plain boring, it’s a chore! So if you’re looking to spice things up, traditional wet shaving might be the way to go. Many men, myself included, also find that shaving with a safety razor and a good quality soap or creme dramatically reduces skin irritation and allows us to shave more regularly. Finally, and this depends on the products you’re currently using, barring the initial investment, traditional shaving is often cheaper in the long run than the modern shaving gear.

You will need a few pieces of equipment to get started:

  1. Safety razor (straight razors are outside the scope for most beginners)
  2. Blades
  3. Shaving soap or cream
  4. Brush
  5. Aftershave
  6. Stand

First of all, a few words on where to get this stuff. The usual suspects, Amazon and eBay, might not be the best choices here, although you can search both for good deals on bulk blades and certain soaps and aftershaves. Specialty online stores are typically the way to go if you want to get good deals and save on shipping costs. Here is the list of the Canadian vendors I’ve dealt with in the past.

  • MenEssentials – a decent selection of products, although lots of items appear to be out of stock at any given time. They have a brick and mortar store on Danforth Ave in Toronto. Free shipping over $50.
  • Italian Barber – might have the largest selection of products out there. They carry their own line or products, RazoRock, that includes razors, brushes, soaps, aftershaves and other accessories. Free shipping over $60 USD (yikes!).
  • Canadian Blade Co – excellent vendor from Lethbridge, Alberta. It’s a favourite shop for many due to nice selection, prices and service.  They worked hard to add a lot of new products to their website over the summer of 2017. Free shipping over $75.
  • Gentleman’s Blade Co – a small vendor out of BC, mostly specializing in straight razors.  Their service is amazing and very personal. The product selection is not as plentiful as that of other vendors, but still very nice and they have good discounts from time to time. Free shipping over $75.
  • Top of the Chain – an online shop out of Ontario.  They work hard to bring the latest and greatest products to Canadian wet shavers.  I’ve ordered from them just once and the service was excellent. Free shipping over $60.

There are a few other shops that I know of, but have not dealt with yet:

  • Stone Field Shaving Company – they carry some very unique products that are not available anywhere else online.
  • Fendrihan Canada – they appear to have a wide range of products and decent prices, but I’ve somehow never ordered from them.  It’s worth checking out.

Safety razor: this is self explanatory – can’t shave without a razor. You don’t want to break a bank, yet you want to get something of good quality so you don’t have to go out and get another one (unless you want to, of course). You also probably do not want to get an overly aggressive razor at first.

One of the most popular choices is Merkur 34C – it’s not cheap and will likely set you back around $60, but you will enjoy it as a beginner and maybe even in the long run (I do not anymore). This razor is very mild and smooth, you will not feel the blade on your face as you might with the more aggressive razors.

There are other choices available, including Edwin Jagger DE89, Fatip Testina Gentile, various RazoRock models and vintage Gillette razors. You could also try one of the adjustable razors, such as Gillette Slim, Fatboy or Black Beauty, Parker Variant, Merkur Progress, Merkur Futur or its Chinese clone Ming Shi or Rockwell 6S or 6C.

I feel hesitant recommending an adjustable razor to a complete beginner because a) they are generally expensive and b) it’s best to keep things consistent at the very beginning to solidify the shaving technique.  That said, Rockwell 6C might still be an excellent choice because the razor’s aggressiveness is regulated by interchangeable plates instead of a dial and so you won’t be tempted fiddle with it mid shave.

The Rockwell razors are excellent for wet shavers of any skill level, whether you buy the stainless steel (6S) or the chrome (6C) version. The price of the 6C is also beginner friendly: $65 online or $30 at Winners or HomeSense stores – consider yourself a champ if you can score one.

With all said and done, you will probably be fine with almost any razor as long as you do not pick up something as aggressive as one of Muhle’s open comb razors or some cheap Chinese junk. Your technique will develop to work with whatever razor you’ve got, as long as you give yourself a bit of time.

Blades:  a choice of razor and blade pairing can make or break your shave! I will agree with the advice many people give, which is to start by getting a variety pack of blades. There are a few reasons for this: first of all, there are all sorts of blades, ranging from relatively dull to very sharp. You will have no way of knowing how a particular blade, combined with your particular razor will work with your beard and skin.  Your initial motor skills will also play a part in this.  There are simply too many variables at play and so it will take some trial and error to figure out which blades work and which don’t.

There will be blades that you will hate right out of the gate – some will tug and pull, barely removing any stubble and some will leave your face with nicks, cuts and razor burn.  Once you find one or two blades that give you decent shaves: reasonably close and no major irritation, you should stop sampling from the variety pack and stick to shaving with just those blades.

Your goal in the beginning is to develop good shaving technique and the best way to do that is to use the same razor and blade combination repeatedly.  By fixing those variables, you can experiment with your technique and observe the results. Soon enough you should be starting to get some very close shaves with zero irritation. Once you figure out your preferences in blades, you can start capitalizing on buying blades in bulk – in packs of 100 or more.

If you’re curious about how different blades compare, you can check out Nick Shaves’ YouTube channel. He did a great blade review series that would be worth checking out for any new traditional shaver. He goes into a lot of detail explaining the shaving and lathering techniques in his videos. One thing to be aware of is he blooms his shaving soaps. This process can be harmful to soaps in the long run and, while some soaps benefit from blooming, it is generally not a required step in building a nice lather.

There is also another website that takes a more scientific approach to quantifying blade sharpness.  However, sharpness does not tell you everything about a blade as you’ll figure out by reading author’s in-depth reviews.

You might also want to buy a razor blade bank for a few bucks so you can dispose of the blades safely or just use an empty coffee can.

Shaving soap or cream: there are a few things that define a good soap – you want it to lather easily, you want the lather to be protective, slick and feel comfortable on your face, i.e. no burning. You also want it to have a good post-shave, which means your face should not feel dry or itchy after the shave.

There are generally 2 categories of products here: artisan and mass produced products.  The latter category includes many classic soap and cream manufacturers such as Proraso, Taylor of Old Bond Street, D.R. Harris, Geo F. Trumper, Truefitt & Hill, Tabac, La Toja, Lea, Arko, Palmolive, Nivea and many others.

I tend to lean heavily towards the artisan soaps: they typically feature simple and clean ingredient lists, which I find important.  Because the product is in such close contact with your skin, you really want as little as possible of the preservatives and other ingredients that could cause irritation. Also, when comparing the artisan and mass produced products in the same price range, the performance of the artisan products is typically much, much better.

Below is a non-exclusive list of soap makers that are probably the most popular as of December 2017.

  • Barrister & Mann (B&M) – a bit pricey, but a very good performer, check out the Latha line for great value products.
  • Catie’s Bubbles – amazing scents, nice slick lather, does not work very well for me personally, but many people love it.
  • RazoRock – very inexpensive, easy to later, nice overall performance and many good scent options.
  • Stirling – good value, supposed to be one of the slickest soaps on the market, many great scents available. I’m not a huge fan because they tend to dry my skin.
  • Tallow & Steel (T&S) – quite expensive.  I have no experience with this soap, but some people are crazy about it.
  • Elvado Creams – I have no experience with these, but would like to try because the reviews are favourable and the prices are good (can be found at Winners)
  • First Canadian Shave Soap – the old formula is hands down one of my favourite.  The company changed hands recently and it’s not clear whether the old formula soaps will still be produced, but if you can get your hands on them, you will be pleased. I hear positive things about the new soaps the company has put out, so things are looking good.
  • Soapy Bathman – very good soap with an incredible $/oz value and some really good scents.  If you’re looking to stretch your dollar with shaving soap, do not overlook this soap.

Below are some of my favourites that typically do not get much attention, but I think are well worth your consideration.

  • Soap Commander – one of the most solid performers out there.  It’s one of the soaps that will not leave my rotation under any circumstances.
  • The Sudsy Soapery – a bit of a unique soap because of a rich ingredient list. More importantly, I find the performance to be excellent, above and beyond many others.
  • Jeeves of Hudson Street – it’s basically perfect for me: great value, exceptional performance, nice scent. Some people cannot get it to work, so perhaps there are consistency issues?
  • L’Occitane Cade – sold at L’Occitane’s brick and mortar stores.  Excellent value, scent and performance.  If you are ever near one of those stores, be sure to check it out.

Brush:  I am an almost exclusive synthetic brush user, so my knowledge of animal hair brushes is limited, but I do own a couple of boar and badger brushes. I think an inexpensive synthetic brush is a great choice for a beginner: they require very little maintenance and perform quite well. One could also appreciate that no animals are killed in their making.

My preferences in synthetic brushes are RazoRock Plissoft and Yaqi (available on Ali Express).  Both brands include a number of brushes that differ in knots, knot sizes, handles, shapes, colours, etc. However, no matter what brush you choose, you should be pleased and you’ll probably only end up spending around $15, maybe as much as $25 if you’re willing to splurge ;).

The trick with boar brushes is they require a bit of a break-in period and, before they are fully broken in, their performance can be a bit disappointing.  They are also not much cheaper (if at all) than most of the synthetic brushes and it begs a question whether they are worth the hassle unless you really love how they feel and perform. Reputable brands are Omega and Semogue.

Badger brushes are nice, but the ones of good quality are generally very expensive. That might not work for new wet shavers, who usually price sensitive.  If you’re looking for a good brush at a reasonable price, check out Henri et Victoria, Semogue (Owner’s Club), Zenith, and Yaqi. The RazoRock silvertip badger brushes are almost certainly made by Zenith, based on the looks and model numbers.

Aftershave:  I am still in the process of exploring the world of aftershave splashes, tonics, witch hazels and balms, so my recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt.  I also find that this is a category of products where the YMMV rule applies ever so strongly.

My preference lies with alcohol based splashes because their antiseptic action helps me avoid any sort of infections and break outs. In this category I like the Proraso Eucalyptis and Menthol (Green), Clubman Pinaud Virgin Island Bay Rum, RazoRock One X and Old Spice Original. Do not confuse the last one with the Classic sold at pharmacies and grocery stores. You can find and buy the Old Spice Original aftershave on eBay from sellers based in India, where it is still made.

Many of the artisan soap makers also carry lines of afteshave splashes and balms. Fine Accoutrements aftershaves stand out with their amazing scents and longevity, but they lack in skin conditioning ingredients. One could probably place them in a cologne category if it wasn’t for their light menthol kick.

I use my Thayer’s alcohol-free Witch Hazel as a face (and sometimes body) tonic, which I put on before bed – it does seem to help, especially in the winter.  However, I do not use it as an aftershave.

As far as aftershave balms go, the one that really works well for me is Cade from L’Occitane. I also quite like the Weleda balm, but the herbal scent might not be for everyone; it’s also on a pricey side. In the future I would like to try balms made by the artisans: Stirling, Soap Commander, Henri et Victoria, Soapy Bathman, etc.

Stand: I think that having a stand for your razor and brush is fairly essential. It will save a bit of precious bathroom counter space and will improve the aesthetics of your setup. Hanging the brush upside down will prevent water from getting deep into the brush’s knot and doing damage.

You could find stands at some of the vendors listed above or on Amazon.  It’ll probably set you back $20-25. If you’re skillful and creative enough, you could make one yourself.

Lathering/loading bowl: depending on whether you decide to build lather on the face or in the bowl, you might want to invest into this item.  You could also use it as a loading container for hard pucks of soap or samples that come without a tub or a bowl. My suggestion would be to start without a bowl and decide whether you need one after a few months of shaving. The main reason is there are many different categories of items on the market from plain bowls and mugs to fancy scuttles, so you might want to figure out what it is exactly that you want to buy.

Social media/education: you will have noticed that this post did not touch on wet shaving technique. This is a topic that’s been discussed a lot online and there is no point in beating the dead horse back to life. If you’re looking for tips and pointers, check out the following YouTube channels:

Mantic59 is a great pioneer of the wet shaving YouTube videos, you’ll notice that most of them are produced with an old school voice over. There is a lot of really good advise in his videos that could save new wet shavers from a lot of frustration.

Michael Freedberg’s videos mostly deal with product reviews, but he did a short series a few years ago where he explained some of the basics. I do find even his review videos quite informative: he’s always got some interesting insights and sports quirky humour.  Admittedly, I started appreciating his videos more when I have myself become more of an intermediate wet shaver.

Con doesn’t have a ton of material on his wet shaving channel, but he’s incredibly fun to listen to. Check him out.

There are others of course, but I’ve listed the guys I enjoy listening to. A lot of the other channels: Ruds Shaves, Another Cut Above, Paul H, Kevy Shaves, Ken Surfs, The Clean Shaver are just not my cup of tea.

Peter Charkalis (Shaving with Charky) made a couple of really funny videos, you can find them here and here.

If you’re Canadian or reside in Canada, you might want to check out the Canadian Wet-Shavers facebook group. There are a bunch of really good guys on there, who you could buy, sell and trade with. The posts are a good combination of SOTD pics (enabling) and informative discussions on gear, technique, etc.

Putting it all together: if you’ve reached this point, you should be fairly well educated for a complete beginner. You’ll certainly have much more information than most of us had when we started, so you can make better choices at selecting and purchasing gear.

When I first wrote this post in January of 2017 I expressed an opinion that almost any new wet shaver should place their first order on Italian Barber for many reasons. After several months of self deliberation, I came to a conclusion that you should take the knowledge presented herein and do a bit of shopping yourself. However, I would still recommend Italian Barber because their RazoRock products are super high value and you could easily fill your order from a single source (think of the value of saved time).

Doing online research and shopping around is part of the fun in wet shaving, so I strongly encourage you to do so. I’ve presented my sample kit based on products listed on Italian Barber. Could you do better? Maybe not, but you should definitely try!

  • Razor – RazoRock Mission $20
  • Blades – 90 Blade DE Sample Pack from IB $36
  • Brush – RazoRock Plissoft 24mm $13
  • Soap – RazoRock “What the Puck?!” Blue $8
  • Aftershave Splash – Razorock Blue Barbershop $13
  • Aftershave Balm – Soap Commander Honor (or similar) $16
  • Stand – RazoRock Chrome Razor and Brush Stand $20

Total: $126 of which $53 is upfront investment and the rest is recurring cost, but all those items typically last for a long time.

I don’t know how much you’re currently spending on gear, so you’ll have to do your own math to see if it’s worth it for you. Except, the math doesn’t factor in an improved experience that traditional wet shaving brings. Did I mention that the wet shaving process is a lot of fun?

AOTW: Entombed – Left Hand Path (1990)

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For years I’ve listened to Death Metal and was invariably disappointed. No matter which band, the music always sounded dry and uninspired. The main problem was that most of the albums I’ve picked up were from late 90s or early 2000s when Death Metal has, for all intents and purposes, fizzled out as a genre. So I had often turned to the derivative genres such as Metalcore and Deathcore instead, until those too have decayed beyond recognition in the late 2000s.

After doing a bit of research, I’ve discovered that Death Metal was not always so hopeless. In particular, the albums recorded at the Sunlight Studios in Stockholm during the late 80s and early 90s received a lot of praise. Left Hand Path is likely the most well known of the bunch. It features that signature buzzsaw guitar tone that the early Swedish Death Metal bands became so famous for. The sound and production on Left Hand Path are just perfect. The guitars, the drums, the bass and the vocals all sound great and are well mixed together.

The album opens with Left Hand Path that starts off with a scream (of what sounds like a falling man), followed by low-tuned guitars and a quick solo. This sequence in itself was enough to convince me that this album would be worth my time.

I am my own God
Master slave and I will be beyond the grave
No one will take my soul away
I carry my own will and make my day

The track proceeds at a fast pace for three and a half minutes or so until it slows down to what appears to be the end, but out of nowhere the Phantasm theme comes out, which the band worked really well into their song. I’m not sure how the band came up with this idea, but it sure made for a unique song.

Drowned is another fast track that has some really good riffs and the solos towards the end makes the track quite memorable. Revel in Flesh is played at a slower pace and it doesn’t seem to possess the intensity of the typical Death Metal song. The band almost sounds sloppy when playing at this speed, seemingly lacking the precision of execution, but that’s a false impression. You really have to hear it to understand it. The song wraps up with another great solo – that’s one thing that modern Death Metal bands rarely get right.

When Life Has Ceased is also a mid-paced track, it doesn’t feature any great riffs, but what it does is it allows the buzzsaw guitars to shine. The listener can fully immerse in that low, thick, rippling guitar sound. At this point it wasn’t really a surprise that there was yet another great solo waiting at the end.

Supposed to Rot is a short and very fast track that opens with an amazing riff – maybe the best on the entire album. But Life Goes On is another track where the band fully capitalizes on the guitar sound they’ve achieved by incorporating open string riffs and allowing the guitars to ‘ring through’.

Dead – Deceased, but life goes on
I will be the one who won
Continue to seek and you will see
That life is your worst enemy

Bitter Loss is not a bad track, but it’s not memorable save for the eerie solo at the end. Morbid Devourment falls into the ‘neither here not there’ category as well – it has some decent moments, but clocking in at 5:25 it’s probably 2 or 3 minutes too long. It seems the band started to run out of creativity towards the end of their debut album. Abnormally Deceased doesn’t have much to offer either.

The album finishes with The Truth Beyond, where the band seems to have mustered up whatever was left of their song writing capacity and finished the album strongly. At least this will give the listener an incentive to finish the record without stopping a few songs short.

People put to death in the name of God
And blood run red in an eternal flood
The word has been spread – Through out the centuries
Millions of corpses lying in the cemeteries

This albums appears to be one of two halves – the band started out very strongly, but lost their creative inspiration towards the end. That seems to be how the band’s entire career has unfolded as well: after putting out a strong debut, they never really got it right thereafter.

I couldn’t say this album is perfect, because there definitely seems to be some filler on here. It actually took me a really long time to write this review because I kept re-playing the album, trying to figure out each track’s identity, but some of them just don’t have one. Nevertheless, Left Hand Path was an important album for me because it made me seek out older records from the likes of Death, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Dismember, Obituary and appreciate Death Metal for what it was, not for what it is now.

AOTW: Bathory – Bathory (1984)

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Bathory released their self-titled debut album in October of 1984. As far as the first wave of Black Metal is concerned, Bathory were a bit late in the game. Slayer’s Show No Mercy, Sodom’s In the Sign of Evil and Hellhammer’s Satanic Rites all came before Bathory. Nevertheless, the 3 albums released by Bathory in mid 80s were likely the most influential in Black Metal. Getting progressively faster and more extreme, Bathory, The Return… and Under The Sign of the Black Mark created a crucial liaison between the essential first wave bands such as Venom and Helhammer and the second wave pioneers: Mayhem and Darkthrone. There were others, of course, but the legacy that Bathory left cannot be underestimated by any Black Metal fan or artist.

Named after the noble Hungarian serial killer, Bathory is a brain child of Quorthon, the band’s front man. On their debut album, Bathory combined influences from Motorhead, Venom, Hellhammer and Slayer, but also added their own elements. Quorthon’s high-pitched, screechy vocals, for example, were quite unusual at the time of the release. The production is also quite odd: there is an unconventionally large bass presence and the drum sound is horrific. Luckily, the guitars are the highest in the mix and are allowed to shine through the otherwise grimy production. In either case, it doesn’t take long for the ears to adjust and enjoy the tunes.

The album begins with Storm of Damnation intro track where the whistling winds and the ringing bell are supposed to serve as a build up and create an eerie atmosphere, but, at over 3 minutes long, it certainly overstays its welcome.

Hades begins with a great riff that keeps repeating through most of the song. Normally this would get boring quickly, but I dare say it’s hard to get enough of this song. The music is played at a very fast tempo, certainly on par with what other bands were doing at that time.

Forgotten damned domains
where curse and hate collide
Where the cold and darkness meet
and the truth have turned to lie

Reaper is another high-speed aural assault, also centered around a brilliant riff. The band takes a quick breather with Necromansy, played at a slower pace. Next up is Sacrifice, one of 2 songs that got the band a record deal in the first place. Played at a fast pace, this track also features a great solo, of which there are not that many on this album and it’s a bit of a shame.

Tie the angel to the altar
Sacrifice to Lord of hell
Let the warm blood torrent, baby
While the moonlight sets the night on spell 

In Conspiracy With Satan takes things up a notch in terms of speed and the lyrics. The pace here is comparable to Slayer’s Hell Awaits, to be released a year later. The haunting, twisted guitars make it fell like you are actually about to make a pact with the devil.

I have turned my back on Christ
to hell I have sacrificed
I have made love to the Pagan Queen
the gates of hell I have seen

Armageddon continues in the same vein as the previous tracks. The album is very even from the point of view of the quality of material: it’s quite difficult to spot any high and low points. Raise the Dead is a great mid-paced track, which creates a nice cushion before the final piece, War. A brief Outro wraps up the album.

The record is only about 27 minutes long, with just a few of the tracks going over the 3-minute mark. Typically, in Metal genre, this would not leave enough time to fully develop the musical ideas, but Bathory managed to do it. None of the tracks feel unfinished in any way. Barring the obnoxiously long intro, this album is perfect. This is one of the most essential Metal albums of all time.

AOTW: Ghost – Meliora (2015)

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Some time in the Spring of 2016 I fell in love with Ghost, a Heavy Metal band from Sweden. The first song I’ve ever heard from them was Cirice from their 2015 album Meliora. This is the same song that got Ghost their Grammy award for Best Metal Performance.

The album begins with Spirit, a spooky song that would be a perfect soundtrack for some sort of a Halloween special. Next comes From the Pinnacle to the Pit, a riff driven sonic assault and one of the best songs on the album. Ghost have chosen to move away from the overtly Satanic lyrics used on previous records in favour of subtler messages.

You are cast out from the heavens to the ground
Blackened feathers falling down
You will wear your independence like a crown

Cirice opens with a slow guitar intro and moves on to an epic Heavy Metal riff. If you are not banging your head to this, you better press the stop button and give the album to someone more deserving. This song also features a great solo, something that was a bit uncommon for Ghost until this album. Every song on Meliora has at least one great riff. One can notice a clear improvement in the musicianship compared to Infestissumam.

After Spöksonat that serves as a brief interlude, He Is starts with yet another great riff; it might be the best Ghost have ever written. The lyrics easily match the music in its beauty.

We’re standing here by the abyss
And the world is in flames
Two star-crossed lovers reaching out
To the beast with many names

The band has set the bar quite high with the opening tracks and unfortunately the second half of the album doesn’t quite live up to that standard. Mummy Dust and Majesty are not bad songs, by they are not particularly good either.

Devil Church is another short interlude track, followed by Absolution – a great song with an upbeat chorus and featuring another couple of great riffs.

As a child, with your mind on the horizon
Over corpses, to the prize you kept your eyes on

The album ends with Deus In Absentia, another track that is neither here nor there, although one has to appreciate the choir signing at the end.

There are two ways to look at this album: on the one hand it really lacks consistency and it’s quite hard to evaluate it when you’ve got 3 super hits and another couple of good songs, but the rest don’t leave much of an impression. One might even go as far as to argue that it would’ve been better to release the best songs as an EP and ditch the rest.

On the other hand, it’s important to recognize that the band accomplished something new on this album: they’ve returned to a more traditional sound and made it a point to incorporate more intricate guitar work into the songs, including some nice solos. There was another, more subtle, change – most songs on Opus Eponymous and Infestissumam are driven either by the vocals or the keyboards and guitars are given a supporting role (relatively speaking). On Meliora, however, the focus is much more on the guitar riffs and each song has some great ideas, even if they are not always fully developed. Ghost also chose a different lyrical approach, whether that was the band’s decision or a directive from record label.

With Meliora‘s release Ghost became huge and this might be the best introduction to the band for someone previously unfamiliar. The band promised a new album in late 2017, but they’ve also done a lot of touring over the past few years and are planning to do more. It’s hard to see how the band will have enough time to sit down in the studio to record new material, never mind actually writing new songs and rehearsing. This is the path they chose when they’ve signed with a big record label, we can only wait and see.

As things stand, we have 3 excellent albums and consistently amazing live performances from Ghost. The band has become popular to such extent that even Christians are listening to it. Indeed, a few months ago I ran into a YouTube video where a pastor was praising Meliora. He argued that Ghost’s image and lyrics were only and act. However, in the same video he referred to Varg Vikerness as a Satan worshiper. It must take nothing less than Orwellian doublethink to keep this straight in his head.

At any rate, if you’ve never heard of Ghost, give this album a listen. Chances are you will find something you end up liking on here.