Infestissumam (Latin superlative adjective meaning very or most hostile, used by the band as “the most hostile” or “the biggest threat” in reference to the Antichrist) is the second full-length album by the Swedish heavy metal band Ghost. It was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, produced by Nick Raskulinecz and released on April 10, 2013. It was released in North America by Loma Vista Recordings on April 16 in partnership with Republic Records, a division of Universal Music Group, marking the band’s major label debut. The album was generally well-received, with several music publications placing it on their list of the best heavy metal albums of the year, and won the 2014 Grammis Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Album. In late 2013, the band released a special edition of the album, called Infestissumam Redux.
All of the album’s tracks except “Ghuleh” were written and demoed by the end of summer 2011. The band planned to record the album after their North American tour with Enslaved and Alcest; however Ghost had to pull out of the tour and both the band and Rise Above Records agreed the album should be released on a different label. A Nameless Ghoul said that the band was in a hurry to put out another record.
On signing to a major label for the album, a Ghoul said, “It was Tom Whalley who was interested in the band. [He] was looking to start his own label, which ended up being an imprint of Universal … We felt that we might be self-conscious about making that move, but knowing his background, having someone like that, having him be an advocate for our band, within a big organization like Universal, felt like the closest thing you can get to being on an independent without being on an independent.”
Ghost finally began recording the album in October 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee, with producer Nick Raskulinecz. The band said they chose Raskulinecz because “He’s good at working with a band without transforming the band into something else, rather than make them just flower as the band they are … It turned out he didn’t want to change much at all, and that’s why he got the job.” In 2015 a Nameless Ghoul said they were not 100% satisfied with the album’s final production, citing time restraints forcing them to accept last minute mixing and mastering. They did have difficulties in the Nashville area; because of their Satanic lyrics the band could not find a choir to perform on their record. Even individual choristers turned down the work. The band said, “Then we told them what they were supposed to sing, and one of the guys almost cried, he took offense; it was really weird … So we ended up recording the choir in Hollywood, where people have no problem with worshipping the Devil.”
Commenting on the themes of the new album, a Nameless Ghoul told Decibel that while the first record ended with “Genesis”, the birth of the Antichrist, Infestissumam continues from the Antichrist’s birth onwards. In another interview the band said, “Everything on the first record was about a coming darkness, an impending doom. Whereas the new record is about something present, and literally, the new record deals with the presence of the Anti-Christ, the Devil. But subliminally, the meaning of it is more how mankind– predominantly men– what they have deemed to be the presence of the Devil, throughout history and even nowadays. And that’s why the record is so fueled with sexual themes and females. That’s basically it, the Inquisition was basically men accusing women of being the Devil just because they had a hard-on for them.”
Explaining why the record is more musically diverse than their first, a member said, “Being applauded for a few of those things on the first record that according to the rule book of metal would be viewed as a lot of no-no’s enticed us to go even deeper, and both downwards and upwards, and just overall make a more colorful record”, and “A lot of metal bands have a tendency to come up with a sound and they just mimic that 10 times on a record. […] Which is fine, but we tried to deliberately have every song have its own signature.”
“Per Aspera ad Inferi” translates as “Through Hardships to Hell”.
The song “Secular Haze” came about when a Ghoul writer came to the rest of the band saying, “This is a new song. There was this carnival remark, and obviously there is a cabaret element in that organ, but the idea was to actually have a maritime feel. It’s supposed to feel like you’re on a stormy sea, with waves. The idea was musically inspired by a saying, how someone that has been close to dying by drowning said that the feeling that you get is an enormous, cold, anxiety feeling which is replaced just before you die with a warm acceptance that is supposedly extremely rewarding and orgasmic. The whole song is supposed to feel like it’s storming and storming, never ending with a few glimpses of tranquility in the choruses, but where in the end, in the “come mist eternal part”, it’s supposed to feel like you’ve gone over the edge of freezing to that warmth.”
“Ghuleh / Zombie Queen” originated from an old piece of music: “The piano part in the beginning is old. It’s been lying around for years. But in a Ghost context it needed to become something else, there wasn’t a full idea that would sort of materialize, it would have kept the same line throughout the whole song. This record needed an ending to the A-side, after the three first songs, which are all hectic and involve a lot of changes and hysteria, you needed a sort of meadow where you could lie for a little while. That’s why we took on that song and transferred it into what turned into ‘Ghuleh / Zombie Queen’. Even though it might not be the best song on the record, which I have a hard time deciding which is, it’s definitely one of the most interesting parts of the record. It’s a good move that we’re getting away with. [laughs]” In another interview, a Ghoul said “there are elements of ‘Ghuleh’ that are very typical of ’70s Swedish music.” When asked what is “Ghuleh”, a Ghoul replied “She is the romanticized idea of either a being or a time being lost. It is about nostalgia. The absence of time or a person or a being or something has a tendency to fog up the idea of what the actual nature of that thing or person is.”
Tobias Forge claimed that “Year Zero” and “Zenith” are the only two Ghost songs that he was not the main author of, the two instead being the ideas of guitarist Martin Persner. Although, Forge did write the former’s lyrics in addition to revising, arranging and giving instrumentation to both.
The album’s cover art is part of a single, large piece that was separated into 12 or 13 pictures; it was made in collaboration with Ghost and drawn by Polish artist Zbigniew Bielak and inspired by the album’s lyrics and themes. A Nameless Ghoul said that because the album deals with the Antichrist “we knew there was going to be a baby on the front cover. It also represents the paradox of inborn evil, of being very innocent and very vulnerable”, and said that it is a pastiche of the film Amadeus.
Infestissumam was originally scheduled to be released on April 9, however the band could not find a manufacturer for the CD in the United States and its release was delayed until April 16. A source close to the band told Spin that Ghost was turned down by four US CD manufacturers because of artwork of the album’s deluxe edition, which is a 16th-century illustration of an orgy. The magazine said it was the depiction of Jesus Christ crucified upside down that caused the controversy instead of the Gustave Doré-inspired work’s sexual content. However, a Nameless Ghoul said it was indeed because of the sexual content and said it was ironic that “just because we had naked women as well as female body parts shown and exposed, that caused the problem. What about the blasphemy? What about the Satanism? That wasn’t the problem. That’s exactly what the record is about.” Rather than delay the album longer, the band decided to use the CD artwork from the regular edition for the US pressings on the deluxe edition CD. All European copies and the US vinyl version include the controversial artwork as “Vinyl manufacturers don’t have a problem with the artwork. Neither does Europe.”