Reviewed: July 2018
Released: 2018, Loma Vista Recordings
Reviewer: Lord Of The Wasteland
With its fluidity between the rock and metal genres and image-based “gimmick,” Ghost has been a polarizing band since the release of its debut, 2010’s OPUS EPONYMOUS. Over the course of three albums, vocalist Papa Emeritus has been “replaced” each time however those in the know realize it is the same person—recently revealed to be Swedish singer Tobias Forge—under a slightly different guise. Backed by a masked band of anonymous Nameless Ghouls, the Ghost juggernaut has soldiered on, drawing in increasing numbers of fans to the band’s hook-filled hard rock.
On Ghost’s fourth full-length, PREQUELLE, a revitalized Forge has emerged after a messy lawsuit with the creation of a “new” character—Cardinal Copia (still Forge)—now fronting the band. Considering the unpleasantness that lead up to PREQUELLE, one would expect a dark cloud to be hanging over the songs but it is quite the opposite. A glossy sheen polishes every track and the potential for hits is everywhere. If ever an album screamed breakthrough or crossover, PREQUELLE is it.
Once the tone-setting intro “Ashes” is out of the way, PREQUELLE wastes no time in reeling in listeners with the immediate hook of “Rats,” a thinly-veiled diatribe against the former Ghouls who spilled the band’s dirty laundry—and carefully-guarded anonymity—through litigation (“Into your sanctum you let them in…filthy rodents are still coming for your souls”). That song as well as “Faith” and “See The Light” are the most vitriolic lyrically, with Forge utilizing the metaphor of the Black Plague to address his frustrations over the legal proceedings (“A pack of fools take the stand”) and resulting online critics (“Every day that you feed me with hate I grow stronger”). Behind the obvious bitterness, though, the melodies weave their way in and create songs that are immediately catchy. The riff on “Dance Macabre” is unforgettable with a retro beat suitable for rock radio. “Pro Memoria” opens with a string section right out of a film score but upon closer listen, that pastoral intro hides a truly sinister lyric (“Don’t you forget about your friend Death, don’t you forget that you will die!). At the album’s midpoint, the instrumental “Miasma” takes a slightly prog-rock turn with keyboard heavy verses before launching into a sax solo and a riff echoing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Later, the similarly folk-tinged, prog-leaning “Helvetesfönster” (featuring acoustic guitar from none other than Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt) provides a welcome breather and showcases the more grandiose songwriting skills of Forge.
Ghost’s music has always been accessible but the Satanic image seemed to diminish any headway that may have allowed the band to reach a wider audience. But if the songs on PREQUELLE are any indication, the edges have softened and Ghost takes aim at broader appeal. Not that success is a bad thing but it will certainly give the detractors plenty to stew over while Ghost laughs all the way to the bank.
KILLER KUTS: “Rats,” “Faith,” “See The Light,” “Dance Macabre,” “Pro Memoria”
4. See The Light
5. Miasma (Instrumental)
6. Dance Macabre
7. Pro Memoria
8. Witch Image
9. Helvetesfönster (Instrumental)
10. Life Eternal