Papa don’t preach…
Ghost transcend musical genres and tackle preconceptions like few others. At times candy crush but open the wrapper and inside you’ll find the beating black heart of Lucifer. When the Swedes first emerged, complete with papal symbolism and more religious regalia than a Catholic convention, few knew how to take them. The dilemma was not helped by the preservation of the band’s anonymity through assorted masks and props.
Well at least that curtain has fallen with the recent revelation that Tobias Forge is the brainchild and whizz behind the mercurial Swedes. In many ways the ending of that over long debate has worked in Ghost’s favour as it focuses attention on their music not their make-up. And while the incredible stage show has always been part of who Ghost are, it would quickly collapse like a house of cards if the music lacked the intelligence and depth to back it up.
Having been blown away by Ghost’s stunning headlining appearance at Bloodstock last August, the chance to spend time with new album Prequelle was too good to turn down. And what a pleasure it’s been for this release, the band’s fourth full length, is an absolute scream. It’s release has unfortunately coincided with an untimely courtroom wrangle with the previously in tune Nameless Ghouls but the legal shenanigans should not be allowed to eclipse this inspiring release.
As Ghost disciples will know, since the band were formed in 2006 they have undergone a series of Dr Who style regenerations in which Forge adopts ever more alarming persona all cloaked under the papal robes of Papa Emeritus. With the big hat back in the locker, his latest incarnation is the equally disturbing looking Cardinal Copia. Forge could act for England (or maybe Sweden) and his theatrics and engaging manner certainly play a part in Ghost’s endearing appeal.
But while at ease headlining Bloodstock last year, Prequelle is scarcely recognisable as a metal album in the traditional sense. But then, Ghost are after all Grammy winners with a sound that teeters closer at times to Eurovision than Exodus. As for the critics who scoff at the soft lines and crush velvet harmonies and perpetually bark that ‘Ghost aren’t metal’…. So what? It doesn’t matter how you care to label or pigeonhole Ghost, the music is white lightning brilliant and Prequelle is their most accomplished album yet.
While kept under tighter wraps than a child’s present on Christmas Eve, the single ‘Rats’ has been shared in advance and what a Dickensian delight it is with its menacing imagery of a plague of rats scurrying around the dank lanes and alleyways of a bygone age spreading their cursed plague as they go. This is the single which all Ghost followers probably already know better than their mum’s Sunday dinner. With the concept unveiled as to how the plague is spread among us, shared at a frightening rate by those pesky long-tailed vermin, the horror unfolds against a backdrop of piercing melodies and a groove warm enough to tuck you into bed at night. Rats! The throbbing disease-filled climax blends into the start of the smouldering ‘Faith,’ one of the darker tracks on the album.
‘See The Light’ has to go down as one of Ghost’s finest ever tracks, shimmering with emotion as Tobias sings “every day that you feed me with hate, I grow stronger”. Anyone who can listen to this without goosebumps popping up across their body must be carved in stone. Pitch perfect melody, caressing harmonies and a suspense building sense of timing that Tag Heuer would envy. There are a couple of instrumentals on the album that veer between prog and doom but on ‘Dance Macabre’ the Cardinal is again on sparkling form with an effortless display that reaches out to anyone with music in their veins.
“Lucifer whispering silently into your mind is the hypnotizing,” start to ‘Pro Memoria’ another absolute pearler, full of wonderfully excessive theatrics, soft piano and a tidal wave of a chorus that explodes through your speakers like a shower of meteorites as Cardinal Copia waxes lyrical about St Peter. ‘Witch Image’ is more rumbustious with the vocals dreamlike as the guitars crash in to replace keys with a sound big enough to fill a stadium which is exactly where Ghost are likely to be playing in the future. The second instrumental ‘Helvetesfönster’ is just a little overlong and probably the only truly weak moment on the album but the closing ‘Life Eternal’ certainly brings the curtain down with a flourish.
Few can hold a cathedral candle to Ghost’s ability to marry the darkest of subject matters with the brightest of medieval musical rainbows. Devilry and the black arts never sounded so inviting.
- See The Light
- Dance Macabre
- Pro Memoria
- Witch Image
- Life Eternal