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Ghost - Prequelle (Album Review)

Tuesday, 05 June 2018 Written by Jon Stickler

Photo: Mikael Eriksson

Ghost have returned to engulf the world in hellish flames on their fourth album and most scintillating statement to date, ‘Prequelle’. But this time around the masked metallers wreak havoc through music far closer in spirit to ABBA and Duran Duran than Pentagram and Blue Öyster Cult.

From the old school, hazy tones that drove 2010's 'Opus Eponymus' to the grander satanic pop-rock of 2015's 'Meliora', things in Ghost’s realm are always in a state of flux. And considering their progression over the last eight years, plus the band’s knack for crafting inescapably catchy songs while displaying their pretty cool Satanic schtick, it comes as no real surprise to find them reaching wider audiences.

Followers who were paying attention to the 'Prequelle' storyline might have raised an eyebrow after the "killing off" of former singers Papa Emeritus I, II and III.

But the resulting initiation of "new" frontman Cardinal Copia, a move by band founder and songwriter Tobias Forge, has kept things fresh and made Ghost more accessible.

The entrance of the Cardinal has opened a new door, with modern production values propping up the catchiest riffs and sharpest hooks Forge has written yet. They help to complete Ghost’s transformation from a band with low budget gimmicks to one with genuine stadium-filling potential.

On 'Prequelle' they weave imagery from the Great Plague throughout 10 tracks while simultaneously blowing the creative doors off. You needn't look any further than the record's first singles - future live anthem Rats and ‘80s AOR refit Dance Macabre - to think that Ghost are presenting us with what could be labelled as their ‘Black Album’.

Elsewhere, Faith is the record's heaviest track and recalls the band’s signature sound from their early years, while See The Light is to 'Prequelle' is what He Is was for 'Meliora' as one of the more radio-ready rock moments. The LP’s two instrumental songs, Miasma and Helvetesfonster, are both quirky synthfests featuring sax and flute solos that stand as Ghost's biggest challenges to listeners' expectations.

In the grand scheme of things they are a little unnecessary, but broadly speaking there are fewer influences from the world of metal here. Even the more rock-oriented moments lean heavily on KISS and Bon Jovi rather than anything monstrously heavy. Pro Memoria, for example, combines dark and typically metal lyrical matter with a piano ballad melody and strings across nearly six minutes. It’s Ghost's version of Guns N’ Roses’ November Rain.

Following a beautiful, cinematic introduction, its haunting chorus - "Don't you forget about dying. Don't you forget about your friend death. Don't you forget that you will die." - slightly overstays its welcome, but Forge's vocals are enough to keep you away from the skip button. It's a similar (but shorter) story on Witch Image, another track laced with horror movie imagery. Check the line “Someone’s flesh is rotting tonight” with the thought of Simon Le Bon ready to belt out the next chorus.

Detractors may point to the loss of the crunchy lo-fi guitar tones and dark imagery that accompanied the band’s early years, but there will be others who continue to lap up every riff on ‘Prequelle’. The fact that it’s a very different beast to its predecessors is something to mull over once the record stops spinning, not when you're having this much fun with such consistently brilliant songs. A serious shot at the big time.

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