The veil of secrecy that had enveloped most of Ghost’s career has now well and truly been revealed. Through a very successful period of three brilliant studio albums, a couple of EPs, a live album and a Grammy Award coming their way, Ghost were and are paving the way for Metal/Hard Rock music the world over.
But not all has been rosy amongst the band of anonymous and masked ghouls. A lawsuit that threatened to derail the entire Ghost operation has all but killed the anonymity gimmick. Ex members suing Papa Emeritus for unpaid salaries and the like revealed the identity of Ghost’s frontman to the world over.
Just as the band were on the cusp of absolute superstardom, things were beginning to look shaky and very, very destabilised.
The new album, Prequelle, is the first with the identity of Ghost’s frontman Tobias Forge known to the general populace.
So with an old-school rigorous and gruelling touring-recording-touriing schedule which has seen the band on the road permanently for the last 8 years, just how was Forge to right the Ghost ship and come back with a new album?
After a rather pleasing first listen of the new album Prequelle, he’s done so superbly.
Forge has always stated he was the main driving force behind the band from its very inception. One listen to the new opus and it is quite evident that it is business as usual for Forge and Ghost as the new album not only continues on from where the past three have left off, but expands and evolves the Ghost schtick in total business as usual mode.
Prequelle serves as a classic flavoured Rock record. It is there to be enjoyed and taken in as a whole. It’s almost conceptual in its delivery and is flavoured with so many musical layers, harmonies and melodies that grow even more infectious with each passing listen.
Infection and disease play a large part in Prequelle which acts like a soundtrack to the Black Plague that decimated Europe several centuries ago.
The album begins with the haunting ‘Ashes’ – an evil ode to the ‘Ring A Ring O Roses’ rhyme which summoned the Great Plague through most of Eurasia. It builds and builds and builds and bleeds perfectly into the album’s first single that aptly titled ‘Rats’. (and if you know how the Great Plague was spread throughout Europe, you’ll certainly get the gist of this song!)
As strong and catchy ‘Rats’ is, I found it to be one of the album’s weaker moments. This is just how strong an album we have on offer here.
The heaviest song on the album with it’s distinct Euro Metal guitars is ‘Faith’. This one would fit perfectly on the band’s earlier albums and is a pure Ghost track all the way. Killer little lead guitar breaks sprinkle over the top over some crunching and stomping chug-a-long riffs.
After the initial one-two punch of the album openers the album takes a slightly mellower approach with ‘See The Light’. A melodic power ballad featuring the powerful vocal range of Forge.
Prog fans, you’re gonna love where this album heads to next. ‘Miasma’ sounds like something classic 70’s act Angel would have performed back in their heyday. Huge keyboards, keys, pianos and keytars drive the melody of the song overlapping dual lead guitars. It is the album’s first instrumental and a captivating piece of music it is. Sans vocals it may be, by the time the song kicks into its last third you’ll be making up your own lyrics and vocals to sing along with this freaking gem! The sax solo at the end, (yeah, you heard right!) is something so epically joyous and wonderful and a perfect time for Papa Nihl to shine during the live show hey?
The album takes on a decidedly pop approach next. There must be something in the water in Sweden, this is as catchy and pop flavoured that ABBA themselves could have performed this! ‘Dance Macabre’ is a nod to Tobias Forge’s poppier bands pre-Ghost. Don’t be surprised if this one ends up as a single along the journey.
And then as if on cue we’re taken down a more haunting and moody road. The sadly beautiful ‘Pro Memoria’ an ode to death and dying and the inevitable finality of it all is a stunning moment.
And as we come to the finality of yet another Ghost musical chapter, the majestic ‘Helvetesfonster’ sails and soothes the soul with a warm and sombre medieval waltz that builds and builds in an unholy crescendo. Your mind’s eye tricks you into seeing visions of a dastardly Cardinal Copia dancing and pirouetting himself into a drunken stupor. Simply utterly majestic.
Finally, as if to say goodbye ‘Life Eternal’ closes it all off with a mournful and longing goodbye. Perfectly sealing the tomb of a musical journey that seems to be maturing with each release. Again, Forge’s vocals shine through with a melody so strong and peaceful at the same time. Oh God, don’t let it end…
Like a detailed and disturbing Hieronymus Bosch painting, there are so many layers and moments throughout this entire album. And that’s what makes a classic album. In a time of disposable music and the collective attention span of a gnat, here is a band not afraid to tread where music was created for the soul and not the immediate hook.
Ghost have delivered the goods… again.