WORDS: Tim Redman
Looking back in time, before there was anything even remotely resembling the heavy metal we have today, there was always a sense of wonder that people could believe BLACK SABBATH actually worshiped the devil. It seems farcical now that the simple combination of heavy rock riffs and slightly dark lyrical matter could cause such fear.
Or does it? Simple psychedelic infused heavy rock riffs. Dark and unashamedly Satanic lyrics. An overarching orchestral use of keyboards and organs. Couple these musical elements with a band that not only uses identical pseudonyms but has a full stage show dedicated to the embrace of the cult like persona of their lead singer, one Papa Emeritus III. All of these components create a potent experience, one that brings glances over your shoulder and shivers to your spine on dark nights.
I’m talking now about GHOST. The occult rock phenomenon that has been subliminally turning metalhead’s the world over into BLUE OYSTER CULT fans. The band has taken elements from both SABBATH and BOC to create something truly spectacular and arguably unique. With two critically acclaimed full length’s and an EP of covers already under their anti-papal belts the band are getting ready to release their third album, titled Meliora, later this month. But will it hold upto the lofty standards the band has produced so far?
The opener Spirit begins with keyboards in typical GHOST fashion before the drums and guitar whine into being. Quieter verses build into a powerful chorus that is hard not to sing along with. Later in the song the vocal step back and the Nameless Ghouls are able demonstrate their musicianship with keyboards and guitars being given time to shine.
The second track From the Pinnacle to the Pit kicks in suddenly in a somewhat jarring transition. This is one of the more upbeat songs on the album in a traditional rock style. While by no mean a bad song its placement and the lack of GHOST traditional atmosphere makes it one of the weaker songs on offer here.
Cirice was the first song that GHOST released as promotion for this album and it’s not hard to see why. The song has everything that you want to hear. Led by a strong riff and excellent song structure Papa Emeritus III puts in his best vocal performance to date with memorable lyrics its one that stays with you long after the records been turned off. In short it’s the perfect GHOST track.
Spöksonat is a really short little acoustic track before He Is begins. A slow start with focus on the vocals the song takes a while to get going, the song is exactly the reason the band is often compared to BLUE OYSTER CULT. Despite its slow beginnings the track really builds and each listen reveals something new.
In contrast to this MUMMY DUST kicks straight in with a rocking riff and keyboard interlude that brings YES to mind. The whispered chorus works well here providing a beautiful contrast to the main riff as well as drawing attention to the lyrics. An organ solo and well used keyboards later in the song are unexpected but welcome addition to this solid track.
Majesty continues this trend with one of the heaviest riffs of the album leading into the song. This track wouldn’t have been out of place on their debut Opus Eponymous. Some of the best guitarwork on the album can be found here and it’s a shame that there aren’t more tracks that utilise this approach.
Devil Church is another interlude, something GHOST have used more in this album than they have before. More orchestral than anything it winds down into the introduction for Absolution nicely. Another example of GHOST playing to their strengths, Absolution is a brilliant example of just how good the combination of psychedelic rock and metal can be when put together. This track is going to be a sure addition to set list for GHOST live shows for years to come.
The closing track of the album Deus In Absentia opens with a ticking clock and Papa singing before the remainder of the band join in. Another track that tends more towards to psychedelic rock than metal, it’s nonetheless a powerful way to finish the album with a strong vocal and instrumental performance. The album closes with a choir singing, suggesting that GHOST have much more in store yet.
So is Meliora an example of that difficult third album? Absolutely not. On this record the band continues to show why they’re so well regarded by both fans and critics. They continue to blend their potent mixture of psychedelic occult rock with that early metal sound and produce results that blow you away. There is almost nothing wrong with this album, the only possible complaint is that the quality of some parts of it leave those songs that are merely good feeling poor in comparison. If you haven’t yet checked out GHOST you really need to, this band is going places. The sort of places your parents and priest warned you about…