Some time in the Spring of 2016 I fell in love with Ghost, a Heavy Metal band from Sweden. The first song I’ve ever heard from them was Cirice from their 2015 album Meliora. This is the same song that got Ghost their Grammy award for Best Metal Performance.
The album begins with Spirit, a spooky song that would be a perfect soundtrack for some sort of a Halloween special. Next comes From the Pinnacle to the Pit, a riff driven sonic assault, one of the best songs on the album. Ghost have chosen to move away from the openly Satanic lyrics used on previous records in favour of subtler messages.
You are cast out from the heavens to the ground
Blackened feathers falling down
You will wear your independence like a crown
Cirice opens with a slow guitar intro and moves on to an epic Heavy Metal riff. If you are not banging you head to this, you better press the stop button and give the album to somebody more deserving. This song also features a great solo, something that was a bit uncommon for Ghost until this album. Every song on Meliora has at least one geat riff, the guitar musicianship has improved substantially since Infestissumam.
After Spöksonat, a brief interlude, He Is starts with yet another great riff, probably the the best Ghost have ever written. The lyrics easily match the music in its beauty.
We’re standing here by the abyss
And the world is in flames
Two star-crossed lovers reaching out
To the beast with many names
The band has set the bar quite high with the opening tracks and unfortunately the second half of the album doesn’t quite live up to that standard. Mummy Dust and Majesty are not bad songs, by they are not particularly good either.
Devil Church is another short interlude track, followed by Absolution – a great song with an upbeat chorus and featuring another couple of great riffs.
As a child, with your mind on the horizon
Over corpses, to the prize you kept your eyes on
The album ends with Deus In Absentia, another track that is neither here nor there, although one has to appreciate the choir signing at the end.
There are two ways to look at this album: on the one hand it really lacks consistency and it’s quite hard to evaluate it when you’ve got 3 super hits and another couple of good songs, but the rest don’t leave much of an impression. One might even go as far as to argue that it would’ve been better to release the best songs as an EP and ditch the rest.
On the other hand, it’s important to recognize that the band accomplished something new on this album: they’ve returned to a more traditional sound and made it a point to incorporate more guitar solos into the songs. There was another, more subtle, change – most songs on Opus Eponymous and Infestissumam are driven either by the vocals or the keyboards and guitars are given a supporting role (relatively speaking). On Meliora, however, the focus is much more on the guitar riffs and each song has some great ideas, even if they are not always fully developed. Ghost also chose a different lyrical approach, whether that was the band’s decision or driven by the record label.
With Meliora‘s release Ghost became huge and this might be the best introduction to the band for someone previously unfamiliar. The band promised a new album in late 2017, but they’ve also done a lot of touring over the past few years and are planning to do more. It’s hard to see how the band will have enough time to sit down in the studio to record new material, never mind actually writing new songs and rehearsing. This is the path they chose when they’ve signed with a majour record label, we can only wait and see.
As things stand, we have 3 excellent albums and consistently amazing live performances from Ghost. The band has become popular to such extent that even Christians are listening to it. Indeed, a few months ago I ran into a YouTube video where a pastor was praising Meliora. He argued that Ghost’s image and lyrics were only and act. However, during the same argument he referred to Varg Vikerness as a Satan worshipper. It must take nothing less than Orwellian doublethink to keep this straight in his head.
At any rate, if you’ve never heard of Ghost, give this album a listen. Chances are you will find something you will like here.