Over the last few years, Ghost have made a big splash on the world stage. A larger than life, theatrical hard rock/metal band led by charismatic front man Tobias Forge playing various versions of a satanic pope known as Papa Emeritus. Ghost are renowned for their spectacular stage shows but have also earned a reputation as one of the best hard rock acts around today. The band has released three studio albums so far, each one more like a film release than a record release; Forge has conceived and directed everything from character creation to cinematography. It was recently announced the band would be releasing their fourth album ‘Prequelle’ and fans have been keenly following details excitedly as they are released. Forge has announced that the three previous popes are dead and that his new character of Cardinal Copia would be leading the band. According to a recent press release, ‘Prequelle’ the plague, the apocalypse and the dark ages, as well as a snapshot of the world we live in. One listen and the theme of the modern world falling to the Black Plague comes to the fore immediately, woven amongst the bands usual themes of satanic rebellion and anti-redemption. The first track Ashes is a spooky and atmospheric instrumental introduction that really sets the tone. Hammer horror-esque music plays as children creepily sing the full version of ring-around-the-rosey. It is deeply unsettling and immediately introduces the plague concept effectively.
The album launches into the already released first single Rats. This single has quickly become popular for a reason. It is a metal tinged hard rock track full of energy that you can rock along to, the melodic singing of Forge softening the blow of some pretty dark lyrics. This is one of the best Ghost tracks yet. They have really pinpointed what they do best and ran with it. The music is played well, not to complicated but kept interesting with tempo changes and some real solid guitar work. Immediately a high standard is set and the next track does. Not disappoint. Faith is darker and heavier with a very traditional 80s metal feel. The chorus lightens up musically with a more rock sound, and the lyrics have an anti-religious theme Ghost are known for. Some excellent guitar work really drives this track and grabs your attention. The band may be known for theatrics but they once again prove they are some excellent musicians. This track will really excite fans who loved the heavier sound of the last album.
Next up we have See The Light and fittingly we are led into the song a church organ backing up what sounds like a heavenly choir. Then a more traditional piano kicks in followed by the guitars playing a slow but heavy rhythm that brings to mind a power ballad. The song makes use of the choir again during the chorus as Forge’s powerful voice sings lyrics such as “every day that you feed me with hate I grow stronger”. Ghost are excellent at really bringing framing deep, dark lyrics with catchy tunes. This song deface Italy has an 80s power ballad feel but in the best way possible. There is a synth sound throughout the track that is almost reminiscent of a Keytar, and somehow this all works so well. A good, solid track that acts as a thematic bridge leading into Miasma. We here the church organ again but there is a crackly, lo-vibe tinge to it. Then some slow, heavy guitars kick in backed up by a pounding drum beat. This is another slow tempo song, similar to the previous song but with more of a traditional metal tinge. This track is an instrumental with some real attention grabbing guitar solos. The synths have that 80s sound again but with a heavier feel, and this track really rocks out. This band is very good at blending elements that are a bit different into some well composed music. Then it happens. Saxaphone solo! I don’t know how the band makes it work but they do in a really fun way.
This more dance-inducing feel continues into the next track, the second single Danse Macabre. This track is pure hard rock, and Forge’s past in the genre really comes to the fore. This has a more modern feel and a faster tempo, being one of the catchiest tracks on the album. Very high energy that makes you want to dance, with lyrics about people dancing and, well, hooking up as they realise they are dying. This is the highlight of the album, and one of the better tracks they have released. Not as heavy as some previous fair, but I feel this one would be amazing to see performed live. A symphonic intro leads us into the ballad Pro Memoria, which has a mournful tone rounded out by what sound like a violin. Soft piano starts and the tone is quite heavy, despite the softer sound. Lyrics sing of Lucifer, death and people waiting to die. Heavier guitars intersperse themselves with that church organ sound that is the bands trademark. This is a nice tonal change from the previous couple of songs. This seems like a simple, soft ballad on the surface but forge is excellent at exploiting the mood. This track really punches you in the heart.
Witch Image brings it back around to the rock sound Ghost are known for. This song is more like their earlier stuff, but more fine-tuned. Very much a rock song without the softer elements. There are power metal-tinged guitar solos with a rock edge and the whole song is more upbeat. Forge’s voice really gets a work out on this track, really proving himself as a talented vocalist and not just a showman. Then things take a bit of a strange turn. Helvensfonster is another instrumental and feels like an intermission almost. There is an 80s horror movie feel to the music, with a synth sound that almost sounds flute like. Then the heaviness kicks in. Power metal guitars kick in with an epic feel, like you are in a battle almost. Epic 80s power guitar and synth battle in the style of Europe or Journey. The song then takes on a very sombre, mournful feel with a howling wind sound interspersing a very folkish, medieval sound. Then the church bells chime. As the themes get darker so does the music, and you can feel yourself being drawn in more and more.
The last track is the aptly named Life Eternal. Piano plays over mournful, balladic singing. There is almost the feel of a love song at first listen, but of course the song is about the inevitable conclusion. Death. The music and vocals sound soft and sweet and lull you into a a slower mood. There are some heavier guitars that pick up the pace and there is an epic, almost redemptive feel. Very catchy, despite the almost nihilistic lyrical content. The drums really stand out on this track, the gentle but marching feel drawing the whole album to a natural close. This is a song you can sing along to. It really finishes the album on a high, and is another track that would be really exciting to see live. Overall, this album prove why Ghost are as popular and well respected as they are. They show they are more than just a stage show with each song. Yet the whole album weaves together thematically so well you become excited for the visuals that will inevitably follow. They do just as well, if not better, than the last album ‘Meliora’ which is a big feat. Fans of Ghost will love this album and newcomers to the band will find something to love and draw them in to the existing story. Musically one of the best rock/metal albums released this year and I don’t say that lightly. My only criticism is the short length of the album. They really lock down the Ghost sound and refine it. Now all we can do is pray to Cardinal Copia that they tour here.
Pre-order your copy of ‘Prequelle’ HERE!