Heavy Metal/Occult Rock
Loma Vista Recordings/Spinefarm (2018)
“Prequelle” removed any shred of doubt that Tobias Forge hasn’t been the band’s mastermind from the beginning.
Man, I’m going to need some time to process this.
I think nobody could have ever predicted the huge twist in the band’s career back when they started out as a masked, mystic underground sensation. Their debut album united all the metalheads identifying with thousands of made-up sub-genres. “Opus Eponymous” was everything metal ceased to be: evil, mystical, simple and melodic. With their fourth effort titled “Prequelle”, Ghost has dialed up the commercial appeal to eleven, aiming to unite all those metalheads’ 80’s-pop-loving moms. Yes, it’s true: you can play “Prequelle” to your mom.
Ghost is finally ready to conquer the world. All of it.
The start of the album might not reveal the band’s commercial tendencies straight away. The album starts as eerie as ever, with a children’s choir chanting “Ring a Rosies” turned a sneak peak of the opening track’s main theme in “Ashes” which sets up the atmosphere quite nicely. I’ll admit, the infamous nursery rhyme never sounded so creepy (and that’s a bold statement).
The opener “Rats” may have buried the pop influences underneath all the heavy guitar work, but tracks like “Witch Image” or “Dance Macabre” are clear indicators that the band was heavily influenced by Duran Duran or ABBA during the songwriting sessions. These pop influences are present throughout the album and give it a sort of an evergreen feel. Just play “Pro Memoria” and tell me you don’t have a feeling like you’ve heard it before. There’s no doubt in my mind that the melody which Cardinal Copia bewitchingly sings as he says“Who walks behind… who walks behind” is their “Smoke on the Water”.
Then there’s “See the Light”, which to “Prequelle” is what “He Is” was to “Meliora”. This slow, haunting number might fool someone who has never heard of the band into thinking they are not a bunch of heretics perverting the image of the Catholic church. Tobias Forge’s vocal prowess comes into the spotlight, as he shows his full range in the exploding chorus. With great radio potential, I believe we’ll be hearing it on the air a lot.
While we’re on the subject, I have to note that Forge’s lyrics sound as mature as ever, flawlessly weaving the album theme of the Great Plague with personal subjects like love and betrayal. You can’t help but wonder if lines like “Everyday that you feed me with hate, I grow stronger” or “Many a sin I have witnessed, many a rat I have befriended” relate to his former band members that stripped the veil of mystery off the band and revealed the real identity of Ghost members via a lawsuit.
“Prequelle” also removed any shred of doubt that Tobias Forge hasn’t been the band’s mastermind from the beginning. You can barely hear the absence of long-time members in terms of songwriting, while the new hired guns are more than musically capable of replacing them as you could hear on their latest live album. The guitar work is flawless and the harmonic bits invoke the good ol’ rock bands like The Scorpions or The Eagles. That’s especially true for “Faith”, a nod to the traditional heavy metal sound, or “Miasma”, a grandiose instrumental gem unlike any similar composition they’ve ever recorded.
As always, Ghost leaves the best for last and “Life Eternal” is no different. The song will haunt you long after you’ve listened through the album. It might not be as powerful or pompous as “Monstrance Clock” or “Deus in Absentia”, but what it lacks in power, it makes up for in emotion, making it just as effective in closing the album. The band fires every gun in the arsenal, using organs, choirs and haunting lyrics intent to take you for one last emotional ride.
My overall impression is that “Prequelle” is their tightest release so far, both in terms of songwriting and production. Each new spin will reveal a new detail you’ve previously missed, carefully woven into the forty-minute magnum opus that will leave you dazzled.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Ghost‘s success did not come from the shocking image, celebrities wearing their shirts, controversial lyrics, devil worship or what not. The secret of their success is the quality of songwriting that has constantly been improving since day zero. Tobias Forge is one of the most talented musicians out there and he leaves a part of his soul in every song and every performance, making them his Horcruxes. That’s something you can feel and not something you can polish in the studio. “Prequelle” emphasizes this personal, human moment in their songwriting, which is what makes this album immediately stand out from their previous works.
In this day and age when everyone is screaming “rock is dead,” we need a band like Ghost to reassure the older generations that not everything is lost and that there are still rock bands that can play arenas and stadiums. But more importantly, we need a band that will educate them younglings and teach them the real values that make this genre immortal, even if it means dabbling in pop. The fact that I’m still not sure who will top my annual best albums list in the same year Judas Priest published their finest work in decades is the testament to this album’s quality. This only goes to show Ghost are finally ready to stand toe to toe with the giants.
Reviewed by Jovan Ristić
04. See The Light
06. Dance Macabre
07. Pro Memoria
08. Witch Image
10. Life Eternal