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Ghost - Prequelle

Label: Loma Vista
Format: Download
Released: 2018
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 9.5/10


So, there’s a saxophone solo.
Halfway through the instrumental track, “Miasma,” you’ll find yourself thinking, “Gosh, this is really 80s-sounding; the only thing that’s missing is some sax wailing.” And right at that moment, sure enough, the shrill sax solo from Foreigner’s “Urgent” (close enough, at least) will kick in, presumably played by the shirtless muscle guy from The Lost Boys movie. The sax never rears its hole again on this album, but dammit if it isn’t worked perfectly here.
That song leads to “Danse Macabre,” the incredibly catchy second single from “Prequelle,” and you’re certain now that your music player has skipped from Ghost’s new album over to the “Vision Quest” soundtrack. It’s so 80s, that while it plays, you’ll suddenly find yourself in a montage scene, trying on silly hats with your best friend at the mall.

 

The ghost of Ghost’s heavy past is still present on this record in the guitar tone, and most prominently in the excellent, scathing tune, “Faith.” But Tobias Forge, aka all of the incarnations of Papa Emeritus, the driving creative boss behind this outfit, is at his best with works of theatrical and dramatic depth. This has been increasingly evident with each new Ghost release - - including the 2016 Popestar EP, but peaking with the sublime classics, “Cirice” and “He Is,” on their 2015 full-length, “Meliora.” His mastery of the ham is on full display on “Prequelle” with the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Theme”-reminiscent, instant-classic “Pro Memoria,” awkward chorus and all. This song is unbelievably good - - and stuck in my head right now - - and its main melody is echoed in the record’s second instrumental track, the fabulous, “Helvetesfönster” (which either translates to “Hell Window” or is the preferred typeset font of Lucifer). The aforementioned songs are all wonderful, but I can’t talk “Prequelle” without “Rats,” the first single. . . It’s far catchier, heavier, and more satisfying than “Danse Macabre,” with a riff to make George Lynch salivate and a harpsichord part to ignite the mosh pit (how often can you say that?). The special edition of the album is worth your while for the outstanding cover of the Pet Shop Boys’ “It’s a Sin.” Papa’s voice is absolutely perfect for this song. I greatly enjoy the original version (sue me), but Ghost breathe new Metal life into it to create something amazing - - and also stuck in my head right now, alongside “Pro Memoria.” The special edition also includes a decent cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Avalanche.” This is an easy album to listen to in its entirety; you’ll put on track one, and before you know it, you’re at the final song, the lovely “Life Eternal.”

The Satanic lyrics of Ghost’s past have also diminished further with each new Ghost record, and that trend continues on “Prequelle.” Lucifer isn’t forgotten here, but he’s a minor character behind their main focus: Death. A Metal band with lyrics about death? Really? Yes, but Forge’s approach here is largely more humanistic and more relatable, references to rotting flesh in “Witch Image” notwithstanding.

So, getting to the point, I’d say that “Meliora” remains the high watermark of Ghost releases, but this is probably the second-best thing they’ve done. “Prequelle” is a marvelous next chapter in the saga of Papa and the Nameless Ghouls. There’s no dip in quality or lowering of their high standards here at all; this album will prove to be a major event in the Metal world. I suspect that the lighter, Pop-adjacent catchiness (and that fucking saxophone) might cause a few longtime Metal fans to bail, but the excellence and accessibility of the music will almost certainly deepen the love for most of their devoted following, and will garner them a far larger audience of new fans as well. Ghost’s morningstar continues to be ascendant; and with this record in their catalog, they’re poised to be this generation’s Iron Maiden or Metallica or Led Zeppelin. I predict - - and kinda hope - - that their next outing will be a concept album or a Rock Opera. Whatever it is, I already can’t wait.

 
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