Look at that album art. Do you see the picture in it? It’s brilliant. This, as you may have already known (because the name of the band is on the picture) is Ghost. They were known for a little while as Ghost B.C. because some other Ghost band claimed the name and there was a little struggle and whatever. Now, they are just Ghost. It’s kind of like Prince with the name changes, and who knows if it’ll stay as Ghost. It may change, and that’s the essence of the band Ghost. This album, Meliora, comes almost two years after the album I wrote about in 2013, Infestissumam (and I spelled that right from memory), which was one of the best albums of 2013. Change is the name of the game for Ghost, and the lead vocalist, Papa Emeritus II, retired and there is a new vocalist in town, appropriately named Papa Emeritus III.
In case you’re new to Ghost, this Swedish band is nameless. Seriously. The band members are only known as the “Nameless Ghouls” and the lead vocalist is an incarnation of Papa Emeritus, who is the dark pope. As I can attest to personally because I’ve seen them live a couple times, the band members dress in black cloaks and masks that shield their faces while they play, and the vocalist has makeup and attire which you would look at and think “that’s the pope, but evil”. They are always in character, and no one truly knows who the members are. There was a rumor going around that Dave Grohl was the drummer on the most recent album, and I half believed it. The band members occasionally do interviews but they are never uncloaked and are usually by phone. There was a great interview I read with one of the Nameless Ghouls that was talking on the phone with someone from a prominent music magazine and he was out of character talking about his family and the music and the band, but did not reveal anything about who they were, or where they came from. It was a fascinating interview, and I wish I could find it so I could link it in this review.
The first song I posted above was Cirice, which was released back in May by the band to get the fans psyched about the new album, and this song above this paragraph is Majesty, which is their other single. It’s so intriguing that they are not a joke or gimmick band, and seem to believe what they sing about including the satanic references, but they don’t do them in aggressive or offensive ways (to me, at least, and I’m sure a bible beater would find it quite offensive, but to each their own). Sure, their last album was kind of about the Antichrist, but obviously it wasn’t calling the Antichrist like some weird spell and was just telling a story. That’s what music should be all about: telling a story. I mean, look at the still image above with Papa Emeritus acting as King Kong with the white (obviously intentional color) biplanes shooting at him…that conveys an image and you put a story together in your mind. It’s all done for a reason. I don’t have to agree with their beliefs, whatever they may be, to appreciate great music. We’re in a society today where the general public gets offended by anything and everything, with overly political correctness and social brownie points, but this is just music. I guess that’s not entirely accurate…it’s great music.
Ghost has always combined the best parts of classic metal with modern metal. I have said this before and I say it again – they’re the Blue Oyster Cult of the 21st Century. They took what they grew up with and added more depth to it, which you can hear in certain songs. For instance, in the song Mummy Dust, I hear a lot of Deep Purple combined with some Black Sabbath, and it works out brilliantly. I don’t know if Ghost is the kind of band that would appeal to all music fans, but people that enjoy Black Sabbath, as well as good 70s heavy metal, will appreciate the hell (pun probably intended) out of Ghost. I don’t want to go track by track through the album, and you can hear Cirice and Majesty above, and their other single, From the Pinnacle to the Pit, below. Three singles on a 10 track album is impressive, no doubt about it. In fact, as long as this youtube link stays alive, here’s the entire album.
Here’s the track From the Pinnacle to the Pit too, just in case you’re not up for a full album stream released by the band.
It’s catchy stuff, and it’s not the heavy metal that you picture today with screaming or loud aggressive, abrasive music. It’s the heavy metal from the late 60s and early 70s, brought into modern times. I love it. I can’t get enough of it. That’s my main problem with Meliora, actually. It’s 41 minutes long. It kills me that the album was so short, even though it’s so strong. It’s just ten tracks long, and two tracks clock in at around one minute. The most significant tracks I’ve posted, for the most part, but Absolution is also rock solid. The album starts well with Spirit…you know what? This album doesn’t have any major weaknesses of tracks that I’d want to skip. In doing research for this album, I listened to it three times in a row. I am not ashamed to admit that. It was short enough to do that without putting a major dent in my day and each listen I picked up different parts of the album and listened to different parts of it. The first time, I listened to it generally, the second time, I listened to the guitar, and the third time, I paid close attention to the percussion and bass of Meliora. I could listen to it again on repeat if I wanted, but I have more research to do for the album I’m planning on writing about tomorrow. I’m not diminishing this album one bit, because it is excellent and leaves me wanting more. That’s probably better than releasing a 75 minute album which has a couple throwaway tracks, but what do I know.
I can’t get enough Ghost. I have been a fan since their first album came out, because Ghost has always taken the music I grew up with and added modern influences and instruments and techniques to it and didn’t make it sound stupid. There’s no autotune garbage in sight with Ghost, and it’s just good old occult-infused rock and roll. Comparing this album to previous works, it is clear they have embraced more modern music with clear song structures with their choruses and riffs, but it is not boring. I find that a lot of the music of today is boring, so it pleases me that I can find at least one album released each week that isn’t terrible and actually adds something to the music scene. I proudly give Meliora 13 RUs out of 15, with the most significant criticism being that it is just too bloody short. Sure, some genius albums of the past are 40 minutes long, and it is almost exactly between the first album of 34 minutes and their last album of 47 minutes, but when I think of progressive rock/metal, I think of 70 minute albums. If I did my math correctly, they’ve put together just over two hours of music in their combined three studio albums, so how can they have a concert that lasts longer than two hours unless they have extended solos or cover songs? It’s been two years and I still haven’t made up my mind if I liked their cover of Abba’s I’m a Marionette. If my most significant criticism of the album is that it’s too short, I think they’ve done a marvelous job. The album is balanced, it’s produced and mixed very well, and doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. Keep it up, Ghost, you’re on a roll. If we’re lucky, we won’t have to wait two more years for a new album.