21st August 2015 – Spinefarm Records
02. From The Pinnacle To The Pit
05. He Is
06. Mummy Dust
08. Devil Church
10. Deus In Absentia
Let me tell you why Ghost are hot fucking shit: creativity. Sheer fucking creativity.
It would have been so easy for the Swedish occultists to have just played generic pseudo-metal about Satan, ticking all the gimmick boxes required to sell albums and merchandise to fat men-children in battle vests. Instead, they have built an evolving legacy – a series of releases, each following a recognisable theme, while being distinct enough that you can instantly tell what album it is from the get-go.
Their debut Opus Eponymous was a delightful change to the monotony of most modern metal; in a world that had completely forgotten about occult rock, Ghost were new and fresh, despite not being quite so, taking an idea that was done to death in the seventies and eighties and adding their own spin to it.
Infestissumam took the atmosphere of the first album to a new level; it possessed a greater sense of size and power. It was epic – and I do mean epic – and awe-inspiring, with the choral techniques in particular really adding to the effect; a true hymn book for Satan, inspiring people with almost religious zeal. When it comes to an end and the choir starts singing “come together, together as one, come together, for Lucifer’s son”, it’s quite difficult not to feel a part of some mad Satanist plot for world domination, even if you know Satan doesn’t exist and you’re really just some loser wanking off into your socks.
This religious draw helps listeners feel like they are a part of the music, not just a witness to it, and it’s this inclusiveness that made bands like KISS as big as they were. This Satan guy sounds fucking great! Where do I sign?
Their new release Meliora - Latin for “better” – is different, but not too different: it has evolved realistically; gracefully – like Darwin’s finches. They adapt slightly and steadily. Infestissumam took the rocky sound of Opus Eponymous and made it epic and bigger. Meliora takes the sound of Infestissumam and makes it heavier and bigger.
See, Meliora is much more metal than we have ever seen Ghost before. It still isn’t quite metal, but there’s a riff in “Cirice” that is one of the heaviest things I’ve ever heard. At the same time, songs like “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” feature choruses of such awesome size and power that they’re positively anthemic. Some describe Ghost as sounding like Blue Oyster Cult with added Satan, but there’s a lot more to it – there’s even some Queen in their choruses. It’s mind-blowing.
As much theatre as music – very much in the same vein as KISS or GWAR - Ghost get a lot of criticism from a large portion of the metal scene, but usually by people who take it too seriously. This isn’t black metal; no member of Ghost is actually a Satanist. They just put on an excellent show with genuine characters and, believe it or not, a plot.
Ghost have a plotline. Opus Eponymous told of a time before the rise of Satan, when his followers worked in the shadows; performing their rituals and showing their devotion throughout history as the underdog. It concluded with “Genesis”, the birth of the Antichrist. Infestissumam told of the rise of Satan and the immediate aftermath of his ascension to power. Meliora seems to tell the story of a world where Satan rules all, with focus on preserving his power and preventing his followers from straying from the true path.
These fantastic theatrics are further highlighted in the marketing, with hilarious interviews, ridiculous behind the scenes footage and brilliant trailers for the album being shown on TV late at night to an audience who have no fucking clue who Ghost even are. Beyond that, each album, EP and single has a variation of an old movie poster: Opus Eponymous is a Ghost-themed variation of Salem’s Lot; Infestissumam is a variation of Amadeus; and the If You Have Ghost EP depicts frontman Papa Emaritus II as Nosferatu. Meliora is not quite as straightforward as the others, but it seems to be modelled after 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis - albeit with that distinct Satanic tinge. It may also be my favourite album cover yet.
I’m not sure if this is the best Ghost album, but it’s a damn close call. Then again, Ghost albums are always growers. It took me a few months to “get” Opus Eponymous. Longer to get Infestissumam. Meliora certainly has the potential to grow on me, and likely many others. One thing I can confidently say is that it will be in my top ten records of 2015. Meliora is excellent. Meliroa is glorious. Hail Satan.