I had a vague idea of Ghost before I decided to listen to them. They seemed like a band that lived exploiting a dark and transgressive image that, in combination with some commercial hard rock, would delight the mainstream. When I listened to them for the first time, however, I thought it was commercial, yes, but it was commercial music made the right way. I mean that you could feel the quality. Ghost was a good band, only it didn’t work with me. I liked some punctual song from their previous albums, but I considered them too ‘tiresome’ because of their characteristic melodic style, invariable one song after another. They were in the same bag for me as AC/DC. A couple of songs each time and it seems you’ve heard them all. So I didn’t expect much from them. That’s why I was so surprised by Prequelle (2018). I listened it the other day. While I was reviewing some old music I came across Ghost and I remembered that by now they should have released their new album. I hadn’t been affected by all the hype around it (proof of this is that I’ve heard it for the first time like nine months after its publication), so my opinion about it couldn’t be less biased: Prequelle is an awesome work.
As soon as I started listening to it, I noticed it. It was Ghostly undoubtedly: there were their tiresome melodies, the parody of religious music, Tobias Forge’s voice (too beautiful for an obscurantist band), the choirs … But they had changed. They weren’t tiresome anymore. There was variation in their melodies, original devices that added interest and differentiated each song, a guitar work that without being technically complex (it’s not the place for it, anyway) was neat and showy, catchy and solid compositions that reinvented previous hits like Square Hammer . The rhythm of the album didn’t decay and, when I wanted to realize it, I was trapped.
Since then, I haven’t been able to stop playing the album in a loop, again and again, surrendering to the power of each catchy song. The sinister introduction, Ashes, opens with the hackneyed trick of the children’s song deformed to make it gloomy and dissolve it into riffs that make a perfect transition to Rats, the first song and one of the best on the album. The riffs are heavy, more than what Ghost has us accustomed to, and the hasty but catchy chorus, accompanied by some magnificent choruses and the eternal grandiloquent tone of this band set the mood. Opening with such a powerful theme, it’s difficult not to decay with Faith. However, it offers us again a catchy melody while it’s closer to metal than Ghost is usually, with riffs, leads and melodies more typical of that style. After these first two tracks that fits better into traditional hard rock, the album begins to distance itself from the heavy sounds to bet everything on melody, and so returns to the band’s classic parody of church music with See the Light.
The next track opens an even better section of the album. The beauty of Miasma, an instrumental theme of harmonizing guitars and a WTF moment when a saxophone appears near the end. Back to the 80’s. An from the 80’s comes Dance Macabre too, the best song on the album and maybe the best song that Ghost has ever written. When you start listening to it, it seems that KISS and the Misfits were back to make a collaboration. Catchy like a gum, you cannot get it out of your head during days, and it’ll make you dance every time. Moreover, the fact that a song that is so ‘happy’ in reality is making reference to something as sad as the unbridled parties that people made during the Black Death in Europe adds more magnetism to it. And keeping with the theme of the Black Death, on which the album is based, the next song, Pro Memoria, comes to remind us exactly that: we will all die. It opens with an epic and exciting introduction with keyboards that presents a descending melody that leads to another song that shows a new reinvention of the band’s sound and religious parody. But when you think about what the candid sounding chorus you are singing actually says (“Don’t you forget about dying, don’t you forget about your friend death”), you get same strange feeling that caused the true meaning of Dance Macabre.
After the ecclesiastical interlude, Witch Image returns to the Dance Macabre formula, almost looking like its B-side with quiet verses and ultra catchy chorus. Another of the most enjoyable songs, with an epic lead guitar on the bridge. After this moment of joy, Helvetesfonster is the second instrumental piece of the album. Much quieter than Miasma and with medieval reminiscences, it begins sinister to become funereal, although it doesn’t fail to include Ghost-branded melody. Life Eternal puts the final touch without decaying the rhythm with a solemn and melancholic tone that becomes increasingly epic.
I expected absolutely nothing from Ghost and I found in Prequelle one of the most fun and solid albums of recent times. Yes, it is commercial until enough, but, if commercial rock is this well done… I’m a believer!
Long live commercial rock! Long live the Pope Emeritus III!