It has been three years, one Papa, and a flamboyant Cardinal since Grammy Award-winning Ghost released new material to the secular masses, and on Friday, June 1, 2018, they return with some new ghouls, a body-baring hearse, and Prequelle, thanks to Loma Vista Recordings.
The fine art of theatricality is not lost on the members of Ghost (whom you might have once known as Ghost B.C.), who formed in Linköping, Sweden in 2006. Their popularity has only grown to rabid levels with the release of their past three full-length albums, 2010’s Opus Eponymous, 2013’s Infestissumam, and 2015’s Meliora.
In fact, to show their popular might, in order to win the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance, Ghost beat out a list of stellar contenders including Pennsylvania boys August Burns Red, seasoned vets Sevendust, heavy-hitters Lamb of God, and the almighty Slipknot. Similarly impressive is the fact that the band have already shared stages with the likes of Avenged Sevenfold, Paradise Lost, Deftones, In Flames, and Mastodon.
With their star heavily on the rise and their fanbase at epidemic proportions, Doom Glam sensations Ghost – Lead Vocalist Cardinal Copia (aka Tobias Forge), Nameless Ghouls Fire (formerly known as Alpha) and Aether (formerly known as Omega) on Guitars, Nameless Ghoul Water on Bass, Nameless Ghoul Earth on Drums, and Nameless Ghoul Air on Keyboards – return with their fourth full-length offering, Prequelle. The 10-track recording was produced by Tom Dalgety (Opeth, Royal Blood) and sees the band continuing to allow their unwholly holy visual presence to inspire their lyrical content. There is a loose thematic element to Prequelle that weaves Yersinia pestis (the Black Death, to you laypeople) through the glamlicious pores of each track, lyrically, with heavy themes of death, loss and, of course, dark ages (then and now). May your eternal souls rock forevermore, amen!
Prequelle opens with the short intro “Ashes,” an ominous spin on the children’s classic “Ring Around the Rosie.” Dipping into the immortal ether, the band build into the infectious, chugging rocker “Rats,” where there is a kind of Ratt meets Blue Öyster Cult (but with harpsichord!) vibe that is crack-level addictive, massive and deadly like flea-infested rodents in the Middles Ages. In fact, you might try to deny it, but Cardinal Copia and co. are excellent at what they do, blending multiple facets of Rock and authoring a theatrical tale that defies history.
That said, stomping rocker “Faith” will make your hips shake as you remain all ears for Copia’s vocal sermon and one truly killer guitar solo. Next, Alice In Wonderland (“drink me, eat me”) tangos with loathe and darkness in the sonic dichotomy that is “See The Light,” initially a clerical choir that builds into piano ballad-esque verses complementing melodically soaring choruses. This leads to the over five-minute synth-heavy, trippy instrumental “Miasma,” which might have been considered Prog Rock if we were sitting pretty in the late ‘80s, or, at least in the beginning. It ultimately builds into something that Molly Ringwald would love if she was being pretty at prom – complete with saxophone solo. Where are you, Ducky?
Similarly, you can prepare to shake your Aqua Net cans to “Dance Macabre,” a truly bewitching number, indeed. The band themselves have noted an early ‘80s influence here, with particular nods to KISS and Bon Jovi, and fans of the latter will definitely hear heavy notes of 1986’s Slippery When Wet embedded within. Meanwhile, the beautifully epic cinematic intro to “Pro Memoria” is bold, though the nearly six-minute track is a somewhat repetitive, lyrical representation of the band’s visual schtick. Death and dying are beaten like a dead horse here, and Axl Rose would be so proud. (GN’R fans, you got me?) Like Ghost’s very own “November Rain,” the melancholia here is easily digestable with servings of bittersweet piano work and soaring choruses that aren’t exactly the best work that Ghost have to offer, but fans likely won’t complain. After all, it’s all about the visuals, right?
“Witch Image” goes full-on Blue Öyster Cult with Copia sounding like dangerously sweet candy as he sings about rotting flesh and suffering souls, leading the mass into the piano-anchored, nearly six-minute “Helvetesfönster” – which very loosely translates to “Window on Hell” – a beautiful instrumental that initially floats with the faeries before going bass-deep into an exploration of the Underworld. Dante Alighieri would be a fan, for sure!
Ultimately, they end with “Life Eternal,” another epic jam session that begins with Copia as well as piano and builds, proclaiming “forever” more than any Edgar Allan Poe fan ever could! In short, Prequelle certainly proves the technical proficiency of Ghost, displaying for all ears the band’s stellar musicianship – even if we can not exactly give them each the credit their names are due.
Some people will forever be under the spell of Ghost and everything their unholy vestments bless will delight, while others may never fully ‘get it’ and needlessly flounder at grasping the band’s schtick. Ignoring all the visual bells and whistles, the ghouls and the priests, what you have here is a Glam Rock band who preaches doom with chugging guitars and melodic, infectious choruses that are built for arena sing-alongs. They might be converting legions to the Dark Side, but there is nothing particularly Satanic or truly shocking here if you are already acquainted with the likes of KISS, Alice Cooper, and Mötley Crüe. All this said, we are still willing to shout at the devil, so CrypticRock give Ghost’s Prequelle 4 of 5 stars.