Review Summary: All the pomp and devastation.
With the band’s anonymity falling to the wayside, Tobias Forge has not only pulled together a release that Ghost needed, but also capitalised on the inevitable gimmick that this Swedish based proto-doom group has been clinging to since their inception. Praised (and infamously regarded) for their soundscape of archaic darkness and elaborate cheese filled Satanic contextual motifs, Ghost has steadily moved from the shadows of obscure retro-rock to quickly becoming that easy essential listening for the everyday modern “end of the world” listener. Somehow, the combination of over the top lyrical antics, an obscured stage presence and the crystal clear production layered over a sound so suited to the early 80s has launched Ghost into realms known only to the forerunners of mainstream rock. With mastermind Tobias Forge finally forgoing the masked, ceremonial montage that walks the stage during any live show, Ghost can move past a wall of misdirection and make honest, down to earth proto-apocalyptic rock.
Four albums and eight years later comes Prequelle
, hinting at a steady evolution in sound that came with each consecutive release before ducking into the safe shades of Meliora
and the debut, Opus Eponymous
. Fairly, Ghost’s sound never really needed to outgrow on the rather gimmicky display sounding a happy arrival to the days of men, but a natural progression on the formula would most definitely be welcomed with open arms.
Opening the new record is a tome of “Ring Around The Rosie” under the title of “Ashes”. Spooky childish chants fill the void between the speakers creating a now typical Ghost-esque atmosphere. The eerily subtle build centralises an idea of tension, like an early central plot to any child related horror movie. It’s undeniably creepy, giving way to the album’s more typical song structures. “Rats” eagerly presents a bombastic 80s rock fest, showcasing the typical Ghost formula. Forge’s vocal prowess doesn’t stretch too far away from the usual crooning swagger found within the other records. The track itself is charismatic, charged and forward thinking while keeping its roots planted completely in the past. It’s Ghost’s trademark approach, summarised into a four and a half minute festival of fun rock sin.
The fun doesn’t simply stop in Prequelle
’s opening sections. With highlights peppering the album’s forty-two minute run time it doesn’t take long to find a few favourites. While “Faith” builds on a veritable Mercyful Fate styled instrumental section and “Dance Macabre” escalates on the fantastically catchy even vocal lines of Forge, without dipping into terrible amounts of cliched gimmick. Despite the obvious 70s and 80s crossover rock that bleeds a misguided Sabbath worship and uplifting lyrical styling that contrasts completely with the topics on hand there’s an air of filler that placates the otherwise darker themes present. The piano led ballad “See The Light” doesn’t really build on the arrangements placed before it, instead floats along aimlessly within the confines of Ghost’s typical and somewhat predictable soundscapes. The addition of a saxophone on the first of the record’s two instrumental tracks does give an out of the box inclusion to a type of music so often pigeon-holed into mundane synth-led sameness, but “Miasma” is built from a foundation rooted deeply in the principles Ghost would do well to avoid.
’s closing moments are of particular note. Melancholy mixes with sheer emotive lyricism, tiring the listener into a lulled, yet uplifting spiritual climb. It’s easy to find yourself simply overlooking the album’s final track but “Life Eternal” creates a circular, fruitful atmosphere that completely details the the minimalist introduction and the fact Prequelle
is at an end. At times, Prequelle
seems almost gravitational to writing infectious elegies and clearly it’s not a formula that is going to work for everyone. With those finding a natural dislike for the compositions found within the debut, there’s little here that will sway you to suddenly like Ghost’s diabolical rock swing. Intuitively, fans of the group’s releases over the course of the last eight years will find sheer enjoyment in most of what Prequelle
is and while the band’s new hymns may not fall too far from the tree, the snake incites a sneaky change here and there.