Ghost
Impera


3.7
great

Review

by Dewinged STAFF
March 14th, 2022 | 256 replies


Release Date: 03/11/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Ghost of a Ghost.

There's a spoonful of irony in the fact that Impera, the latest album of Sweden's most laureated export since IKEA, is an album about the rise and fall of empires. After all, the band's top wig, Tobias Forge, has been building on his Ghost empire for years now at a dramatically frenzy pace. However, for many a fan, its decline has been steady and unstoppable since the release of their most acclaimed and Grammy sweeper album, 2015's Meliora. So where are we really at? Well, here's my take: the Ghost we all once knew, the one that carried out dark masses in small, smoky places with spooky stoner doom ala Candlemass, and that later went on to conquer the world with their craftily refined mainstream metal sound that filled stadiums to the brim doesn't exist anymore. That Ghost died in a courtroom in 2017.

2018 saw the release of Tobias Forge's new vision for Ghost, years after all members of the original formation had been fired due to a monetary dispute that ended up in a lawsuit. The legal misadventure did not only expose the ugliest side of the carefully hidden identity of the band’s perpetrators, it also unmasked and somehow killed the myth behind the its mastermind. Forge being the only remaining member of the original line-up and undisputed owner of the band’s name meant that he had then absolute power to build the band's sound, imagery and concept however he saw fit. You may have seen a video of a "nameless ghoul" vibing to Abba, and to the Ghostbuster's theme being played on vinyl. This was Forge all along, once an 80s kid whose nostalgia fever for all things evoking the decadent decade was about to take over his brainchild, turning it into what we came to know as Prequelle. This was the new Ghost, a new version featuring a completely renewed line-up of nameless ghouls and brand new music, which was smartly introduced through big names such as Phil Anselmo or Kirk Hammett having a wicked time while jamming "Dance Macabre" on camera (Chino Moreno's confused face of disgust was edited out for marketing purposes). It presented the band as a very different act, one that had fully embraced the graces of American west coastal rock with, like it or not, shameless and merciless loads of provolone.

With this in mind, it's not surprise that Impera is the exaltation of those values, a fervent celebration of that sound, and an album designed and executed with a "think big" attitude that has been the modus operandi of Forge since he went on to conquer the US through relentless touring. If you think about this album in those terms, you could say it has, by far, met its expectations. "Kaisarion" is a hell of an opening track, and it will sit comfortably among the band's best songs in the near future, once it sinks its claws into the hearts of the band’s devotees. Same goes for "Spillways", an impossibly catchy hard rock anthem that could have been written by Jon Bon Jovi while being possessed by Satan (it really reminds me of "Runaway", those keys, hmmmm...). The two singles that unfold after, namely "Call Me Little Sunshine" and "Hunter's Moon" also work much better in context than when they were released as the album's ambassadors, which almost makes me wonder if the Clergy didn't goof it up when it came to formally introduce their new cycle.

Up to this point, there are all good news on the Ghost front, but Impera really starts to show its flaws on the second half. In retrospect, Something that Prequelle achieved was maintaining some sort of consistency from head to tail, with songs like "Witch Image" or "Dance Macabre" unchained on the later part of the album, before "Life Eternal" brought it to a fitting end. In the case of Ghost's latest, a poorly performing ballad, "Darkness At The Heart Of My Love" and, arguably what is the band's most eccentric song up to date, the puzzling but somehow entertaining "Twenties", don't make a very strong case for Tobias Forge's increasingly maniac idea of what Ghost’s ultimate concept is. In the middle, "Watcher in the Sky" is fired up with a very tasty riff but goes on for too long without any solid justification, while the good intentions of a song like "Griftwood" get lost in the fatigue created by the aforementioned tracks. "Respite on the Spitalfields" is a solid closer though, one of those songs that start on a weak note and gets progressively buffed by the time it reaches the end, spiraling out with a guitar melody that probably sounds way better in Forge's head that it does on the record.

But even with all its few holes and enervating moments, Impera does more than enough to prevent Ghost of becoming a parody of itself. The production is a tad artificial at times, way less organic than the somber, daring spirit of Opus Eponymous, but every instrument is performed with impressive precision by every ghoul, and Forge's vocals sound on point most of the time, save for some grating moments when he seems to fall out of character. The added backing vocals and the meticulous arrangements enhance greatly the album's overall sound, but the question remains if these sorts of embellishments are enough for the loyal sheep to keep their faith on what the Clergy is feeding them.

Don’t get me wrong, I belong to the flock as much as any other Ghost fan, but I personally think that Forge is too far gone on his personal quest to be able to realize how much of the original Ghost has been sacrificed to achieve this new version of the band. His empire stands strong, that’s for sure, and it keeps expanding far and wide, tenaciously harvesting new souls around the world with unquenchable thirst, but it's the core fan, the back bone that carried them outside of Sweden and off to the Grammys' red carpet what is suffering the most with every new release, as the band strays further and greater from what many consider "the glory days". As of now, Impera's reign has just begun, and only time will tell if Ghost’s fifth release is the harbinger of Forge’s empire’s collapse before some kind of epiphany leads him to his former self, or just the one thing that the former Cardinal, now Pope, needed to prove that he deserves his seat among the greatest banger-makers of all time.




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user ratings (314)
3.3
great
other reviews of this album
PsychicChris (4)
A spoopy mix of familiar tropes and brushed boundaries...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2022


28254 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Had to rush this a little since real life is kicking heavily this week, so before I sink, have at it (and let me know of very possible mistakes).



A few days back the band released a live show of some of these tracks, it's worth watching:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHy1POIGkKM&ab_channel=Ghost



Enjoy!



(or not)

Digging: Autumn's Grey Solace - Within the Depths of a Darkened Forest

heck
March 14th 2022


6516 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review dewi



this album is a lot of fun

Digging: Evergrey - A Heartless Portrait (The Orphan Testament)

Anthracks
March 14th 2022


7521 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

totally on par with all their other output. tons of fun and will be a great springtime album

Digging: Perfume Genius - Ugly Season

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2022


28254 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

It's an undeniable good time, especially the first tracks and I am also warming up to the closer, and even Twenties, depending on the mood, but some of the second half feels pretty weak compared to previous albums.

TheAfterman
March 14th 2022


56 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review! Only mistake I caught was Prequelle was released in 2018.

I'm quite partial to this album, it's a good thing to have Ghost for every mood.

Every single one of these songs grew on me, whereas Prequelle had tracks I liked right out of the gate and either grew off them or forgot them. The big 3 from that album are Rats, Faith and Miasma.

I'm also a sucker for a bookended motif, in this case Imperium and it's reprise at the end of Respite.

Wildcardbitchesss
March 14th 2022


6885 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I don’t really think there’s a weak song here, it’s just not as good as what I know the band (or Tobias I guess) is capable of. Heck is right, the album is fun as hell but it doesn’t really go beyond that most of the time.

Digging: Wheeler Walker Jr. - Redneck Shit

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2022


28254 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

@Afterman correct! man, can't believe it's been almost 4 years, time flies.

rockarollacola
March 14th 2022


1615 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

The previous 4 records felt like meticulously constructed labors of love, while this one feels more like a collection of great to terrible songs with little sonic cohesion.



Highlights like Spillways and Kaisarion are fantastic and rank amongst their very best. On the other hand, the songs Darkness at the Heart of My Love and Twenties are easily the two worst tracks they've ever released. It get's a little better on repeated listens, but it falls way short of their previous output.

TheAfterman
March 14th 2022


56 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Time flies

It really does. Even with the delay (this album was slated for a 2020 release), it still doesn't feel like we've been waiting 4 years for this.

I think this one has a stronger second half than Prequelle actually- this album begs to be listened to on vinyl, the fade at the end of Watcher winds down Side A perfectly and Side B really builds to the finale.

Darkness was a grower, and is still likely my least favourite track, but something clicked on the third listen and I see it as an 80's 'He Is' now.

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2022


17240 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

Oh here we go.





*popcorn noises*

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2022


28254 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

I didn't 5 rev it this time!

ScuroFantasma
Emeritus
March 14th 2022


11825 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I don’t get why Twenties got a mixed reaction, it’s pretty cool

rockarollacola
March 14th 2022


1615 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

The lyrics and chorus are where the problems come in for me. I never want to hear Papa say "Hoo-haa" ever again.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2022


28254 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

"Listen up, you motherfuckers" is the best lyric part of the album though lol

TheAfterman
March 14th 2022


56 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm number one, you're number two, you've got a lot of God's work to do

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2022


28254 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

lol that's a good one too.



I didn't know Griftwood was about Mike Pence, damn, he takes a beating there.

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2022


17240 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

I like that song but

garas
Contributing Reviewer
March 14th 2022


7239 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Great review Dewi, greatly shows that your knowledge about this band far-far deeper than mine.



Also:

Team Spillways + Griftwood represent!!

(And "Darkness At The Heart Of My Love" is not just eccentric, it is trash...)

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2022


7484 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great write up, though got me dreading listening to this

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2022


28254 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

I really can't stop listening to Spillways, what a terrific jam.



"(And "Darkness At The Heart Of My Love" is not just eccentric, it is trash...)"



Thanks garas! I referred "Twenties" as eccentric, not the ballad! Not a fan of it either though, they have done much better in the past.



Edit: And thanks Ben!



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