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Swedish dark rock enthusiasts Ghost have solidified their name as a staple within the mainstream heavy metal scene. Beloved by (almost) all, the sextet has managed to seamlessly blend their campy style of poppy, theatrical melodies with crushing riffs and eerie instrumentals that transport you to a questionable realm of horror films, occult themes and quite literally a ghoulish atmosphere. Metal has never been this fun before.
The band’s latest release, their third full-length album, is exactly that, a theatrically heavy powerhouse paying homage to the early greats such as Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult, all while adding their own unique spin to it. ‘Meliora‘ is very much a return to roots and early origins. While their sophomore album, ‘Infestissumam’, was well received, it focused mainly on and provided a greater pop-oriented sound to the band. It didn’t show the heaviness that we know the Swedes are capable of as shown on their debut album, ‘Opus Eponymous’. While both albums were key in creating their sound, ‘Meliora‘ does an excellent job of blending the best of both worlds. Ghost are not trying to be heavy, nor are they trying to be pop, they are just writing aurally tempting and experimental music in a scene not so exposed to ideas that dare to stray from the norm.
The album opens with a haunting organ before leading into a crisp, evil riff that sends the record straight into classic Ghost territory, before allowing their new (but really not so new) frontman Papa Emeritus III to eerily croon above the doom inspired instrumentation. Opener ‘Spirit‘ shows that Ghost aren’t wasting any time, nor are they fucking around – this track is delightfully wicked, however it doesn’t adequately prepare listeners for the next moment. ‘From the Pinnacle to the Pit‘ is a true showcase of how dynamic dark metal can be; packed full of huge riffage, the song engages listeners with its delicately whispered chorus that screams horror film.
‘Cirice‘, the lead single, begins to remind us of the, for lack of a better word, softer side of the group. The chorus soars and proves they can still throw in a bit of pop without it sounding cheesy or unwelcome. ‘Spoksonat‘ is a brief, plucked instrumental that sets an ominous vibe, which is then vanished with ‘He Is‘, Ghost‘s idea of a ballad as Papa melodically serenades listeners, “We’re standing here by the abyss, and the world is in flames”.
The contrast between the following track ‘Mummy Dust‘ and the aforementioned ‘He Is‘ is very obvious, a very eerie vocal style is employed, very much like the earlier ‘From the Pinnacle to the Pit‘. This is easily one of the heavier songs on the album. Leading into a blues-inspired riff, ‘Majesty‘ is another classic Ghost song that shows both sides of the band in equilibrium. ‘Devil Church‘ is yet another brief instrumental, played on a church style organ, it quickly evolves from menacing, to an embracing 70’s style melody that can only be traced back to the band’s Swedish origin.
As we approach the conclusion, we are hit with an extremely Black Sabbath sounding riff, ‘Absolution‘ is easily the sludgiest song on the album, the songs chugs like no other on and showcases an impressive blues style solo. Equally, it’a worth noting that it is not the first on the album as ‘Meliora‘ has many moments for the Nameless Ghouls to boast their soloing skills. The final track on the album, ‘Deus In Absentia‘, is simply the final track that ‘Meliora‘ deserves, a haunting ballad that reminds listeners of a stage show or musical; an excellent composition that sees the band throwing all their last punches at the listener.
‘Meliora‘ is the perfect equilibrium of heaviness and melody that Ghost have been trying to achieve for the past five years. The Nameless Ghouls are in finer form than ever boasting technical skills unheard by them before. Noticeable and thumping bass lines complement beautiful piano passages. Entirely brutal riffing is met with wonderfully, unexpected solos – a welcome change from the past couple albums. The drumming is clean and crisp, while Papa Emeritus III is sounding better and better. Ghost have finally found a perfect sound that blends all their positives together.
‘Meliora’ is an interesting listen. While it is a departure from their predecessor, it definitely allows for the band to feel more comfortable in their own sound. Throughout the album you won’t find yourself saying “this reminds me of x, or this reminds me of y”, you will say, “this is a classic Ghost album”. ‘Meliora’ will prove to be a pivotal highlight in the band’s career, and is a must listen for all fans of the band.
2. From the Pinnacle to the Pit
5. He Is
6. Mummy Dust
8. Devil Church
10. Deus in Absentia