Tobias Forge — ahem, Papa Emeritus III — and his band of ghouls continue their metal deception and push humanity further and further into darkness with their third LP, Meliora.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and appreciate that album art…
Done? Okay, let’s go!
Ghost’s evolution is one of the more interesting stories in the music scene. These guys hit the market hard, pumping out “Satanic” heavy rock with a little gimmick attached. Whether the band’s anonymity or music has more weight in their popularity is up to the listener. Either way, the showmanship would ultimately falter at some point, but Ghost keeps coming back with hard hitting, catchy, fun material. I will even go as far to say they will be the next big thing in rock, even with the whole Satan nonsense.
The key to this success is their listener friendly approach to metal. I say “listener friendly” because melody, harmony, and 70’s style vocals are not exactly by-the-books metal fashion. Their debut, Opus Eponymous, boasted the band’s heavier side, while still holding onto Blue Oyster Cult-isms like “Ritual” and “Elizabeth.” Then, their sophomore performance, Infestissumam, added symphonic, poppy elements for wider appeal. It worked. And, their fan base grew. You and I both know metal bands who broaden their sound are not exactly “praised” in the metal community. Yet, as I said, it worked. Ghost’s 2015 release, Meliora, combines these styles into their strongest effort yet, a complete, fun, consistent compilation of Satanic pop metal. If that’s not an oxymoron, I don’t know what is.
We open with “Spirit,” an anthem that does well to introduce the style and overarching concept of the band. I’ve noticed, throughout Ghost’s discography, a Nietzschen concept of Godlessness, not purely Satanic as critics are so quick to point out. Of course, their message and lyrical landscapes are overwhelmingly Satanic, but within all the showy, creepiness lies a conceptual progression. Ghost’s overarching message lays a path, progressing past Opus[‘] prophetic doom and Infestissuman[‘s] anti-Christ possession. “Spirit,” describes the world without God, utilizing choirs and symphonic elements to really drive that point home. You won’t find any hope in this record, but by God — pun intended — will you feel pleasurably overwhelmed.
Although mostly guitar driven — check out “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” for riffage gold — the instrumentals take an early step back in favor of melodious, almost poppy verses and choruses. Album single, “Cirice,” which is (not surprising) the album highlight, has goose bumps written all over it. Stylistically complex, the track moves from a Sabbath-esque riff to a gorgeous chorus reflecting on the inner passion of humanity. As usual, Papa’s vocals are hopeful, yet sinister and contribute to the unpredictable instrumentation:
Now there is nothing between us
From now our merge is eternal
Can’t you see that you’re lost?
Can’t you see that you’re lost without me?
-Ghost, Meliora, “Cirice”
The record then reaches poppy heights in the Abba ode, “He Is.” Yes, you read that right. Abba ode. This is probably the only love song to Satan in existence. If not for the lyrics, this track could very well stand in the U.S. charts as an allusion to the ol’ 70’s Swedish pop movement. It’s hard not to appreciate the risk the band took with this track. I mean, let’s face it, metalheads aren’t exactly known for accepting pop anthems from their idols.
Don’t confuse ambition with dumbed down songwriting, however, because Meliora does not lack for heaviness. “Majesty,” “Absolution,” and “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” each feature enough driving riffs and general badassery to make even the most skeptical headbanger nod their head. What separates Meliora’s songwriting from the band’s preceding performances is consistent variety. Each track can stand on its own, but meld together to give the album a distinct identity.
Meliora is the product of an experienced outfit. From the mature experimentation to the surprisingly catchy songwriting, Ghost continues their dominance over the metal industry. I think it’s safe to say this is an Album of the Year contender.
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