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Album Review: Ghost – Meliora

2 min read

Enigma is a term that has been liberally applied to Swedish rockers Ghost. Shrouded in anonymity; known only as the “Nameless Ghouls”, identified by reversed alchemical symbols and fronted by various incarnations of the satanic pope “Papa Emeritus”. Subverting catholicism, conducting ritualistic, mass-like live shows, all in silver masks (that may or may not remind us of Darth Vader). Ghost are, by most standards, taking theatricality further than most bands. But this hasn’t stopped them from converting audiences the world over, and sharing stages with legends like Iron Maiden and Slayer.

Ghost - MelioraGhost’s success is well deserved; for all the dramatic mystery that surrounds them, their persona rests on the solidity of their music. With two acclaimed album releases behind them, awards and collaborations with Dave Grohl, Ghost have been touted as the saviours of metal.

But with their third album release, Meliora, Ghost remain as enigmatic as ever. Heavy with prog rock influences and 70’s chords progressions, Meliora burns with less of the hell fire of previous records. A concise ten tracks, opening track Spirit sets a mystical, cosmic tone with a retro theramin. Launching into a chugging metal riff, the track skirts a true metal sound with 60’s inspired key changes and Papa Emeritus III’s smooth vocals. This is also true of Absolution; an intro that feels like vintage Slayer gives way to creeping vocals and a chorus that just isn’t big enough to match the promise of that riff. This version of the satanic pope does seem to offer less in the way of vocal power to Meliora. On the whole the lack of screams and growls suits this more melodic release, though on some tracks the vocals are a little lacking. Lead single Cirice never quite hits home, the pope’s voice stretching up to choruses feels a little thin.

Choral vocals and organ sounds reenforce both Ghost’s religious sound and the undeniably prog feel of Meliora. It’s a neat tie and segue from heavier songs. Tracks like He Is are reminiscent of the 70’s; cosmic and joyous, and Majesty springs right out of Genesis and Deep Purple with its guitar/organ intro. Shifting from the darkness, Meliora embraces heavenly motifs with organs, hymnal singing and also guitar licks that call up a gregorian influence recognisable from bands like Iron Maiden.

Try to pigeon hole Meliora and you will most likely be disappointed; this one reaches out to a different place to previous Ghost releases, and whether it will satisfy metal fans awaiting the salvation of a genre seems doubtful. But as it is, Meliora stands solidly as one of the most interesting metal releases this year. Maybe it is time for metal to ascend to a new plane, and it may be that Ghost are the ones to enlighten us.