Saturday, June 23, 2018

Ghost: Prequelle (2018)

It has not been often that I can say that a band that I have been following for a few years is about to hit it big, but Ghost really has some hype building around them.  They won a Grammy two years ago and after a small headlining tour, turned some heads by opening for Iron Maiden last year.  Later this year, they will be embarking on their own major headlining tour.  This album released a couple of weeks ago and hit #3 on Billboard right away.  They also have a gimmick that may be losing its luster with underground metal fans, but which might just bring in a ton of new fans as the band's visibility increases.  Stardom beckons at this point.

This is the band's fourth full-length album and probably their most mainstream-accessible, a direction they have been heading for a little while now.  A lot of the Satanic lyrics have been toned way down and some of the songs are downright poppy, such as second single "Dance Macabre", a song which I would not be surprised to hear on Top 40 radio.

Prequelle is also Ghost's most varied release, an impressive feat since the band has not stuck to one single style since their debut full-length.  Lead single "Rats" features terrific Maiden-esque leads and follow-up track "Faith" bears a strong resemblance to Swedish doom legends Candlemass (a statement that I made a couple of weeks before singer Tobias Forge appeared on stage with members of Candlemass to perform "Enter Sandman").  "See the Light" is a microcosm of the album as a whole, going through a number of stylistic changes.  Then we have "Miasma", which is as close to spacey prog rock as the band has ever gotten, complete with a saxophone solo.  Several years ago I compared Ghost to Blue Oyster Cult, a comparison that seems to be becoming more and more apt.  Like BOC, Ghost has not been content to rest on their laurels with one genre with straight-ahead rock tracks, experimental tracks, and poppy classics.

One criticism that I have though is that the album feels a little bit rushed.  I get the sense that the band was knocking on the door of mainstream acceptance and decided to try to kick it down.  There was some bad press with several Nameless Ghouls leaving the band and suing stalwart Forge for breach of contract and Forge hiring all new musicians in response.  There are three instrumental tracks on this release.  The intro is not surprising, and I would not be turned off by an additional instrumental, but then the band throws in another one toward the end.  A track like "Pro Memoria" feels like the band tried too hard to get another "Monstrance Clock".  This would have made a great EP with just "Rats", "Faith", "Dance Macabre", and "Witch Image", but that may not have been commercially viable.

There are some great songs on this release, but I do feel like it was somewhat rushed.  That being said, it is clear to me that the band is headed for mainstream success.  "Dance Macabre" in particular is a song I think will catch on in a big way.  I am not one of those metalheads that would turn against the band for doing so, I really hope they do make it big.

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