Ghost have been making waves, not just in the metal scene, but all over the music industry. This has not been without good reason. The band’s identities are hidden behind masks and costumes, the band’s doom/neo-classic 70s metal sound harkens back to the heydays of Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and Blue Oyster Cult. It makes one wonder why nobody thought of this before. “A return-to-roots sound in a scene that desperately needed it? Why, that’s genius!” people would scream and yell as they soak up the brilliance that is the Swedish metal band Ghost. There is yet more brilliance to be found in their newest album, Meliora.
Just as the band underwent an aesthetical overhaul (Papa Emeritus II ‘replacing’ Papa Emeritus III and the Nameless Ghouls donning new outfits), Meliora is a sonic overhaul in an exceptionally positive direction. Ghost have always toyed with a distinctly macabre atmosphere in their work, a signature of their occultist personalities. This miasma has largely remained, just like the occult, satanic lyrics. But the sound is recognisably heavier, preferring the kinetic overdrive of guitars to the stripped back psalms of the past. Right out of the gate with the album opener, ‘Spirit’, it’s clear that this album means serious business. We get catapulted right into ‘From The Pinnacle To The Pit’ and its catchy hooks. ‘Cirice’ is right around the corner as a sure-to-be fan favourite with its subtlety and mischievous dread, a definite winner at a live show. ‘Mummy Dust’, ‘Majesty’ provide yet more mysterious thrills and heavy-duty guitar in the second half of the album. The interludes that are encased between songs make for appropriate set-ups for following tracks, the lonesome harp in ‘Spoksonat’ leading into the gorgeous acoustic number ‘He Is’ and ‘Devil Church’ leading into ‘Absolution’, perhaps the album’s very best track.
Meliora’s production is perfect. Every instrument is clearly, cleanly audible, never too loud or too quiet, and it’s so glorious to hear a good bass sound. Metal albums sometimes criminally omit the bass guitar – I’m looking at you ‘…And Justice For All’. The Nameless Drummer Ghoul has been consistently excellent in serving as the integral backbone and excels here yet again as a companion piece to the weird and wonderful compositions. The keys, as the instigators of Ghost’s eerie atmosphere, have a very frontal sound and deservedly so.
This album is a masterpiece. Yes, that word is oft used as a knee-jerk reaction of mania and hysteria, but Ghost has a special brand of musical macabre and it was only a matter of time before they unravelled something truly special. Moreover, Ghost’s cult of followers will only grow as the new sound welcomes those that had previously been turned off by their more simplistic sound. Fittingly, Meliora itself means “the pursuit of better”. It looks like Ghost have reached that mark.