Friday, June 1, 2018

Album Review: Ghost - Prequelle

Is Ghost just a gimmick? There has been plenty of discussion recently about whether or not Ghost would be popular if they hadn't adopted their schtick. Eddie Trunk in particular has said Ghost is pop music wearing Satanic makeup, and he can't understand why metal fans are into it. First of all, Ghost isn't a metal band. Secondly, Eddie Trunk is an idiot who has spent forty years of his life worshiping KISS, the gimmick band to end all gimmick bands. So let's be honest here are call it like it is; Ghost has benefited massively from their imagery, but plenty of bands have had interesting visuals without the music to back it up. By and large, Ghost has delivered on that end, and rightfully deserve to be as big as any new rock band is. "Meliora" cemented them as the real deal, upping the ante in every respect. That was their breakthrough, and if all goes according to plan, "Prequelle" is what makes them undeniable.

We already know this is possible from the two singles, "Rats" and "Dance Macabre", which pick up where Ghost left off. Cardinal Copia and his band of ghouls deliver us hard rock flourishing with giant pop hooks, tongue-in-cheek Satanism, and enough cheese to make the whole thing a riot. "Dance Macabre" is what set off the firestorm, with its dance rhythm and irresistible chorus, but listen carefully to the rest of the song. When was the last time you heard pop music with that meaty a guitar riff?

That's what makes Ghost so effective; the ability to color across the genre lines. They're a rock band, but they have hints of metal, pop, prog, and orchestral soundtracks. While the 'true' rock and metal people are obviously disturbed by people who don't adhere to the strict rules of what they consider good music (those rules are garbage), the rest of us understand that Ghost is, like the plague they write about on this record, infecting the masses with the cause of heavy music precisely because they aren't playing by the rules.

"Faith" and "See The Light" have big harmonies that anchor the songs, but they also come complete with sections of crushing riffs. This album, despite its intent on melody and pop sheen, is the heaviest Ghost album to date. In fact, if it wasn't for the Cardinal's vocal timbre, no one would dare question Ghost's heavy cred. Other than the disappointing sophomore album, Ghost has been getting heavier (and better) with every album.

The odd thing about this record is that for all the focus on the Cardinal, and the 'rotating' cast of singers Ghost has had in their ranks, there are three instrumentals present here. I am not a fan of instrumental music usually, and I don't see why Ghost went in that direction, since those songs aren't the kind that can fill the arenas that are the band's ultimate goal. "Miasma" is a big, dramatic number that does as good a job as it can, saxophone solo included, but I can't help but think I would prefer another Ghost earworm instead.

Ghost's music and image play into each other, inseparable. A band wearing their gimmick needs to make suitable music, but a band playing this epic. melodramatic rock can't be standing on stage wearing jeans and a black t-shirt. Ghost is cinematic in what they do, and their image finishes the job selling you on these characters. "Pro Memoria" is a gorgeous ballad that captures the same spirit "He Is" did on the last album, but with more nuances in the use of chimes, and more doses of heaviness, to boot. It's not a song U2 could pull off live without looking like fools, no matter how big their stage setup is.

"Prequelle" is the next step in Ghost's takeover of rock. I'm convinced they are going to become the biggest band in the genre, and this album offers up a handful of new songs that will become live standards. Ghost knows exactly how to manipulate their music and their audience, and the results continue to get better and better. I said this last time, and I'll say it again; Ghost has just made their best record yet, and you damn well need to hear it.

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