THEPRP REVIEWS

Ghost Meliora

2015 Loma Vista Recordings

Losing your religion...

Ghost - Meliora

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It’s often said that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to become one of the blues greats. Sweden’s Ghost have done him one better, not only offering up their own souls, but pledging to convert an army of fans in his favor as well.

Such as it is, the Ghost that we are presented with on “Meliora” is one substantially removed from that of their early rough-hewn works. Their evolution is engrossing and their latest chapter delivers their most calculated and infectious opus yet. This time out, they find surefooting in plundering the understated experimentation and uplifting melodies of late 60’s/early 70’s rock n’ roll. Complete with segues, it’s all done with such poise and grandeur that it comes off like a sinister rock opera revival, big tent and all.

But don’t be mistaken, the carnival atmosphere has been shed and “Meliora” is commanding with its perverted calm. A corrupt, darkened reflection of groups like Blue Öyster Cult, Queen, Alice Cooper and Deep Purple, they advocate the empowerment and freedom of Satanism—or at the very least life sans organized religion—without the usual brutish tools of the trade. It’s all a bit tongue in cheek and over the top, but much like The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, the spectacle only adds to the performance.

For some, the campy theatrics and pomp that go along with bands image, not too mention the lyrical gimmickry, is too much to digest. But beyond all that, the music they’ve recorded here is incredibly concise and arresting. Whereas their last album “Infestissumam” was drenched in operatic aspirations, and at times overreaching, “Meliora” instead strips back the layers. It’s the songcraft that does the lifting here—a slickly built Trojan horse that makes their so-called ‘evil’ doctrine easily swallowable.

Ghost truly seem to have found their preferred spectrum. The double barb hooked riff of “Cirice” sounds like a low-RPM salute to Metallica‘s ‘Black Album‘, while the feverish, surging chorus of “Absolution” is a divinely blissful release. It’s through tracks like these that the group prove themselves masters at amalgamating simplistic melodies with bottomless depth. Repetition and slight alteration are the key and when the group hit upon their stride, they indulgently stay the course. You begin to anticipate the return of a chorus or riff, almost becoming enthralled by it.

It’s this sense of focus and confidence that’s often lacking in the music of today. Ghost lay out of an aural spiderweb here that ensnares its prey with cunning placement and deceptive beauty. It’s inherently ironic that a band as bent on imagery has the songwriting chops to make all the superficial seem insubstantial.

Ghost are certainly not by their trade a ‘metal band,’ not that they ever really were to begin with. Their velvet fist is embroidered by organ, piano and strings, rather than distortion and screams. In fact, “Meliora” is quite possibly the most saccharine collection of practical ‘hymns’ written about the most devilish of lyrical content. A bizarre inversion of light and dark that for some will be a near religious experience and a controversial figurehead of ‘hipster metal’ to others.

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