Review: Ghost’s Meliora
The divisive Swedish masters of occult rock return with their third album. Virgo triumphat reditum Papa Emeritus!
Full disclosure: I’m a huge Ghost fan. I loved Opus Eponymous and had difficulty not listening to it for weeks. I loved Infestissumam and had trouble falling asleep several nights in a row because the choruses were so damn catchy. Whatever Ghost is selling, I’m buying (except this). But let’s be honest: given Ghost’s wide-reaching popularity, this album has already been covered, or soon will be, by just about every hard rock and metal news outlet out there, using all your favorite adjectives & descriptors like “grimy,” “triumphant,” “vintage-flavored,” “soaring,” “crunchy,” “gothic-tinged,” “return-to-form,” etc., ad nauseum.
Some will champion Ghost’s bold new approach. Some will rue the lack of involvement from Dave Grohl, Jesus of Music. Others will take a vast look at the state of heavy music today and type up lengthy diatribes on what a band like Ghost does or doesn’t mean for music as a whole, and how they may or may not be a milestone/warning sign on the imminent ascent/descent of artistic merit for popular music in the decades to come.
Fuck all that. I’m taking a different approach with the new Meliora (Latin for “better”) and giving you my own unique perspective on how each track in this album sounds upon first listen.
Spirit – The intro to this song makes me want to rummage through my giant box of Halloween stuff and try on masks from my childhood. Sounds like 1980s-era Ozzy Osbourne and several vintage keyboard enthusiasts wrote an homage to old Hammer horror films.
From the Pinnacle to the Pit – The filthy bass tone feels like being slapped in the face with a fat, oily sausage. In a good way. A lost Mercyful Fate song minus the ridiculous cartoon falsetto vocals, and written specifically to get people at concert halls swaying and singing along.
Cirice – Sounds very much like Ghost’s take on the Hellraiser theme as an opening, plus a thumping rhythm section that amps up a slightly morose chorus. Contains a keyboard solo and break straight out of Castlevania. Very interesting choice for a single ahead of the album’s release.
Spöksonat – Holy shit there’s a harp in here! Also I got a whiff of campfire while listening to this instrumental interlude and it kinda makes me want to be an 18th century woodcarving merchant in Austria. Guten morgen, Toilette der Hölle. Möchten Sie mein holz handwerk zu kaufen?
He Is – Ahh yes, let’s slow it down a bit with a ballad for Satan… yep there’s a void reference, too. Ooh man those key changes. This is what Journey would sound like if they were trapped in an underground cathedral for a month and forced to write a worship song.
Mummy Dust – Yeah let’s turn that gain back up again for a heavier mid-paced thrasher. This has a perfect old-school headbanging riff with sneering vocals (!) and big, bombastic choir/orchestra stabs that belong in a Dio stage show. Definitely the standout song so far. Makes you want to stand on a castle turret in a lightning storm.
Majesty – “Hey dad check out this song, it’s got that 70s vibe you say all the bands today lack!” Okay it’s not quite that retro, but this is the most classic rock-sounding of the bunch so far, but still has that smooth, mellow Ghost chorus you wont find in other brands… I mean bands. Sounds the most like a track from Infestissumam.
Devil Church – There’s that Castlevania church organ vibe again, mixed with some huge, Broadway-style choirs. Again, in a good way. Sounds like the instrumental ending number of a musical, if the musical were about procreating the Antichrist.
Absolution – Oh yes, back to the heavy. Snaking minor keys and mocking, coaxing vocals that seem tailor-made to get an entire venue singing along in unison. The piano accents in this song fit perfectly. I can see this song as a cheesy mid-80s MTV video played only after 2AM and centered around an enormous overlit stage with a huge grand piano on it.
Deus In Absentia – The sound of a (monstrance) clock returns for the album closer, containing punchy staccato verses and surprisingly upbeat choruses… at least at first, before the darkly burbling synths and gorgeous live choir play us out with a final hymn to an absence of god.
In short, if you’re a fan of Ghost, you’ll find a lot to like in Meliora. Not every track is a neckbreaking slammer, nor does it need to be, and that variation is what makes the album a great listen. Thanks to some serious songwriting talent, Papa Emeritus III and his Nameless Ghouls maintain their unique sound while continuing to branch out and (tastefully) expand their style repertoire in a way that both keeps fans on the hook and attracts newcomers to the cult of the black robes.
Meliora also has the honor of (anti)christening our new rating system.
4.5/5 Toilets Ov Hell
Meliora is available today from Loma Vista Recordings. Stream the full album here.