Oh when the Saints....
Just joking, but it is time for the third outing by the Swedish juggernaut known as Ghost (or Ghost BC). We have been covering Ghost since the blog started with reviews of 'Opus Eponymous' (cleverly linked here) and 'Infestissumam' (cleverly linked here); overall they have been good albums - yes, at times it is like the Salvation Army and their Gospel according to Matthew, Paul, George and the other one, but the music has always been stunning and I mean top draw stunning to the point that you know they sold more than just their soul to him with a fetish for crimson tights. But something times seems to have changed, I cannot put my finger on it from the very first note I heard off this album in May 2015 (the song Circie) you could hear the change in the band and what was an idea that was entertaining but might have outlived its time was once again brought back into the light to be consumed. The only worry I have here is that I may be building it up too much before that fact, I have been know to do this on a few occasions; but the only way to find out is to actually listen to the album, so let us begin.....
Starting with “Spirit” it is obvious that the classic rock/prog elements of the band are back to the forefront of the record. It is all incredible dramatic and you have many satanic images for the church goers to choke on and the faithful to sing in unison. It is all tongue in cheek for me, taking this on its face value is akin to taking Cliff Richard and his “Millennium Prayer” as a serious music endeavour; but even if there is truth in it, the music is the main thing for me and this song is just as strong an opening as they have had on their first two albums, classic solos, stunning riffs and the new Pope is another chip of the old block in terms of style and panache. The second track is a heavy bass opening stunner called “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” and it is a story about the descent into the depths of hell, probably the flight of Lucifer to the bottom of the seventh circles. It is story telling at its best, musically it is the one of the best song I have heard from Ghost and I do not say that lightly – I hold Ghost in high regard and this is up there with their best work. From the opening note, solo, the organs, the bass, the stunning drumming, the vocals of Papa Emeritus III, the delivery that is able to hold the attention, breath and make the hairs on your neck stand on end is just stunning. Beautiful, just plan beautiful. The third song of the album is “Cirice” which was the first track I heard from the song, it is a stunning number that can be taking on a few levels: Is it a love story, is it a plan to turn someone to darkness, is it a combination about both or none of the above. I wish I knew, but it the mystery about the song adds something to the tune. I love that it is open to interpretation and is just another example of a band in full control of their destiny and (so far on this record) have no put a foot wrong. With a string opening (possible a harp, string section or guitars) we have the interlude called “Spöksonat” which is over in under a minute; but it gives way to “He Is” and the prayer to Satan is in full flight, with a storm about being at the edge of the abyss and seeking refuge with the dark lord below. Musically it reminds me of “Forever Autumn” from the ‘War of the Worlds’ album with its gentle prog feeling, but it is mixed in with an epic solo, some towering guitars and the vocals that can turn even the most perfect angels head – the lyrics are the only point which I end up shaking my head, but I will get to that later; long story short – great song with some questionable lyrics.
“Mummy Dust” starts with a rolling drum beat that gives way to a classic metal song and some dirty bass work from one of the unnamed ghouls. The lyrics about being born on a wolf’s back and trusting in a God with mummy dust are as fanciful as ever, but these are a side show compared to the unnamed ghouls who are on fine form once again. The music is stunning once more, giving the lyrics a haunting and spectacular platform to be showcased. “Majesty” is steady rock song, carved in the same style as “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” in style with a powerful prog rock style that very infectious. It is another song about the glories of him who rules the fire below, it is very dramatic one again and by this point in the journey with Ghost you will know what to expect. It is a very good song that keeps the album on the desired path (straight to hell if you had not guessed). The next track is another interlude called “Devil’s Church” and it is full of pomp and grand gestures towards the satanic clergy and much like “Spöksonat” it is over before it can make that much of an impression – but being an interlude, it does its job admirable. It makes way to the penultimate song called “Absolution” and it starts with the happy fact that from being born, you are heading towards you death – it is a cheery number. This was released as a single before the album was released and it is very easy to see why; it is a stunning song that was so close to being the song of the album for me. It is full of the prog glory that makes the band unstoppable for me, mixed in with some stunning classic rock/metal overtones and whilst the story about burning in the pit makes me chuckle (probably because it is true) I cannot help but be impressed by the performance of the band here. Once more I am let stun by this act, this could have easily been the ending track of the album; but that job falls to “Deus in Absentia” which starts with the ticking of a clock. It may have a quite opening, but this song does not stay quiet for long; in fact it start to make its case for (and succeeds in convincing me) that it is the song of the album. It has all the drama that they always have (that is a given at this point), it has that sound which is retro, timeless and new all at the same time, they sound as if they are taking us down with them in the flames as that keep on going whilst the inevitable happens and all become dust. The choir at the end gives the song a final spooky and lingering effect that leave a haunting impression on the soul as this latest gospel is down to a close. If anything, whilst this is the song of the album my only complaint is that it is not long enough.
Well, that was very dramatic and enjoy able to say the least; that have truly outdone themselves on this album without question, from the opening moment to the last haunting note they do not put a foot wrong. It is an improvement on their last outing and it also eclipses their outstanding first album (something else I did not thing would happen), you can hear the way they have improved that they have made to their sound and that they are evolving into something else. Yes, if you are put off by the satanic stuff it will cause a problem or two; but look at it this way – it is all part of a play that they are creating, very much like Alice Cooper and David Bowie. Even if it is, then you will (at worst) bought something that is akin to buying an album of beautifully crafted hymns but these are for the prince of darkness. I know I say they going on about it as much as the Catholic go on about God, but it adds to the drama. Enjoy the songs, enjoy the drama and enjoy one of the strongest rock albums of 2015 - I did not build it up too much in my head.
9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost....
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You can stream the album on Tidal here