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A Vast Improvement - 93%

winterforest666, July 17th, 2016

I was skeptical about even trying this album at first because I had been disappointed with much of Ghost's previous work such as Infestissumam and If You Have Ghost. I felt that they were hollow, void of feeling and generally uninteresting. Long story short I had low expectations. However, I then turned on the amazing track "Cirice" and instantly fell in love with the album. It's psychedelic, ritualistic, heartfelt, creepy, transportational and maybe even relaxing in a way that only a truly creative metal album can be. The song "Majesty" felt very ritualistic, like something you would listen to while summoning a demon or even the devil himself. "Cirice" was my favorite, the vocal harmonies are gripping, beautiful and the guitar riffs really add to the atmosphere of the song.

"Meliora" also has a lot to offer musically. The guitars provide low, chuggy, sparse riffs during verses then build to majestic, full chords for choruses and pre-choruses. This adds contrast between loud and soft points in the songs which I value as a listener. The drums are really interesting. They're complex enough to be interesting but also simple enough not to pull attention away from the rest of the band. The bass provides a solid foundation and adds to the overall tone of the album. "From The Pinnacle To The Pit" has an awesome bass intro that compliments the song nicely. Papa Emeritus III's vocals are clearly the focus of the album. They're fairly high pitched but in the best way. The singing sounds natural and as though it comes easily to him. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of "Meliora" musically is the keyboard/synths. Often times when a band adds a synth to their mix, it becomes very overbearing and pulls all attention towards itself. "Meliora" is a remarkable exception to this norm. The synth adds to the atmosphere and takes nothing away from the album.

I would recommend "Meliora" to anybody who is interested in bands like King Diamond, Judas Priest, or Iron Maiden. I don't like to think too much about genres but I found that this album reaches out to many fans of metal music by incorporating elements of many different genres of metal into the songs, such as psychedelic rock, doom metal, heavy metal etc.

Ghost's "Meliora" is very much worth listening to and is a big step forward for the band. I'm excited to see what else the band has to offer in the future.

Hollow, gutless and soulless. Kinda like a ghost! - 23%

Napalm_Satan, November 4th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Loma Vista Recordings

I have always had an issue with some forms of retro-styled metal, and Ghost is a pretty good example of what I dislike so much about this new idea of 'traditional metal'. These guys, unlike the hipster losers that are The Sword, clearly know their metal and their influences, and so I can't knock them for not caring about the genre or just appropriating it. That said though, this still falls into most of the same pitfalls as Age of Winters. This is ultimately completely disposable music, one which has a distinct lack of substance.

One issue is this fixation on 'being retro'. You see this with a few bands - it is where everything is so simple and fucking dumb, because hey, 'they hadn't invented the blast beat yet!'. It just reeks of a really fucking narrow-minded view on what oldschool metal was all about - that all there was to it was the simplicity and slowness. Not, you know, the quality and 'motion' of the riffs, the genuinely creepy atmosphere because nothing else was like it, the prog rock leanings of the '70s, the production, none of that. This stupid idea holds back any and all creativity on this disc, resulting in what is basically 'classic rock band no. 9246'. This is utterly faceless and generic, and frankly is just as bland and uninspired as radio rock, but with a outer sheen of classic '70s influences. This overarching stench of soulless banality, of deliberate dumbing down and restraint in the name of marketing is all over this goddamn thing. This hollow turd is about as vapid as it gets, to be honest.

One place this is evident is the songwriting, which is just so fucking... lazy. Holy shit guys, you can do better than this. This is motherfucking Nickelback levels of songwriting - whereby the songs really have nothing to offer beyond what they present in the first one and a half to two minutes of their runtimes. Beyond the choruses and the 2 - 3 riffs per song, there is nothing to these. The songs themselves have no purpose, no objective, and indeed, they go nowhere in particular. They just keep playing and looping until the band realise that they have to stop or it won't get on the radio!

The performances here aren't exactly amazing either. The riffs are of the generic 'retro-styled' variety, but are also completely boring and non-aggressive. They lack the rocking, hard edged quality that great albums of the '70s had, in addition to the overall sense of drive provided by them. They are in fact very fluffy and filler-like, not having an ounce of aggression or mood put into them, or indeed any sort of creativity at all. Everything else is utterly bare bones too, the drummer is a functional timekeeper that does nothing more, and the bassist just follows the guitars. The album doesn't sound thin though, so his most basic role is fulfilled. I know I have stated in the past that I would take a functional but limited performance over a massively technical but wanking and fucking useless one, but on this album the songs have nothing going for them, so any sparks of creativity would have been appreciated.

This therefore is clearly not an album of amazing riffs and instrumentals, epic atmospheres, unabashedly progressive songs or aggression, but of catchy choruses and keyboard melodies. And even then it fails, because it attempts to be catchy not through well crafted vocal lines, easy-to-stomach melodies or overall memorable songwriting, but just through stale, mindless, unimaginative repetition. It certainly doesn't help that bishop bloke's voice is just generally unremarkable. It carries no atmospheric weight or that much personality to it. He overall generally lacks personality, sounding like every retro-styled vocalist ever. And that brings me back to my main point: this shit is bland as FUCK! This is merely boring rock with a paint job.

The production is squeaky clean and loud, as anyone would expect of poppy music like this. Who cares though, really? Why care about this music at all? The band clearly didn't. There is nothing wrong with marketable, chorus driven music, but for fuck's sake, some sort of good or even remarkable qualities outside or shallow aesthetics and catchiness of the most mind-numbing variety would be appreciated. This isn't offensive, just really fucking bland, hollow and dull. Completely sanded down, satanic pop rock that fails to do anything well.

Fails to hit the heady heights... of the cover art - 70%

Jiggy, November 4th, 2015

So Papa Emeritus the Third and his troop of musical ghouls return after failing to nail that difficult the second album. Is the Swedes’ third take, Meliora, enough to justify the band’s high praise?

Not really.

Spirit starts with an intro ripped straight from a Scooby-Doo episode but rolls into some mundane riffing. While the opener is not one of the better tracks it seems to encapsulate the main problems with this album. What made Ghost seem nostalgic and fresh in 2010 now just seems formulaic and lazy. Apart from marginally more mature song writing have Ghost really pushed on from their debut? Apart from edging further towards finding the perfect hook they seem to have gone backwards. More synth, more ‘OOOoooOOOooo’ backing vocals, more bloody emphasis on Papa’s (increasingly weak) rhetoric and an almost complete disregard for any sort of interesting riff. ‘He Is’ is the worst track on the album for this. It starts off slow and light and ends basically the same way. It isn’t just homage to a gospel song, it’s literally a gospel song as if someone removed all direct mentions to God and daft old Father Emeritus accidentally bought electric guitars instead of acoustics. Bless him.

It irritates me because they just seem to phone it in. Opus Eponymous song writing sometimes felt like it was stuck together like lego bricks a bit but the atmosphere more or less held it together, at least they tried to write several interesting riffs. Look at Majesty with the decent opening riff and melody over the top. Then for the next 4 minutes they basically say “alright lads that’s that over with, now lets see how many lighters we can get in the air with the chorus". It just doesn't feel like they're pushing themselves

Conversely, while the constant repetition of their strengths does strip them off their majesty a bit they’re still undeniably the bedrock upon which they build their catchy music. Ghost are spectacular showmen, and with the undead Satanic priest routine evolving into the papal pagan figure of Papa Emeritus III they open up some more avenues for themselves. Their choruses are noticeably more uplifting and full of big fat major chords and their live shows feature entertaining sets seemingly taking the piss out of ‘healing’. Like a bible belt pastor with a fondness for classic rock did a family friendly Halloween mass. Now it’s not necessarily something I’m very interested in (if we’re going to play dress up you might as well crank it up past 11 to GWAR level and make a hyper-violent pantomime) but you have to at least acknowledge the effort that goes into it. It works for them.

I’m not going to pretend I don’t understand why they’re going the way they are, they obviously enjoy playing to bigger and wider audiences – it was on the Late Show with Colbert in America for God’s sake. I have a lot of time for Tobias Forge after Repugnant’s magnificent “Epitome of Darkness” but I’ll be eternally disappointed if Ghost keeps going in this direction. Take those sumptuously evil lyrics from their debut and lets see some more shredding, lets see some metal, lets some damn aggression. The band smacks of wasted potential and I can’t stand it.

Worthwhile tracks: Pinnacle to the Pit, Cirice, Majesty if I’m feeling generous

You Will Wear Your Independence Like A Crown - 85%

Twisted_Psychology, September 22nd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Loma Vista Recordings

Ghost may be the best modern example of the band whose success is owe almost entirely to their gimmick but you can't accuse them of being lazy. Their retro rock aim has divided listeners but they put obvious care into their arrangements and have given each of their full-lengths a distinct identity. Ghost's third album isn't an exception to this rule but serves as an overall definition of their signature sound.

While Infestissumam's dramatic foray into symphonic rock was a big leap from the humbler doom pop of Opus Eponymous, Meliora works as a compromise between the two styles. True to the Nameless Ghouls' claims, this is a more riff-driven album as the keyboards and choirs are scaled back and the guitars and even bass get to shine on heavier tracks such as From The Pinnacle To The Pit." However, the theatrics still have their place with the upbeat "Absolution" serving as this album's answer to "Year Zero" and "Deus In Absentia" bringing the choir back for an ominous finale.

And even with this blending at work, the band still stumbles on new ideas to play with. "He Is" may be the most interesting track of the lot due to its gentle acoustic guitar and uplifting vocals giving it a Satanic gospel feel that your mom will love until she realizes what the lyrics are about. On the flip side, the faster riffs and tensely whispered vocals on "Mummy Dust" result in Ghost's most extreme song to date and the "South of Heaven" musings that bookend "Cirice" give the song a forboding tone that Slayer themselves can no longer replicate.

Of course, this album still has its share of flaws. It is a minor nitpick but the two interludes are rather pointless compared to those on past efforts and their awkward positions in the track listing reinforce the idea of them being undeveloped fillers rather than atmospheric boosts. In addition, those don't like Ghost's vocals will remain unconvinced as Papa Emeritus III's voice is just as thin as his "predecessors."

I don't think Ghost will ever top their debut but Meliora may be their best representation. It may better cater to the tastes of those who feel they reached too far on Infestissumam and those new to the band may find this to be a pleasant gateway to explore what the band is all about. It wouldn't surprise me if they stuck to this style but I fully expect to expand even further with future efforts. Let's just hope the gimmick doesn't eclipse things too much...

"From The Pinnacle To The Pit"
"He Is"

Ghost - Meliora - 85%

Silicon Messiah, September 11th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, Digital, Seven Four Entertainment

I've tried many times. Given it several tries. Ghost's music. It's said that you either love it or hate it, but that simply isn't true. I've never been negative about Ghost, but nor have I been overly positive. Debut album Opus Eponymous was straight through okay and sophomore effort Infestissumam really felt like a swing and miss, containing two great tracks, one okay and the rest just being boring and bland. So I haven't yet become a complete follower of the clergy led by Papa Emeritus - Hallowed be His Name.

Of the ten songs on third effort, Meliora, two are minute long interludes; 'Spöksonat' (Swedish for Ghost Sonata) and 'Devil Church'. And of the remaining eight, half had been released on YouTube and Spotify well before the release of the album. I first heard the album on a drive with a, unrelated to the band itself and for the purpose of anonymity, nameless ghoul. Not playing by all the rules, so to speak. But what I was first struck by was how much better Ghost suddenly were, in comparison to my previous experiences.

The cozy, melodic sound heard on parts of 2013 EP, If You Have Ghost, have in part carried into Meliora. This is complemented by well written and clear choruses, which in a way I've missed on their previous full length releases. The Nameless Ghouls have also 'leveled up', it seems. The guitars on Meliora are clearer, crisper and heavier than before. They are better defined and more focused. Voodoo groove rhythmic 'Mummy Dust' just hits straight in the face, with a feel reminiscent of groove metallers Down. It's also one of the best tracks on the album. Papa Emeritus III - His Kingdom come - somehow reminds me of Mike Patton of Faith No More, in an eerie half whisper, half chant, and the mystery that Ghost have missed on previous albums seems to have been found. Psychedelic parts that can be found in 'Majesty' and 'From The Pinnacle To The Pit' add an extra dimension, interweaving guitars and keyboard licks that run through them.

'Absolution', reminiscent of Uriah Heep, doesn't quite latch on, in spite of some nice guitar work. At the first few listens, ballad 'He Is' seems to suffer from the same syndrome, but when I finally see the light without which I cannot see, the track suddenly becomes an awesome mix of Satanic worship, movie score and cozy guitar balladry. Closer 'Deus In Absentia' seems to take a step back to the feels of Infestissumam however, making a track I can't quite feel. At times I want to hear more passion in the Papa - His will be done, on Earth as it is in Hell. He sounds a lot like his predecessors, even though the production makes his voice clear and strong, and in that, there is no fault. His greatest moment on Meliora is the aforementioned 'Mummy Dust', though he also puts a silver lining on many of the melodic choruses heard on the album, like Sabbath inspired single Cirice - another of the greater tracks on Meliora - and opening Spirit.

Now, one might have thought I'd have changed my mind about Ghost after finding Meliora to my satisfaction, but no. After listening to Meliora, I tried their first albums one more time, finding only that only the tracks I had already chosen as favorites from them remain as such. They simply aren't as effective as Meliora. But Ghost surely have evolved. They've gone from a band I wouldn't complain about having as road trip music to putting out an album I will definitely return to. They've delivered, in force, especially in the guitar parts.

It seems like Ghost have given their latest effort the weight it deserves. Still, some will claim Ghost have lost what made them unique. That they are nearing the mainstream. That it is their image that creates all the hype. But in fact, it may finally be the music making the hype. Meliora is their Number Of The Beast; if Ghost is remembered for anything, it'll be Meliora.

Standout tracks: Cirice, Mummy Dust, He Is

Originally written for ''

Ghost-Meliora - 98%

enshrinedtemple, September 4th, 2015

Ghost returns with their brand of catchy, rock and metal influenced music in their new album Meliora. Ghost took a less is more approach featuring eight well crafted songs and two delicate instrumentals. Andy Wallace is the producer for this album and he captured the essence of their first two albums and put everything together into one neat package. We have the scary and demonic lyrics. We have the pop choruses that easily get stuck in your brain. Heavy riffs and dramatic mellow songs give Meliora great balance. Everything from prog rock to doom metal is captured here.

Ghost are not retreading ground here with this album and they did outshine their previous releases with Meliora. The mysterious nameless ghouls are competent musicians. The guitarists can shell out the heavy menacing riffs but can also incorporate a unique folk style acoustic riff. The bass player does his job well and the intro to “from the pinnacle to the pit” is monstrous. Finally, the keyboard player shines on the very beginning of the album opener spirit. Throughout the album he adds a unique layer to each song without sounding like a cheesy 80’s band. The nameless ghouls craft the songs and ensure that Papa is able to spread his satanic and majestic diversity all over Meliora.

Papa Emeritus III adds to each track with his genre hopping mayhem. “He Is” is the album's ballad and Papa shines with his soothing and blissful vocals. There are many sinister and beautiful moments which gives the album a delightful light and shade element. Every track is one stellar performance after another in the vocal department and papa fits every mood like a glove.

Infestissumam was a stylish and beautiful album that showed what ghost were capable of.Opus was all hard hitting metal but not quite grandiose in the style department. Meliora takes the positives from each and slams them together creating a beautiful monster. This is important because it shows the progression of the band into new territories. The band expands their sound outside the metal realm quite a bit. Meliora’s concept was designed to be dramatic with many twists and turns. It is clear they catered to and perfected many moods.

Some may complain about the length of the album, but it really does its job quickly and effectively. This reminds me of an old classic Master of Reality by Black Sabbath. The light and shade effect that Sabbath used is comparable to that of Meliora. Ghost is one of those bands that is transcending their label of a rock or metal band as their strive for a higher success. I fully expect ghost to trudge on and create even more diverse music as they continue their formula. To me the theatrics and the old school magic of Ghost will not get old anytime soon. One of the most memorable and imaginative albums of 2015 certainly goes to Ghost. While I'm not ready to call this their magnum opus or peak of creativeness, I do think Meliora will be one of Ghost's most critically acclaimed albums when their career is over.

Deep Zeppelin Sabbath Goes To Hell - 100%

SweetLeaf95, August 27th, 2015

It's no secret that Ghost are known for using retro based song structure borrowing from classic heavy metal acts with a dark overlay with Satanic and occult like themes. But every record that they release seems to have it's own unique twist to it. While Opus Eponymous was almost straight, solid metal with a huge Black Sabbath influence and a colder sound, and Infestissumam gave it a more upbeat Blue Oyster Cult sound, this one takes more of a classic rock approach. Without a doubt though, there is still a variety of sounds we are given here.

The songs that seem to use such an approach the most would easily be "Absolution" and "Majesty". The guitar parts have the hard edge that emerged from the seventies yet with the same kicked back feeling one gets when listening to this. To make it stand out even more, they add in a bit of a synth sound, one that Deep Purple would commonly use to go with their guitar solos, yet still following the path of Led Zeppelin at the same time. But of course, this isn't limited to that style. Obviously they visit themes and techniques used on the first two records, this is just like the extra that they decide to add with the release of a new record. The heaviest that this band has gone yet, at least in my opinion, is "Mummy Dust", which uses a fast, and deep distortion, much like one that Metallica would use, and the vocals are whispered, but in a way that seems like it's mocking harsh vocals. It's somewhat corny, but still a catchy tune, with its keyboards in the background to add to the melody. On the opposite side of things, this album gets very soft with "He Is", probably my favorite track. It's driven mostly by acoustics and piano, with soft singing vocals, executed beautifully.

Overall, the solo department seems to get a little excessive, which greatly increased the length of some songs. There's nothing wrong with long solos, but that's not what I look for the most in this band. There's two tracks that serve as interludes which were rather unnecessary, just simple little licks thrown in without much of a purpose. The drums also play less of a role. On past albums, such as the song "Zombie Queen", they really added to the intensity and energy. But that seems to be way less apparent on this record. I found that a little disappointing, but I can't expect a perfect record every time.

The rest is pretty standard Ghost, which is mostly self explanatory. Songs like "Cirice" and "From The Pinnacle To The Pit" use an edgy riff template and softer eerie sounding vocals. Obviously most of it follows the Satanic or Anti-God lyrical theme. If you get nothing else out of this, you have to at least admire the neat sounding atmosphere that comes with this. A band like this, you either hate them or you love them, there doesn't seem to be much gray space. Yes I know some of what they do can be cheesy, but it's still nothing you see every day, and it's all part of a great act. So who would I recommend this to? Anyone who likes retro rock or metal obviously, with darker twists. That goes without saying though, because by now, most have decided whether they like this band or not. But even if you don't, I still suggest giving it a try. Because it's a little more progressive than the past albums.

"Meliora" is Quite Ghostly.... - 80%

sylenthunter, August 27th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, Digital, Seven Four Entertainment

“Ghost” is a band that I have always heard of but never took the time to listen to. With their third studio release, I finally got around to giving “Ghost” a try. I was very wary and wasn't expecting much, because I had seen Ghost being compared to the likeness of "Blue Oyster Cult", and "Pink Floyd" and these bands never quite tickled my fancy.

After the first song on the album, I was pleasantly surprised. “Spirit” opens the album with a very grand feeling. Ghost makes use of some very interesting sound effects throughout the rest of the album, but it was exceptionally present in “Spirit”. The opening track had a very fun yet mysterious riff that I couldn't help but sway my head to. The drums on this album were nothing spectacular, but it felt like they knew where they should be. The bass was nice and audible in every track, which is not something many bands pride themselves in.“From the Pinnacle to the Pit” started with a bass intro that hit you hard in the face with raw tone and power. This song also featured guitar melodies that could’ve been ripped straight from a spy movie. The vocals on this album are easily the highlight. Vocals like these are hard to describe other than to say they were enjoyable. One of the many things that separates Ghost from other bands of their style is there practical use of sound effects. Small things like the ticking of a clock give songs on this album a very grand and almost orchestral feeling.

Although the vocals are consistent and always enjoyable, the vocal melodies become somewhat predictable and almost repetitive. While this does draw from the overall vocal experience, vocally is still where this album excels. With that said, it surprises me that there isn't only one instrumental track on this album, but two. These don’t seem to serve any purpose other than to take up space on the album. Immediately after the first instrumental at track 4, track 5 (“He Is”) comes and destroys the tone and feeling that Ghost set up with the first 3 songs and the instrumental. “He Is”, isn’t a bad song, but it doesn’t feel like it belongs.

Most of this album is very fun, very catchy, and I’ve had trouble putting this album down since I first started listening to it. The vocals are certainly the highlight of the album. “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” is my favorite song, while the two instrumentals are my least favorite. Overall this album is worth listening to, and I’d recommend picking it up.

His majesty at Metropolis. - 95%

DSOfan97, August 23rd, 2015

Four years after Opus Eponymous, Ghost are back with another full-length, their third effort entitled Meliora. Contrary to their past albums, Opus Eponymous and Infestissumam, which were quite naive and flawed at times, Meliora while not being flawless offers a unique occult feeling, summing everything that made the 60's and the 70's great and combining elements from progressive and occult rock to early heavy metal, film soundtracks and rock operas. Of course the band would not just evolve their music, so they went on to realise their brand new looks. New costumes, new masks and last but not least, their new frontman, Papa Emeritus III who happens to be Papa Emeritus II's three month younger brother (what?). All in all the band played their game perfectly and then, all we had to wait for, was the album itself.

Beginning with quite an eerie melody, Meliora grasps the listener's attention right from the beginning. With every song that passes the music acquires an even darker feeling. The occult atmosphere is not interrupted until the album's end, which features a smooth choral part. That's basically great because after all those amazing riffs, fillers and instrumental breakdowns, a nice soft chant is what you need to let the tension die down. There are songs in here that I adore and songs that I see as very good. There is not a single song I dislike, because the flow of music is so carefully balanced that you keep being both enthusiastic and curious for as long as the album plays. The guitars and bass are heavy, crushing, dark and melodic, while the drums provide a strong backbone, a robust basis for the whole thing. However they are not overproduced or compressed. The same applies for the keyboards as well. Ranging from pianos to prog synth patches, they don't feel out of place. The album seems to have that old, breathing production a la 70's classic rock which I love. This is one of Meliora's strongest points as well, its amazing production. Opus Eponymous and Infestissumam, while having similar qualities, didn't quite live up to the expectations that people had from such a band. Meliora, on the other side is Ghost's actual triumph. The success they've been striving to achieve since their early days.

And such a success could not be achieved without their most hailed member. The one that became a legend for the lovers of this classic/occult heavy metal revival. Papa Emeritus III gives one hell of a performance, while his vocal style is not monotonous as in Infestissumam, but it is constantly shifting. Not only his typical clean vocals are the best that he has done until now, but his shrieked passages (in Mummy Dust) sound amazing too. The lyrics are more mature in Meliora than in its two predecessors and the rhymes which might seem a bit odd at first fit perfectly in the musical motifs. Speaking of motifs, there is a lot of repetition in each track concerning the lyrics. That isn't a bad thing either. Ghost aren't a band that I would like to see going fully intellectual in its lyrics, with long philosophical paragraphs of nothing more than incessant drivel. This style, the one they employ right now, fits them best and I hope they carry on with it.

Meliora reminds me of many great albums that I had the pleasure to listen to (Pink Floyd's concept masterpieces come to mind) and that's why I like it. However there are moments when the music doesn't remind of anything else but Ghost. And that's why I love it. The material is much more than gig friendly. It's clearly supposed to be played live and loud. That's one more of Ghost's strong points; presenting their stuff on stage. And with such songs, their lives should be phenomenal from now on. Now, concerning the title that I gave to this review... It is known that Ghost uses renditions of cult classic film posters for their album covers. I can't remember the one for Opus Eponumous and Infestissumam but If You Have Ghost used the poster from Nosferatu and Cirice (Meliora's lead single) had the renditions of Silence of the Lambs poster. For Meliora, it's Metropolis, Fritz Lang's cult film that basically gave birth to the epic futuristic film genre and has become an inspiration for many metal bands like Cult Of Luna (their album, Vertikal, is based on it).

In the end, if you like occult, classic or progressive rock and old heavy metal, you are going to like this as well. If you liked Ghost's previous works, you are going to love this. Meliora is the triumph that Ghost has been trying for since their debut. And I'm pretty sure that one of their next works is going to be a 10/10. For now , lets enjoy the dark soundscapes that Ghost crafted and even if their next album is not a masterpiece there will always be Meliora.

Favorite tracks: "Spirit", "Cirice", "He Is", "Deus in Absentia".


Like opening an empty birthday present. - 20%

Empyreal, August 23rd, 2015

Ghost has gotten a lot of popularity, but I didn't hear anything after their rather average debut until now. Judging by their newest, Meliora, they've expanded their sound a bit – these songs are poppier and lighter with maybe a smidgen more outside influence, which isn't bad. But the lighter and more open sound just serves to point out how utterly rote and bland the songwriting is.

None of these songs are unpleasant exactly, but the songwriting is strictly repetitive to the point where you've heard everything a song has to offer after the first chorus. The riffs sound like background royalty-free radio music that would be played in-between other songs on classic rock radio. They really are like the Muzak versions of Black Sabbath or Blue Oyster Cult songs – no depth, no nuance, no heaviness; just the bare minimum of what's required for a song. I get the feeling they were trying to evoke the simplicity of many old rock bands, but it doesn't work because the classic bands never had riffs this boring – the riffs are not the focus here, so as a rock or metal album, this is a total failure. There's no effort to recreate the kind of virtuosic riffing or soloing any of their obvious influences had 40 years ago – it comes off like what a bunch of modern tech-obsessed extreme metal fans think old metal and rock was like. “Oh, it's older, it must be simple, right? There's nothing else that goes into that style.”

The choruses and keyboard melodies are obviously more the focus here, like a light pop album, which is fine in theory, except, again – they repeat and repeat without any kind of ingenuity. The melodies simply aren't good enough to sustain this kind of repetition. The vocals have gotten a lot better since his sorry-assed performance on the debut, but he still isn't singing any really good vocal lines – and his semi-whispered, droning tone gets old after the first few songs. The only reason there are any catchy moments is because the melodies are strictly generic, orthodox sounding pop hooks, and repeated endlessly with the hope of drilling them into your skull.

The songwriting on this just sucks, frankly, and the band is content to regurgitate stale cliche at every turn. “Spirit” is a terrible opener, with an extremely obvious, generic chorus hook with the title chanted in an obvious attempt at making an anthem. They get some decent parts on “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” and “Cirice,” and “He Is” is listenable, too – but those songs don't really offer anything beyond the generic standard for rock songs, and they wear out their hooks through repetition by the end. “Mummy Dust” is an awful attempt at a heavier sound, with a weak riff and a terrible whispered chorus. “Majesty” opens up with a Deep Purple organ-sound and riff homage that really just serves to point out how enervated and dull this is compared to the attitude and gusto Purple used to have. Oh, and the chorus is awful.

The final song, “Deus in Absentia,” is an “epic” clocking in at a jaw-dropping five minutes and thirty-eight seconds, which means you get an extra three repetitions of the bland chorus on that one. It also has a 40-second church choir outro which, in addition to being extremely passe in 2015, serves no purpose except to drag this out longer. For an album only forty minutes long with two interlude tracks, this is surprisingly dragging and dull to listen to, and it feels way longer than it is.

If all you want is poppy hooks with a Satanic atmosphere, you'll like this fine. But it's really pretty empty, musically, and there's no depth here – not because of the pop influences, but because the songwriting is extremely threadbare and uninteresting, and the riffs are bad. It's strictly surface-level – once you get beyond the harmonized vocals and the keyboards, there's nothing there, like opening a birthday present to find it's just an empty box. You can do better than this. Demand more from your music. Listen to better stuff.

Floating through psychedelic spaces & occult times - 87%

kluseba, August 22nd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Loma Vista Recordings

The controversial Swedish occult rock sextet Ghost is back with its third full length record in only five years and continues its mixture of psychedelic rock music in the key of Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly and sinister artworks, lyrics and press photos somewhere between Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson and Merciful Fate. While the previous two records had more obvious hits than this release, this album is overall the band's most consistent effort and doesn't include any filler material. Despite a clear guiding line, this album includes enough little experiments to sound diversified, intriguing and relevant after a huge initial hype around the group.

Sweden's occult clergy opens with the airy, floating and mysterious "Spirit" which almost reminds me of progressive rock project Ayreon because of its space rock influenced keyboard and organ sounds. The vintage rock track is crowned by an addicting chorus led by charming melodic lead vocals and epic yet unpretentious choirs. The opener represents everything Ghost stands for and still manages to add a fascinating new space rock note to its musical vintage brew. An opening song is always essential for the rest of a record and this one is an instant classic in my opinion.

The band also includes a few more sinister sounds even though this album strays even further away from heavy riffs, vivid rhythms and extensive heavy metal guitar solos. "Mummy Dust" is one of the few songs that starts with a gripping riff and a pumping rhythm section that meets more progressive keyboard sounds. The low and menacing chorus with its creepy piano sounds is though not a far call from the German gothic metal band The Vision Bleak.

This kind of tune remains exceptional and it speaks volumes for the band's open-minded sense for artistic extremes that this track that would fit on any horror movie soundtrack is preceded by the band's softest song ever which is the enlightening "He Is" that could also come from a hippie band like The Mamas & the Papas.

No matter whether the band heads for lighter or darker sounds, Ghost has the unique capacity to write catchy tunes that some critics compare to vapid pop bands but which are in fact a trademark for clever high quality song writing. This is what makes the band stand out among numerous vintage rock bands along with their highly recommendable colleagues from Ancient VVisdom. One of the most addicting songs in the band's short yet intensive history is the epic album closer "Deus in Absentia" which is crowned by an unforgettable epic chorus of sheer beauty that closes a record that starts extremely well on a truly strong note.

In the end, it's tough to say which of the band's three outputs is the best but this one is definitely a good starting point for anyone who hasn't tried this sextet out yet. For fans of occult and space rock of the late sixties and early to mid-seventies, there is no way for you to get around this band and you might as well purchase all three of their albums. Metal elitists might claim that this band gets too much attention, is commercially flavoured and nothing but watered down retro rock but anybody with an open mind for magic rock music should simply ignore the haters and praise this band.