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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