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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...

Highlights:
"From The Pinnacle To The Pit"
"Cirice"
"He Is"
"Absolution"