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God is a popestar - 67%

kluseba, November 1st, 2018
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Loma Vista Recordings

Roughly three years after the underwhelming first extended play If You Have Ghost, the Swedish occult rock phenomenon released this record. Popestar is much more interesting than its forgettable predecessor for the reason that it includes one brand new song which also happens to be one of the best tracks the band has written it is career.

''Square Hammer'' finds the right balance between gripping riffs and rhythms on the thin line between hard rock and heavy metal, a gloomy, obscure and occult atmosphere transported by organ sounds and catchy, mellow and saccharine vocals that make especially the chorus an unforgettable experience. The ideas to open the tour supporting this release with this song and to record the band's first live album on that tour were courageous but turned out being successful. This song mixes metal and pop elements in almost equal parts. The brilliant songwriting can be compared to the greatest moments of ABBA and Metallica alike. This is quite a statement but if you don't believe me, just spin this song and let it grow on you.

The cover songs can't keep up with the astonishing opening track. Eurythmics' ''Missionary Man'' is quite potent with Brian Reed's passionate harmonica performance and Fia Kempe's chilling background vocals. One most also admit that the band didn't choose to cover some of the band's more popular songs and rather adapted this hidden gem into a quite diversified cover song. Imperiet's ''Bible'' comes along in epic proportions with a gigantic chorus and a length of over six and a half minutes. The atmospheric grower somewhat overstays its welcome however.

In the end, Popestar is a much better extended play than If You Have Ghost three years earlier. This release includes an absolutely outstanding brand new song and the cover versions are overall also a little bit better than on the predecessor. The cover artwork is particularly detailed, creative and beautiful again as well. Still, this release doesn't offer too much value for money in the end and is only interesting for avid collectors and faithful fans. Pick it up for a reasonably reduced price but don't waste ten bucks or more on it.

(Not So) Original Sinner - 73%

SweetLeaf95, January 28th, 2017

As a huge Ghost fan, I'll be the first to admit that this is a little weaker than what I like to hear from them, but it has its moments, particularly near the end. Granted, it's all covers (except Square Hammer), but it could have been better.

A lot of the gripe with Ghost is that people think they're generic, boring, and simplistic. While I don't agree with that, I can understand why one would think that, and it's certainly evident on this one. "Nocturnal Me" and "I Believe" are extremely boring, lack substance, and although they're covers, a lot more could have been done to make them a little less dry. The instrumentation drags on, and is pretty mediocre. "Nocturnal Me" does have one redeeming quality, in it utilizes the bass very well, making it easier to get through, even though the vocals make me want to sleep. Then there's the big radio hit, "Square Hammer", and while I think this one is a pretty fun track, it too lacks much effort, and seems like nothing shy of a band trying to score some radio airplay by making it extremely poppy. Now I'm not saying that I have a problem with pop-rock, but it seems way too watered down. The chorus is probably the best part, as it rocks out a little harder, and definitely beats the corny synth line that's played in the intro of the song.

On the other hand, the two closing tracks are what save this for me. "Missionary Man" is what I think "Square Hammer" should have been; it's very radio friendly and upbeat, but it has some killer guitar work, Papa's vocal delivery is outstanding, and it's easily one of the best tracks. The coolest part about it is the heavy, chugging break that leads up to a killer, '80s metal-type guitar solo. Plus, not to mention the female voice that backs this and adds to it. Same goes for "Bible", while it's a very slow and soft one, I think the way they work in the build-up within the first minute and a half is spectacular. Going into it, it seems like it would be very boring, but they save it very quickly. Picture the intro to your typical christian rock song, but then kicking it up a notch. The fact that a band like Ghost could pull off covering a song like that is certainly an accomplishment, if you ask me. Admittedly though, not everyone is gonna dig this song like I do.

For a somewhat weak release, Popestar serves its purpose and has some great moments.

Popestar is fun! - 85%

enshrinedtemple, October 15th, 2016

Ghost has returned with a mini album entitled Popestar. Coincidently, Popestar is also the name of the tour in which they are currently on. This mini album or EP is just a release for the hardcore fans and serves as a tasty little morsel to munch on. Much like its predecessor, If You Have Ghost, it came out after the album cycle was over. Ghost is definitely a hard working band who are always on the road so it boggles the mind that they are able to craft albums and Eps to go along as companions.

Typically a Ghost EP means cover songs. It was a great surprise when Square Hammer was released as a single. I was glad it wasn't some live version of Cirice or something off of Meliora. Square Hammer is so good that you will wonder why it was left off Meliora or you will wonder how they had time to Hammer the song out in the studio. Obviously they must have planned this out ahead of time. It's scary to think that if Square Hammer was a single off Meliora, the album would have gotten even more praise. It would have balanced well with the heaviness of Cirice. Make no mistake, Square Hammer is the highlight off of Popestar.

The rest of Popestar is where Ghost pays a little tribute to bands or artists they enjoy. Ghost has a knack for choosing strange cover songs. Everyone expects a cover of Don't Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult but instead they do a heavy cover of an Echo and the Bunnymen. They pull from obscurity on the last track Bible, which is a Christian song. These cover songs all have Ghosts unique take and are never just carbon copies off the originals. Per usual, Ghost has their own sense of humor and that is no different on Popestar.

Missionary Man, an original by the Eurythmics is almost as hilarious as it is cool. Everything from the harmonica, sexual references and vocal delivery just screams out fun. Ghost is having fun not taking their satanic imagery too seriously while keeping things mysterious and unpredictable the only real blemish on Popestar would be I Believe. It has a great deal of ambience and a decent chorus, but the song just comes off as snooze fest. Despite being a mostly covers album, Popestar feels like a better continuation for Ghost than they have done in the past. Overall it's just a great, success that's a lot of fun to listen to.

Meliora, is my favorite Ghost album and Popestar is a continuation of that sound and most definitely the last we will hear of Papa Emeritus version 3.0 in the studio. A year from now Ghost are scheduled to have a new album and a new papa will be chosen before that drops. So Popestar and the current version of Ghost is coming to an end. This album and tour cycle was absolutely majestic and Ghost proved themselves to the mainstream. They have only one place to go and that is in the upward direction.

Giving up the ghost - 51%

Slynt, September 21st, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, Digital, Universal Music

I never really cared about Ghost, despite the attention the band gets in the media (and despite the band working hard to be mysterious and alluring). That changed when I saw the band live this summer; I discovered that their material worked really well in a live setting. Giving their three albums a few proper spins I realized there was some magic to be found, and all I needed to do was to accept that Ghost musically leans more toward hard rock than heavy metal, despite lyrics and imagery that come closer to, say, a Mercyful Fate. At the same time I'm thankful that such a catchy rock band promotes an antireligious stance.

Anyway, while I'm still not entirely comfortable with the band's output - it feels repetitive and works best with a song here and a song there - I commend Ghost for sticking to a formula that kind of bridges the gap between hard rock and heavy metal. I would not be surprised if this band is a 'gateway band' for many people. Only problem is, they are straying away from the formula quite a bit with this latest release, Popestar.

Opener "Square Hammer" is probably the song that most closely resembles the band's previous material, with catchy melodic vocal lines supported by chugging (but not very noisy) guitars. It could easily fit on latest full-length release Meliora, and I half suspect "Square Hammer" is actually a leftover from those recording sessions, as it's not quite as compelling a tune as what you get on that album. It's feels a bit more laid back, a bit more timid - but you know it's Ghost the moment you hear it.

The rest of the EP, however, strips away much of the act's allure by being less heavy, with cloying melodies and vocal lines that could just as well fit a pop ensemble. Never as catchy or sing-along-friendly as more powerful tunes like "Cirice" or "Monstrance Clock", the four remaining songs on the EP never convince me of anything. There's just not much interesting going on.

I'm sure "true" Ghost fans will appreciate this EP more than I do, but to me it's a release of mediocre songs that peter out without ever engaging my senses. Of course, I was never the biggest fan to begin with, but on their previous albums they have a lot of solid rockers with good hooks; here, things have gotten quite inoffensive and lacking punch. Musically there's not much going on, the songs just drift by, without that charm developed on the three full-lengths. In short, the band gets too poppy for this metalhead.