Published on June 9th, 2018 | by Justin G.
Ghost: Prequelle (Loma Vista)
Disclosure – I am a complete Ghost fanboy and generally believe they can do no wrong. You’ve been warned.
Prequelle is album number four from Swedish mystery men Ghost, and given their past three full-length albums I try to keep my expectations in check. Simply put: I expect an Album of the Year each time, and so far they’ve delivered. This one comes with a bit of drama alongside the “storyline” developments (Papa Emeritus III being replaced by Cardinal Copia). Papa/Cardinal was outed as Tobias Forge, and more than a few disgruntled former Nameless Ghouls voiced complaints. As always, I try to skip the drama and let the music do the talking.
On Prequelle, we see another evolution of the Ghost sound. What started as simple, straightforward retro heavy metal with a Satanic spin has gotten more melodic, more rock-oriented and more interesting with each new album. It’s still decidedly sinister lyrically, but the songs on Prequelle are ultra-catchy and accessible. You will literally find yourself singing gleefully lines about rotting flesh and your imminent death.
I rarely do the track-by-track analysis, but Prequelle deserves it, so here goes.
1. Ashes – This is a short, atmospheric intro piece. It sets the album up well enough, but other than that it has roughly zero replay value.
2. Rats – The first single from Prequelle, and one of two songs on the album that are as heavy as they are catchy. Very similar to “Year Zero,” which is a good thing, and one I know I’m going to be blasting for months to come.
3. Faith – The other really heavy song on the album. This is the one song that still has the Opus Eponymous vibe.
4. See the Light – This one makes me think Tobias is writing a Ghost musical. It’s a very theatrical, very dramatic piece, and has a strong Melioria vibe.
5. Miasma – One of two instrumental tracks, both of which are the only songs to break the 5-minute mark. This is very melodic, surprisingly progressive, has a fantastic build up, and even has a saxophone solo. Normally instrumental songs have “skip” written all over them, but “Miasma” is a legitimate highlight of this album.
6. Dance Macabre – You will be powerless not to listen to this song roughly a thousand times this year. It’s pure ‘80s melodic rock, and is even catchier than “Square Hammer,” which should not be possible. And the “be with you/bewitch you” wordplay is fun. If the album was just this song ten times it would still be a legit AOTY contender.
7. Pro Memoria – Slowing down the tempo and bringing it back to a theatrical direction, Cardinal Copia and the Ghouls want to make sure you know death is coming.
8. Witch Image – Another favorite, this one is beyond catchy and delightfully morbid. I’d love to see a video for this one.
9. Helvetesfonster – This is the second instrumental. It’s nowhere near as effective as “Miasma,” but it is growing on me. It’s definitely a more subtle song.
10. Life Eternal – The album closes with another “Ghost on Broadway” song. “Life Eternal” is a soulful, tranquil song that just seems out of place. It fits the album, but Prequelle really should have ended with something epic. “Monstrance Clock” this isn’t.
My only gripes here are that the album is too short (just 41 minutes, with 13 of those taken up by instrumentals), and that it goes out with a whimper rather than a bang. That aside, I freaking love this album. I’ve had it barely a week and consider about half of the tracks on Prequelle among my favorite ever Ghost songs. I love the sheer ambition of what Tobias is doing here, and love that the songwriting and musicianship continue to prove the “it’s just a gimmick” naysayers wrong.
There are some amazing albums out so far this year, but Prequelle is a very strong contender for Album of the Year. It’s definitely not leaving my CD player (or record player, or iTunes playlists) any time soon. It’s definitely the catchiest album Ghost has ever releases, and if you’re looking for a good starting point (for yourself or to convince someone else), this ought to do the job nicely.
Format Notes: The deluxe CD version of Prequelle comes in a jewel case (thank the dark lord!) and includes a pair of bonus cover songs – Leonard Cohen’s “Avalance” and The Pet Shop Boys’ “It’s a Sin.” The latter is just about the most perfect song for Ghost to cover, and it’s executed well enough to make this version more than worth the price. If you’re buying it on LP though, you’ll need to track down the Scandinavian release, which has the two songs on a bonus 10”. Oh, and there’s a Target-exclusive CD version with a poster, which I suppose means Ghost has truly hit the big time.
Summary: Album of the year?