Ghost - Prequelle
Loma Vista Recordings
Classic/Pop Rock
10 songs (41:43)
Release year: 2018
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Four albums in, the fan backlash against Tobias Forge and his not so merry bunch of men has come and gone, but seems to be brewing again after recent media reports of internal lawsuits. Following on from this strife, it's hard to escape the fact that Prequelle is nowhere near as strong as 2015's Meliora and is the lightest Ghost album to date, all but leaving behind the classic heavy metal influences from earlier in the band's discography. Indeed, Prequelle all but ditches the metalhead appeal previously apparent on hard rocking tracks like From The Pinnacle To The Pit, despite that deceptively awesome artwork that is deserving of a much better album. Instead, elements of AOR and even disco have been fused in to make for an album that regular readers of this site may well turn their noses up at, and fairly so. Watching the music video for lead single Rats, which features Forge's latest character Cardinal Copia dancing around a dystopian rat-infested street like he's starring in a campy Thriller remake, it's hard to recognise this as the same band of the darkly atmospheric depictions of before. Past incarnations of Forge, such as demonic pope Papa Emeritus, were definitely creepier than this, the plastic-looking mask now more reminiscent of the Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang than anything! Any edge that Ghost once had is definitely gone forever...

Infuriatingly, however, Prequelle initially seems to retain that knack for good songwriting which has helped Ghost ascend so high. The aforementioned Rats is the best song present, a sprightly take on 80's Ozzy that allows the guitars to take the lead and has a simple but very infectious chorus, rolled 'r's all part of the fun. It even manages a solid heavy rock stomp towards the end and carries this into the following Faith, the closest thing present to a traditional Ghost song, sounding like Merciful Fate covering The Scorpions complete with King Diamond-esque wails in the chorus. The growled spoken word, church organ, and sinister laughing are exactly the sort of Hammer Horror-esque silliness that Ghost should indulge themselves in more often. Instead, while it's easy to criticise the weirdly uplifting piano rock of See the Light or the self-indulgent five-minute plus AOR instrumental Miasma (complete with saxophone solo!) there's no denying that, well, these songs are a lot of fun to listen to. Sure, the keyboards take the lead for most of the songs here, and moments like Forge's daughter singing nursery rhymes in ridiculously cheesy intro Ashes should definitely have been cut, yet if you liked Ghost's previous albums despite (or perhaps even because of) their tongue-in-cheek qualities, you'll get a lot out of this.

It's unfortunate, then, that the album collapses in on itself in the second half, starting with Dance Macabre. Better than the results when some bands in the past have decided they were placed on earth to teach riff-loving rock kids to dance, KISS and Muse to name two examples (perhaps because Ghost have a strange mixture of Muse's arrogant self-belief and KISS's bizarre imagery?) nonetheless it always has been and always will be deeply, deeply lame to go disco, and Dance Macabre suffers despite being undeniably catchy. After that, orchestral ballad Pro Memoria initially seems like a breath of fresh air with its virtuoso piano backing, until you're bowled over with rejected black metal lyrics like "Lucifer whispering silently into your mind" and amidst a very Guns N'Roses centre section start to suspect that Ghost have jumped the shark, if goddamn disco songs and sax solos hadn't already done that! And you have to give Forge credit for being the insane sort of genius who would decide that what the end of his album needed was folky instrumental Helvetesfonster featuring Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt on acoustic guitar. Sadly, the tracks surrounding it are forgettable to some degree or another, the dull keyboard-drenched soft rock of Witch Image especially. Finale Life Eternal (not a Mayhem cover, alas) is a little better thanks to some Queen-esque vocal layering, but it feels like Ghost polishing up filler material more than anything. Really, the first half of the album would have made for a superb EP. Instead, we have an album that again, is often a lot of fun to listen to even if just for novelty value, but that feels like downright self-pastiche when compared to Ghost's past albums that have all been well-written around strong concepts - the vague Black Death theme here soon falling apart. At least when KISS went disco they kept the facepaint...

Killing Songs :
Rats, Faith
Goat quoted 55 / 100
Other albums by Ghost that we have reviewed:
Ghost - Meliora reviewed by Jared and quoted 90 / 100
Ghost - Infestissumam reviewed by Jared and quoted 80 / 100
Ghost - Opus Eponymous reviewed by Charles and quoted 85 / 100
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