Saturday, 8 August 2015

Ghost - 'Meliora' (Album Review)

Words: Phil Weller

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 21/08/2015
Label: Loma Vista Recordings



‘Today, Ghost still manage to shock and surprise us in a society where we’ve seen and heard it all before. People are fascinated, fixated even with finding out their true identities. Their music is more powerful than it ever has been too. ‘Meloria’ is a spellbinding listen and one which will see them elevated to greater plains of existence. It affects you, leaves you shaken. They can make you laugh or cry without so much of a flick of the wrist and, although the music we love is basking in something of a purple period right now, a band as potent as this is still a rarity.’



‘Meliora’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Spirit
2. From The Pinnacle To The Pit
3. Cirice
4. Spöksonat
5. He Is
6. Mummy Dust
7. Majesty
8. Devil Church
9. Absolution
10. Deus In Absentia

The Review:

“I like the ephemeral thing about theatre, every performance is like a ghost - it's there and then it's gone” - Maggie Smith

I’ve always viewed Ghost in the same light as I do Alice Cooper. Ever since Papa Emeritus and his Nameless Ghouls appeared on the scene in a shroud of mystery, people have been rapt with unmasking the souls behind the masks, behind the façade. Indeed, this is an age where the internet uncovers practically every ounce of ambiguity about a person’s existence – particularly true in the sense of celebrities. The barrier between fans and their idols is almost non-existent, you can see what Kim Kardashian had for lunch and what bubble bath she’s indulging herself with every single fucking day for instance. Alas though, to this day, despite certain nerdy musos philosophising and theorising about the band’s true identities – even Behemoth’s Nergal has gotten in on the act – there is still a shroud around them. Ghost are a throwback to a bygone era where the mysticism of not knowing the truth was all part of the fun. Personally, I see Ghost in the same vein as Alice Cooper as these are figments of an imagination, the realisation of some audacious real world play. Vincent Furnier, as a being, is far, far removed from the make-up and leather clad persona who prowled stages and was beheaded every night. Once you let yourself believe in this augmented reality, you get swept up in it all and the show really begins.

And so, with the birth of Papa Emeritus III aired one-time only on prime time American TV, we are witnessing a grander Ghost here, with a bigger budget and a more towering ambition to thrill and captivate us all. Just like Alice would.

But of course, ‘Meloria’ is the true focal point here. For all their props and gimmicks, their parallels with that infamous shock rocker run right down to the bones and very fibre of their existence – the music is never anything short of fantastic. This, their third album, is by far their most perfected, established and tantalising record to date. You may very well argue that, if it weren’t for the appeal of their visual aesthetics, the band wouldn’t have reached the dais they are at now. But now they are, no one is claiming they don’t deserve to be there.  

It’s as if their previous releases have been building up to this. Indeed, rumours are circulating like vultures that the first three records were actually all written before they made themselves known unto the unsuspecting world, planning out their path and trajectory like a serial killer meticulously aligning a series of gruesome events in his sordid favour. If that is true, then it makes Ghost an altogether more mesmeric principle. Regardless however, where ‘Opus Eponymous’ showed the side of them driven by both dark occultism and pop sensibilities, 'Infestissumam' was more ambitious, heavier, grander, more polished. Their covers EP ‘If You Have Ghosts’ was, if anything, a reiteration of what exactly the signature Ghost sound is by haunting other’s compositions with their horror film synths, shadowy guitars and, of course, the sermon delivery of Papa Emeritus himself. ‘Meloria’ then, translating to English from Latin to ‘better’ is very much that: Darker, nastier, more evil, these songs are the monsters under your bed at night, ready to strike with a predatory mercilessness.

Death scream synthesizers lead us into ‘Spirit,’ an operatic overture which doffs its mitre to Blue Oyster Cult, Opeth and Cathedral and from there on out the album is arresting and dramatic as the finest Shakespearean tragedy. The lights dim, the actors take to stage and they manage to seep into your very soul. When they hurt, so do you. When they feel elated, illustrated through lofty choruses a la ‘From The Pinnacle To The Pit’ and the REM meets Abba flit of ‘He Is’ (a damningly convincing half-breed I must add), you too are flooded with serotonin. 

If this album were a cancer it would be the worst kind imaginable. It would be Relentless in its decay. The post-mortem would reveal a scrupulous design, intricate in the way riffs, hooks and melodies interweave around your vital organs. ‘Cirice’ is, for instance, a master stroke. Every second of musicianship is choreographed for full effect, they become puppeteers to your emotions brilliantly. That tinkling introduction in no way foreshadows the rip-roaring explosion of doom riffs that follow. That chorus that sounds so Bond Villain yet so disdainfully beautiful all the while, topped off by a keyboard solo which Jon Lord will be listening to from up high and cracking a smile to.    

As an interlude, the harp lonely harp of ‘Spoksonat’ is the perfect pace setter for ‘He Is,’ which is the poppiest Ghost song to date. It could be an outtake from ‘If You Have Ghosts’ in that, had you known no better, you’d think it was indeed a cover of some long forgotten about pop song, such is how convincing the band is here. The Blue Öyster Cult influence is emphasised in the guitar harmonies later on but, as so many times with Ghost, it’s that chorus that is the real shining light in the depths of their otherwise creepy and blood-stained creations. For all their publicity, bolstered through their niche and the compelling mystery that surrounds it – only Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats come close to being as secretive a band as these Ghost do in 2015 – they have music that speaks for itself. Anthems for the people.

A Personal highlight is ‘Mummy Dust.’ From out of the summer sun of ‘He Is’ a chilling winter breeze ices your bones; the riff that drives it like a séance, the raspy, whispered lyrics drawn straight from some sick, candle-lit games with an Ouija Board. Yet, although the songs rides a pale horse, there is a faint glistening trying to reach the surface, a hint of David Bowie elegance lurking. That pomp shines through on the following ‘Majesty’ alongside a hoarse Hammond organ that could so easily be Deep Purple. Another theatrical number – which ones aren’t? – visions of Papa Emeritus’ impassioned body language as he delivers another sermon dominate your imagination. It is evocative as they come. 

It’s at this point in the album it all becomes a bit too much. To hammer home the play metaphor, with the final acts approaching, the tension is on a knife edge. You’ve already been moved so much, through romance and war that when ‘Absolution’s’ main riff comes snaking in, deformed and deadly, you’re practically moved to tears. The puppet strings are being jerked violently now and another chorus as grandiose and melancholic as it is devious only wreaks havoc with your emotions even more. Think ‘Killer’ era Alice Cooper merged with ‘Welcome To My Nightmare,’ this is shock rock with progressive leanings, dripping in occult and aimed at your throat.    

Then a hearse pulls into my road. I’m already on tender hooks. Is this for me? Is this the end? One last, fitting gift from Papa Emeritus and his Nameless Ghouls? They know I’m listening, they’re omnipresent.  Only a band like this could have me literally terrified, sacred out of my skin at such a sight. The timing is impeccable and it makes album closer Deus In Absentia (in the absence of god) a horrifying listen. As the choral vocals fade out, I’m at my wit’s end.  Then silence reigns. I don’t know how long for, it could be five seconds or five minutes, it made no difference. I sat there in that silence, barely moving until, at last, I felt those hands let go of my strings and let this puppet rest…until next time.
**
Today, Ghost still manage to shock and surprise us in a society where we’ve seen and heard it all before. People are fascinated, fixated even with finding out their true identities. Their music is more powerful than it ever has been too. ‘Meloria’ is a spellbinding listen and one which will see them elevated to greater plains of existence. It affects you, leaves you shaken. They can make you laugh or cry without so much of a flick of the wrist and, although the music we love is basking in something of a purple period right now, a band as potent as this is still a rarity.

The clergy is at the height of their powers and converts are arriving at the grand oak doors of their church en masse. We are ready to be baptised our Lord and Saviour, we are yours. We are Ghost.  

‘Meliora’ is available here





Band info: Official | Facebook  

3 comments:

JASON FORDYCE said...

Excellent review. The album is everything we hoped for. Now we're here to revel forevermore.

Ben de Marseille said...

This album was really weak. I was super disappointed!!

Amy Croft said...

Beautiful review. It's everything and more of what í felt listening to this album.
I find myself in various moments of the day singing many parts of this great album. It's spellbounding