Tuesday 4 October 2016

Ghost - "Popestar" (EP)

By: Bobo Coen
Album Type: EP
Date Released: 16/09/2016
Label: Loma Vista Recordings


At times both bombastic and over the top, rocking and rampantly commercial, this EP is a complete vindication of everything that Ghost stand for.
“Popestar” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1). Square Hammer
2). Nocturnal Me (Echo & the Bunnymen)
3). I Believe (Simian Mobile Disco)
4). Missionary Man (Eurythmics)
5). Bible (Imperiet)
The Review:
Let’s get this out of the way. There are defiantly bands that wrongly or rightly, divide opinion. Ghost are very high up that list. Maybe it’s the naked ambition to become hugely successful, maybe it’s the image which could be called gimmicky or that they are just not heavy enough. Possibly all are true, but either way love them or loathe them, there is no ignoring them.
Their latest release called “Popestar” is a second (almost) covers EP. Their last one “If You Have Ghost” was very well received, so can they pull of same trick twice? The answer is a resounding yes. Ghost do not go for the usual Sabbath, Metallica, Maiden covers, instead and as always Ghost do the unexpected and deliver a set that shows an influence beyond a classic rock record collection. With the exception of one track I’m unfamiliar with the originals and that for me is always a plus point.
It starts off with a brand new Ghost song “Square Hammer”. A keyboard riff plays before crunchy guitars kick into a medium paced stomp. Papa Emeritus III’s vocals gift this song with a simply beautiful melody. A towering chorus that is as catchy as is expected underlines the Ghost mission statement. In other words, a chorus to be sang by the masses in stadiums worldwide, which it more than likely will be. A pre-thrash 80’s style guitar solo carries the song back to that huge chorus, which in turn wraps up the song. Everything their fans love about them is delivered in less than four minutes.
 The next track “Nocturnal Me” is an Echo and the Bunnymen song. Although familiar with the name I don’t know this song at all. After a wavering keyboard intro, a waltz time riff kicks in. A double tracked vocal delivers a lyric that could have come from a Viking metal album. “In an ice-capped fire/of burning wood/in our world of wire/ignite our dreams of starry skies”.  Ghost however gives it a flavour of gothic splendour before a keyboard driven, almost spoken word chorus. This motif is repeated in the third verse before biting guitars kick the song goes up a gear. Military style drumming brings us to a bigger chorus. The song finishes with the keyboard driven waltz time riff replacing the guitars. A dramatic song that feels short at just over five minutes.
The next track “I Believe” is by Simian Mobile Disco, whom I have never heard off. I assume it is a dance act which is something Ghost did on their last EP covering “Army of Lovers”. It starts off with phased keyboards, a dance music reference point. An electronic sounding string riff introduces melody of song before a laidback vocal takes a casual preamble into action. Ghost gets straight down to the bones of song. Don’t bore us; get to the chorus seems to be point here. There doesn’t appear to be any guitars on this track at all. It is covered in washes of atmospheric keyboards and its saving grace, an unsurprisingly beautiful vocal by Papa Emeritus III. Although this can in no way be described as rock music it does the same job as the Disturbed cover of “Sounds of Silence”. It highlights the vocal powers of the front man and is a nice change in pace from previous songs.
Track four is perhaps the best known song on the EP. I’m sure most people know “Missionary Man” by Eurythmics. It starts with vocals underpinned by a keyboard, before kicking into a crunchy stomp. The guitars are dialled up high giving a nice contrast to the last song. When the chorus crashes in, it has added female backing vocals which rather than diminishing power, it elevates the chorus and lyrical content, taking this Ghost treatment of the song to an even more epic scale. This is Ghost at their most rocking with nasty guitars and a lyric that is snarled with venomous intent. A huge keyboard riff pushes the song along until a blues drenched harmonia solo, which is backed by gospel type female vocals and staccato guitars. It builds to wild abandon before stepping of the gas to let the verse kick in again with double tracked vocals. A final pause as the hammond organ starts building it up for the inevitable finale of repeated chorus. In the same way Marlon Manson made “Tainted Love” his song. Ghost have claimed “Missionary Man”.
The final track “Bible” is by a Swedish band called Imperiet and because I am not familiar with this track or band, it is easy to approach it with fresh ears. Epic is a word used a lot to describe Ghost’s vocals, but it is very fitting description here, because this track starts off with one. It kicks straight into a chorus filled with pomp and grandeur which finds Ghost at their most bombastic and commercial. Pomptastic anyone? In less skilled hands this song could easily come across as mawkish and sugary rather than life affirming, fortunately, this band know exactly how to walk that tightrope and do it with a subtle dexterity. Understated drumming allows the lyric and music to soar. It is almost all chorus and key change to the finish line till an ominous spoken word passage in conjunction with almost reverent finale brings it to conclusion.   

Overall Ghost deliver one new song and four covers and stamp their identity all over it. At times both bombastic and over the top, rocking and rampantly commercial, at least four of tracks here you will dig their way into Ghost‘s live set and stay there for many a year. For fans of this band it delivers exactly what you expect and surprises as well, which no matter what you feel about this band must be admitted is a very neat trick. A complete vindication of everything that Ghost stand for.
“Popestar” is available here
Band info: official || facebook