Music Review: Ghost – Prequelle

I’ve had a weird history with Ghost. I first ran into them when their first album, Opus Eponymous, came out in 2010. I just didn’t get it. They were gaining momentum in the metal scene with their shorter pop-metal songs and it just didn’t resonate with me.

Back then, I was full swing into trying to consume as much progressive metal and death metal that I could. Between the Buried and Me just released The Great Misdirect, I was still soaking in Meshuggah’s obZen and I was delving further into Opeth’s discography to give a feel of where my head was at musically. I didn’t have room for Ghost.

I completely skipped over their 2013 release Infestissumam which led into 2015’s release, Meliora.

Have you ever had someone keep recommending the same bands and you just weren’t feeling it? Listening to Dream Theater back in the mid 2000’s, I was always being told to check out two bands; Opeth and Meshuggah. Opeth did eventually get through to me in a big way, but Meshuggah was rough. I just didn’t understand the mix of odd time signatures, poly-rhythms and vocal style.

One day, it just hit me. Instead of just being confused by what was being thrown at me, it morphed into understanding and appreciation. I can’t explain why; I don’t have a specific song or album in this case, but the doors to Meshuggah were opened and I’ve been hooked ever since.

That’s what happened when I listened to Meliora for the first time, the doors were opened. Every song had a hook or chorus for me to latch onto and it quickly became one of my favorites albums ever.

Needless to say, when I heard that Ghost’s next full length release, Prequelle, was coming in 2018, I was ready. Prequelle features Tobias Forge as the ‘new’ front man, Cardinal Copia, the usual group of Nameless Ghouls and ten new satanic themed songs to soak in.

Generally speaking, Prequelle has a great sense of fluidity to it. There are ebbs and flows to the track list that make it easy to listen to straight through without getting a sense of boredom or familiarity. There are definitely times where songs felt out of a different decade in a great way. Prequelle’s first single “Rats” has riffs straight from an 80’s Ozzy album and “Dance Macabre” feels like it would be at its best being played at an arena rock show full of thousands of people.

Prequelle features two instrumental tracks and interestingly enough, both of the instrumentals are two out of the top three longest songs on the album. The length allows Ghost to experiment more with song structure and give more emphasis to other elements, whether it’s expanding the songs story through more lyrics, giving you the feeling that you’re walking into some twisted ballroom or jumping into saxophone solos. Maybe it’s the progressive music fan in me, but hearing Ghost become less constrained felt correct, especially interwoven throughout the album.

The deluxe edition of Prequelle adds in two more songs; “It’s a Sin” originally by the Pet Shop Boys and “Avalanche” by Leonard Cohen. I’ve always enjoyed Ghost’s covers, and these songs are no exception. They always manage to add their own sound to each cover they do, something I appreciate more than bands that will just throw straight covers at you.

Ghost front man Tobias Forge once said that “Bands need to be larger than life” and I think this was originally a problem I had with Ghost. To me, it felt like Ghost was mostly just a show with a side of music thrown in. At the time, I was listening to bands that basically just stood on stage in one spot for entire concerts because they were just concerned about being musically proficient. Now, I understand more that the show just enhances the music that they are playing.

Prequelle adds a positive chapter to this anomaly that is Ghost. Like Meliora, each song has a hook or chorus that grabs you and forces them to pop back into your head hours later. I also think that Prequelle is the most accessible album that Ghost has released thus far. Instead of feeling like you’re listening to them alone in a dark haunted chapel, it feels like they are on a bright stage and you’re watching the show with a crowd of people. I like that evolution in sound that they’ve created for themselves.

Ghost have the confidence to do their own thing without worrying about anyone’s opinions, and that’s really what metal is at it’s core.

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