Ghost, Zeal & Ar­dor, Burn The Priest, Burg­erkill, Jonathan Davis and Grave­yard get called be­fore the Ham­mer judges.

The guys and ghouls re­turn in Bib­li­cal fash­ion

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - ELEANOR GOOD­MAN

Please be seated.

You are about to re­ceive the fourth ser­mon from twisted Swedish cler­gy­men Ghost. But first, some back­ground for the hea­thens: af­ter ev­ery al­bum, the band ‘change’ singer. Papa Emer­i­tus III was re­moved last year, and a new emis­sary called Car­di­nal Copia was in­stalled by the mys­te­ri­ous holy or­der. Mean­while, in the real world, freshly un­veiled front­man To­bias Forge has been em­broiled in a law­suit with his for­mer back­ing band of masked ‘name­less ghouls’ – but that out­side tur­moil hasn’t dimmed his cre­ative vi­sion. Prequelle is a dizzy­ing, all-con­sum­ing rock opera de­liv­ered with con­vinc­ing evan­gel­i­cal zeal.

The stage is set with creepy in­tro Ashes,a re­work­ing of the clas­sic plague rhyme Ring A Ring O’ Roses, be­fore Rats digs its claws in with the big­gest hook since Square Ham­mer. De­spite its me­dieval theme, the mu­sic is a homage to the 80s, as with much of this record. The band have long en­joyed a love af­fair with the era (most ob­vi­ously on their If You Have Ghost and Popes­tar EPs, fea­tur­ing cov­ers of Roky Erick­son, Eury­th­mics and more), with ma­jor chords and warm pro­duc­tion bump­ing up against grotesque, dev­il­ish lyrics. The re­li­gious rap­ture of third track Faith is off­set by in­sid­i­ous whis­pers and an al­most sub­lim­i­nal horror-movie laugh, nail­ing that schlocky vibe Ghost do so well, walk­ing a line be­tween par­ody and thrills. Or­gan-aug­mented bal­lad See The Light com­bines gen­tle wor­ship with Holy Com­mu­nion metaphors about rot­ting flesh.

But the most per­fect cul­mi­na­tion on this record is in Pro Me­mo­ria; its sweet string, pi­ano and choral melodies rain down like beau­ti­ful bless­ings, while the catchy vo­cal re­frain bears the mes­sage: ‘Don’t you for­get about dy­ing, don’t you for­get about your friend death’. Cheers, Car­di­nal Copia.

Bom­bas­tic grandeur aside, Prequelle takes some sur­pris­ing turns, in­clud­ing two proggy in­stru­men­tals. The none-more-retro Mi­asma sub­lim­i­nally re­calls Ma­jes­tic from last al­bum Me­liora and sounds like an ex­tended ac­tion se­quence, cli­max­ing in an en­thu­si­as­tic sax­o­phone solo. Mean­while, Hel­vetes­fon­ster is like a reprise of Pro Me­mo­ria com­bined with the theme tune from The Hitch­hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Though dis­arm­ing on first lis­ten, they clev­erly con­nect Ghost songs past and present, and make the record feel like a grand mu­si­cal. It’s easy to imag­ine how these in­ter­ludes might work on­stage – maybe even dur­ing set changes – for this most the­atri­cal of bands. Now they’ve head­lined Blood­stock, is Broad­way next?

The re­peat­ing re­frains breed fa­mil­iar­ity, so the al­bum is full of proper ear­worms be­yond the cho­ruses, adding a layer of se­duc­tive sub­tlety to a de­lib­er­ately over-the-top al­bum. Cul­tish closer Life Eter­nal is a mel­lowed-out grand fi­nale – a mo­ment of ‘just let­ting go’ that even in­cludes a sparkly shoot­ing star sound. The whole record brims with a nos­tal­gic yet time­less af­fec­tion, not to men­tion a huge sense of fun, and a dose of es­capism that’s badly needed in these tur­bu­lent times. It’s a faith-heal­ing ses­sion run by a per­verse preacher. It’s Je­sus Christ Su­per­star made over by Satan. It’s their most fully re­alised state­ment yet. And so, in the year of our lord 2018, Ghost have de­liv­ered

Prequelle. And lo, it is good.

FOR FANS OF: QUEEN, MERCYFUL FATE, THE ROCKY

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