The mysterious occult doomsters Ghost return with their hotly anticipated third album ”Meliora’’. Fronted this time by Papa Emeritus III with his nameless ghouls, their striking costumes and gimmickry may be an alluring attraction or an easy excuse to dismiss them. Whether the theatrics thrill or repel depends on personal tastes, but reflecting on my sometimes foolishness of youth – a victim of Manowar’s Barbarian act and Thor’s exploding water bottles (remember him?) – I must admit I am a tad wary, even distrustful of them. However, on a positive note as a fan of the shock rock of Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden’s ever-changing concept themed Eddie, the difference between the two sets of groups is more to do with the quality of the music. So I approach this album to concentrate solely on whether ”Meliora” is a listening pleasure.
After the success of their previous album ”Infestissumam” – a number 1 in their native Sweden – the quest is for wider domination this time around. So to boost their cause Ghost has integrated a pop sensibility into their doom inclined metal and this melodic nature bursts forth overtly and proudly. ‘Spirit’ opens affairs rather lukewarmly compared to the rest of the album before the first standout track ‘From the Pinnacle to the Pit’ thunders in with a hefty opening bass line and is an instant attention grabbing anthem. ‘Cirice’ combines a doom laden crunchy riff with additional piano in the chorus, along with Papa’s soulful crooning, this soon turns into a melodic slice of rock/pop.
What has surprised me is that the melodic touches in an instant can take the doom to the adult orientated rock melodies of Asia, Kansas, and even the Beach Boys and the Mamas and Papas. The best illustration of such a claim is ‘Mummy Dust’ with a fine heavy Black Sabbath induced riff but instantly shards of radiant keyboard add sparks of light into their sound. It’s like Tony Iommi joining Asia. It continues in the same vein – “Absolution’ begins with a trademark doom riff, but by the end the melodic piano and vocal harmonies of Supertramp have taken over. The elaborate piano in ‘Deus in Absentia’ is a huge slab of, dare I say it, A.O.R. As for ‘He Is’, a gorgeous Brian Wilson inspired ballad, the harmonies are rife.
We haven’t had a new hybrid/genre for five minutes so what about Melodic Doom or Adult Orientated Doom? But, seriously, what is striking is the tunes are on the whole infectious and injected with a smooth modern production sheen so that when they do cross over into different genres (generally all within the same song), what remains is their own marked stamp of a sound, which is quite a feat in this day and age.
After several listens my cynicism has given way to a growing appreciation and enjoyment of Ghost‘s music. I am sure they must be an eye catching spectacle live, although I doubt I will be rushing out to buy or don give-away Papa Emeritus III face masks if they become available.