When Ghost‘s nameless ghouls walked out of the band and then filed a lawsuit against enigmatic frontman Tobias Forge, it somewhat chipped away at the mystique that the cult heroes have become known for. More importantly, this kind of situation could diminish or completely end almost any band, but not in this case. Forge‘s character change from Papa Emeritus to Cardinal Copia has accompanied a change in sound that is slight, but definitely noticeable.
Fourth studio album ‘Prequelle’ sees Ghost upping their game in terms of hooks, resulting in arguably the sing-along album of the year and, in case you were suspecting they’d started writing saccharine, soulless music purely for that sweet, sweet cash, everything that you’ve loved about the band is still present. The multi-layered vocals, the solos that you can head-bang and perform air guitar to, the references to the devil and death, and the theatrics and riffs are still here in bucket-loads. Isn’t that riff at the end of ‘Rats’ placed and executed so perfectly? Ooft. Put simply, this album is made for arenas and nowhere else.
The subtle subversion hasn’t gone away either. In ‘Dance Macabre’, Forge is definitely singing about bewitching you in the moonlight, and we can safely conclude that it’s a little far away from that old romantic connotation that fans might mishear it as. ‘Witch Image’ has a chorus which lyrically consists of “While you sleep in earthly delight / Someone’s flesh is rotting tonight.” How gory, yet joyful at the same time.
The fearlessness of ‘See The Light’, which really should be the meaning of the word ‘power’ in ‘power ballad’, will certainly not go unnoticed, and the same will go for the venom in the lyrics of ‘Rats’.
It feels harsh to mention the slight drop-off in quality after the captivating ‘Pro Memoria’, which wouldn’t sound out of place at all on Broadway (When’s the Tobias Forge-penned musical happening?), but, if the biggest criticism you can level at ‘Prequelle’ is that ‘Square Hammer’ is on 2016’s ‘Popestar’ EP instead of this album then that speaks volumes.
Perhaps it’s less important to mention left-field ideas that will get fans and critics talking. Ghost should get the entire world talking. Make no mistake, ‘Prequelle’ is the band reaching for the mainstream. It’s up to the music-buying public (or music-streaming public these days) whether or not that will be fulfilled, but it would be a surprise if they don’t headline Download Festival sized stages next year.