Much of the excitement surrounding Ghost falls (initially at least) on their appearance. And that’s fair enough. They’re a bunch of Swedish rockers in ghoulish masks, led by a bloke called Papa Emeritus III with face paint and a mitre.
You can’t blame people for being drawn to this theatrical mystery – increasingly rare in our confessional, share-all culture. ‘Who are Ghost?’ ‘Are they really Swedish?’ ‘Who is Papa Emeritus III?’ ‘And what happened to the other Papas? Did they DIE??’ Ok ok, hold the phone. Because ultimately just one question really matters: what’s the music like?
Happily, it’s really good. And there’s never been a better time to listen in. Meliora is the sextet’s strongest album to date; heavy enough to satisfy your metalhead side, whilst embracing sophisticated pop and retro doom qualities. All in one melodic, devilish breath.
Spoooooky choral and whistling, old-school synth layers open Spirit, before metallic guitars chug in – like The Rocky Horror Show set in a haunted monastery (but a lot less camp), while From The Pinnacle To The Pit follows with a gloriously deep, sink-your-teeth-in groove.
It’s an album of twists and changes, too. Not to mention some first-class, arguably overlooked guitar work (Papa is obviously the focal point, but the musicianship of the ‘nameless ghouls’ shouldn’t be underestimated). Listen out for the solo around the four-minute marker in Cirice: it’s super. He Is grows from folk-metal mystique into a majestic, synthy chorus and a great blast of nostalgic twin-lead guitar action.
Elsewhere tracks like Mummy Dust provide robust, Metallica-esque chuggery, offset by poppy synths, and creeped out by Papa’s hissing “Mummy dusssst!” refrain. And Majesty may be all “poisoned wells” and “rotting carcasses that clog the deep” but it’s a lovely tune, with another highly effective guitar solo.
You can’t judge a book by its cover… well, actually, you sort of can. In this instance anyway. With Meliora Ghost look and sound ace. Weird as well, and melodramatic in places, but ace. The kind of cultish gang worth joining.