“They don’t know how to make a bad album!” Metal Hammer writers battle it out over which Ghost album is best

The artwork of every Ghost album
(Image credit: Rise Above / Metal Blade / Sonet / Loma Vista)

Ghost are the high priests of hard rock. Since forming around lead cleric Tobias “Papa Emeritus” Forge in 2006, this church of satanic messaging and luscious melodies has released five albums – and, impressively, all of them have been excellent! Whether it’s Opus Eponymous with its devil-inviting doom metal hymns or the unabashedly pop-flecked bombast of Impera, every release by arena-metal’s most beloved cult has become a widely hallowed moment.

But which album truly reigns supreme? It’s a question too contested for one journalist to satisfactorily answer, so we’ve picked the band’s most devout followers in the Metal Hammer offices and had them each make a case. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Everyone and no one, probably.

Metal Hammer line break

Opus Eponymous (2010)

Ghost might have become bona fide arena rock superstars now, but they couldn’t have done it without Opus Eponymous, which laid the groundwork and contains some of the best songs they’ve penned. That spooky organ intro leading to Con Clavi Con Dio’s charging riff and wails of “Lucifer!” is electrifying, and it shows that even on album one, there was a very clear roadmap to where Ghost were going. There’s also no denying that Elizabeth is one of this lot’s best-ever songs, its chorus a grandiose declaration that set the blueprint for them going forwards. 

Opus Eponymous is Ghost’s finest moment. They’ve leant farther into the camp and less into the doom since, and it’s never quite sounded as devilishly fun. At only 35 minutes, it’s the shortest Ghost album, and Tobias Forge stuffs every minute full of organ-laden hooks and massive vocal cries. It might not have the likes of Square Hammer or Monstrance Clock, but Satan Prayer and Prime Mover are unsung heroes of this band’s catalogue, deserving of way more love. People didn’t really know what to do with Ghost at first, from the anti-ecumenical garb to the corpse paint, but despite that, Opus Eponymous remains them at their profane best. 


Infestissumam (2013)

Some people long for Ghost’s early days as a smokey, doomy, underground band. Others delight in their metamorphosis into a spookier Blue Öyster Cult. However, there is only really one album that perfectly scratches both of those itches.

It seemed hugely unlikely, back in 2012, that a major label would welcome a psychedelic doom metal band onto their roster, but that’s exactly what happened when Ghost signed to Universal Music imprint Loma Vista for their second album. The result is, to these ears, the first time you heard the true iteration of what Ghost actually were: full of arcane, old-school occult rock riffs, but with every penny of that major label money sunk into making the band’s unique ear for melody soar, like the megastar classic pop albums that so obviously influenced them. The likes of Abba, the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, the Bee Gees and the Carpenters were chopped up and boiled in the sonic pot, alongside the usual ingredients of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. It created a never-bettered map for Forge and company’s career, and was the first time Ghost didn’t just look unique; they sounded it too. Infestissumam is also closed by the sublime Monstrance Clock, arguably still their finest song… definitely their sexiest.


Meliora (2015)

Not long after Papa Emeritus II stepped aside for younger brother Papa Emeritus III, one thing became clear: this mysterious new cleric had upped the game. Not only was Meliora a more fully realised album than the preceding Infestissumam; it was the first Ghost album that included certifiable, future-proof bangers, songs that’ll fit alongside Enter Sandman and the rest. He Is was one. From The Pinnacle To The Pit another. And, best of all, Cirice, which mixed menace and pop smarts in a way that had been done before, but never with such playfulness.

Meliora was exhilarating: the album where Tobias Forge perfected the pop-doom template, that occult aesthetic gleefully dovetailing a series of arena-sized choruses. It was the Ghost album that proved he could jump from AOR to progressive rock to glam metal, as if each leap into the unknown was the most natural step possible. It was also the last Ghost album with any real sense of mystery attached to it, two years before Forge’s identity was officially confirmed and Ghostly business became business as usual. Brilliant business, yes, but less mysterious. And, as any Sleep Token fan will tell you, that mystery is worth clinging on to.  


Prequelle (2018)

Ghost don’t know how to make a bad album, but if you’re looking for the strongest collection of songs that Tobias Forge has put his name to, it’s Prequelle all day long. After Square Hammer showed the world that Ghost’s leading spook had fully mastered the art of the heavy metal banger, Forge went and penned a full LP of them, producing more earworms in the space of 40-ish minutes than most metal bands manage in a career.

Rats is clearly the spiritual follow-up to Square Hammer and is every bit as infectious, but there really isn’t a single dud to be found here. From the arena-sized choruses of Faith and See The Light to the spectacularly camp hoe-down of Dance Macabre, all the way to the 80s AOR sheen of Witch Image and surprising tenderness of Life Eternal, Prequelle’s an album that manages to pack hit after hit while still sprinkling in enough subversive mischief to maintain some connective tissue with Ghost’s earlier material. And that’s before we get to Miasma: quite frankly the best hard rock instrumental of the 21st century, and one of the all-time great sax drops. Ghost never miss, but Prequelle hits especially hard.


Impera (2022)

Granted, Impera didn’t mark the next great creative leap for Ghost the way the two preceding albums did. Tobias already knew his way around a top-notch song by this point, as evidenced by much of Meliora and Prequelle. However, after four years and an arena-filling world tour, the pop-metal pontiff refined his splendour.

Album number five is the most bulletproof platter of anthems Ghost have ever presented from top to bottom. Opener proper Kaisarion is an instant attention-grabber, its blend of Van Halen-style guitar taps with a Halford-esque falsetto announcing that Ghost are still consulting rock’s greats, then combining their ways into new, tempting forms. Meanwhile, Spillways is the most masterful Abba hit that Abba never wrote, all the way down to those peppy piano notes, whereas Call Me Little Sunshine balances that majesty with a snare drum so thunderous it could blast Lars Ulrich off his stool. All this excellence culminates in the prog rock scope of Respite On The Spitalfields. With its wondrous solo and choirs, it’s the only conclusion bombastic enough to satisfyingly end this series of bangers. Impera wasn’t a leap, no, but instead Ghost stood at their firmest, armed with their strongest-sounding music to date.


Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.

With contributions from