Coming off of heightened success and a few tumultuous years, Ghost is back with a new album, Prequelle! After their 2015 LP Meliora, their Popestar EP in 2016, and a live album called Ceremony And Devotion last December, Tobias Forge has returned with a brand new lineup of sorts. Papa Emeritus is out as the leader, and Tobias has stepped into the new role of Cardinal Copia. On top of that, in light of internal issues and a legal battle, the Nameless Ghouls that played in the band since their first albums have been replaced… not that you’d know it by looking at them.
In spite of the shifts within the band, Prequelle succeeds in capturing the core essence of Ghost. It highlights a mixture between ’70s and ’80s hard, progressive, and psychedelic rock, with the added darkness that only Ghost can provide without falling in the black metal category. Despite any concerns that the new Ghost lineup wouldn’t live up to the first three albums, Tobias Forge has proven that the band still has it. Indeed, Prequelle lives up to its predecessors and pushes Ghost ever forward.
The album starts with “Ashes,” a lullaby-styled intro that seems to have been made in hell. It borrows from the old children’s rhyme, “Ring A Ring O’ Roses.”
Lead single “Rats” appears as the first proper song on Prequelle. Its pounding mid-tempo drums, followed by power chord based riffs, resemble Merciful Fate. This is especially true in conjunction with Forge’s higher pitched, melodic voice. “Rats” is a powerful and uplifting way to kick off the album. The song closes with what we can say is one of the best heavy metal riffs from the late 2010s.
“Faith” follows with another mid-tempo, low tuned guitar-driven arena favorite. It works particularly well with the harmonized vocal lines. The fourth song, “See The Light,” is a power ballad with an exceptional chorus. Its highlight is the catchy keyboard and guitar harmony lead toward the middle-end of the song.
“Miasma” is the first of two instrumental tracks in Prequelle. It’s reminiscent of that ’70s progressive rock sound, but succeeds in not falling into the unnecessary, over-the-top sections; it clocks in at 5:18. The solo sections crescendo will give you goosebumps, with beautiful lines coming from guitar, keyboards, and even a saxophone. The borrowed Eddie Van Halen “Beat It” guitar riff towards the end is a perfect way to close the first half of the album.
“Dance Macabre” is a stadium rock tune that delivers a Kiss-styled sound and will thrill concert-going fans. The “I just wanna bewitch you” chorus features a clever twist that fits the Ghost spirit perfectly. “Pro Memoria” is the second ballad in the album, but offers a much darker vibe than “See The Light” had. It features a compelling mixture of classical piano and strings, combined with some ’70s Pink Floyd-ish vocal lines and arrangements.
“Witch Image” is a song that could have easily been written in 1982 by an adult contemporary hard rock band, yet again featuring a catchy chorus and guitar and keyboard solos.
“Helvetesfönster” is easily the most beautiful song Ghost has ever written and performed. Its medieval, haunted forest movie soundtrack sound makes you travel to that magical setting . The tune has another ’70s progressive rock twist in the middle section that comes from the best Genesis, Yes, or Jethro Tull albums. The fact that it doesn’t have any lyrics makes the travel even more open for imagination, and it’s definitely a highlight in the whole album.
“Life Eternal” is the perfect outro for the album. It features epic vocal lines that have been layered enough times to sound like a full choral group, perfectly matching the piano and organ towards the end.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Highlights on Prequelle include: “Rats,” “Witch Image,” and “Helvetesfönster.”
You can stream, download, or pick up a physical copy of Prequelle from Ghosts’s official store; they link to all the major music providers.
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