Release Date: 1st June 2018
Label: Loma Vista Recordings
Genre: Satanic, heavy metal pop
For better and for worse, 2018 really was the year of Ghost. Following a court case that unwillingly revealed a covenant of former band members names as well as the identity of infamous frontman Papa Emeritus (Tobias Forge), a period of turbulence really wasn’t something we’d ever witnessed before in relation to the band in the public spotlight.
The circumstances surrounding the case left a few wondering whether Ghost would use this as an advantage to go Kiss ‘83 and drop the Pope/Nameless Ghoul persona in favour of a more traditional style, both in terms of aesthetic and songwriting prowess. It’s plainly obvious that following the band’s Popestar EP that Forge reckons himself as more of an Andrew Lloyd Webber type than any sort of traditional, heavy metal frontman. The band’s fourth record, Prequelle, released back in June, manages to straddle both sides of the satanic/operatic spectrum, and despite its flaws, is marvellous fun.
The anticipation and expectation of Prequelle appeared to be that of a band on the verge of releasing an all-time classic. It had to be a heavy metal opera for the ages, anything less simply wouldn’t do, and the intro of ‘Ashes’ followed thriller-esque banger ‘Rats’ is, in my opinion, the most peerless Ghost have ever sounded in their career to date.
Followed by glam-rock anthem ‘Faith’, Prequelle flourishes before you’ve even had a chance to entirely digest what’s occurred. My opinion is firmly this: the matter in which this record opens is one of the most powerful introductions to an album in five decades of heavy metal history. All those bands, all those brilliant records, and Ghost hit the pinnacle of expectation with monumental ease.
Here’s the unfortunate issue though, once the dust has settled and ‘See The Light’ kicks in, you’re still left with thirty more minutes of music to dig your way through. Thirty minutes that arguably fails to muster anything near as substantial as that opening. Two instrumental tracks and a smattering of slower tempo numbers really don’t possess the power intended for my tastes. ‘Dance Macabre’ is certainly the poppiest track of the record, but surprisingly succeeds as the shining light of Prequelle towards its latter half.
It’s that apprehension of a slightly bloated front end of Prequelle that I’ve failed to dismiss since the moment it was released. Don’t get me wrong, as Ghost records go, Prequelle has surely gone down as a success and a fan favourite, but does it do enough to convert the more casual of rock fans to their cause and cement their spot as future stadium/festival headliners? I’m not too sure.
Ghost are a unique entity in our world, with ambitions of reaching the apogee of heavy metal stardom, but that doesn’t mean they should be protected from their own misfires. Prequelle is fucking magnificent in places but painfully meandering and pointless in others. It’s bound to be strong enough to maintain their growth indefinitely, but certainly not the record I’ll see as a future classic, or their defining moment, in years to come.
Recommended Tracks: Rats, Dance Macabre