Ghost hit the ground running hard in 2018. With two tour branches scheduled for this year (Rats on the Road wrapped June 1st and A Pale Tour Called Death picks up in October), a major magazine placement, and the attention of pop culture icons Rhianna and Doug Bradley, Ghost is on a whirl wind winning-spree. Despite legal upheaval in 2017 and mixed reviews following the release of the music video for “Rats”, Ghost has proven that its prepared for the worst, and so are its fans. Their fourth studio album, Prequelle, is the pudding of that anti-papal proof.
Though Cardinal Copia and the Nameless Ghouls are the future of the band, Prequelle is deeply rooted in current events. Ghost’s juxtaposes contemporary metal, early pop, and hair metal with their lyrics of destruction and content of decay. Tobias Forge mentioned in an interview with Blabbermouth that Prequelle “is a record about survival, but through somewhat troubled times.”
Getting Back To Our Roots: The Myriad Styles of Prequelle
Ghost has never been afraid to force the unwary listener to stare directly into the ridiculousness of their own media. On Ghost’s earliest EP, If You Have Ghost, the band corrupted classic pop songs from ABBA, The Beatles, and Rorky Erikson, then reveled in the devastation they wrought. On their latest EP, Popestar, Papa Emeritus 3 and the Nameless Ghouls parodied “Missionary Man”, “Babylon”, and even capitalized on David Bowie’s platinum album, Blackstar, the album that heralded his death, proving that no icon or musician is safe.
With Prequelle, Ghost employs the same tactics of corruption in their latest track list, only instead of corrupting other artists’ songs, Ghost brings their message in true pop form.
As I mentioned in our review of the music video for “Rats”, Ghost fuses the powerful terror of the threat of extinction through a new plague, likening the spread of Ghost’s message to rats carrying a disease of destruction. Ghost’s two most ostentatious influences in the video for “Rats” were clearly Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video and the dance stylings of Dean Kelly and Debbie Reynolds from Singin’ in the Rain. Ghost does not stop this juxtaposition of pop culture sounds and dire content with “Rats”.
For “See the Light” and “Faith” Ghost draws on the soulful vocal techniques of Michael Bolton and other scions of what we call “Classic Rock”. The use of a synthesizer is a throw-back to classic rock as well as the tracks on Meliora. I don’t think Michael Bolton ever sang about a satanic Eucharist, though. For “Danse Macabre” hair metal was the predominant vocal and rock template employed for delivering a desperate plea from some hapless narrator standing on the brink of overnight destruction. Tobias Forge told Metal Injection Magazine that overall inspiration for “Danse Macabre” and “Faith” came from bands from the ’70s.
“If there’s a reason Ghost sounds like it does it’s because I’ve been such a fan of 60s, 70s and 80s music,” Forge said.
“Pro Memoria” is one example of Forge’s flair for capitalizing on the success of pop rock from the ’70s. The lyrics to “Pro Memoria”:
“Don’t you forget about dyin’, don’t you forget about your friend death.
Don’t you forget that you will die.”
Sounds a lot like The Original Caste‘s “One Tin Soldier” from 1971:
“Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend,
do it in the name of heaven, you can justify in the end.”
“Pro Memoria” is another example of Forge’s reference to surviving in troubled times. “Pro Memoria” speaks to the constant threat of death hanging over the heads of those living in an arguably Trump-fueled sense of Nuclear urgency that Forge alluded to in his interview with Blabbermouth.
In addition to the 70s and 80s pop influences, there are two instrumental tracks on Prequelle, “Miasma” and “Helvetesfönster”, each an extension of the band’s technical skill, proving that Ghost is perhaps one of the last bastions of Rock and Roll.
“There’s definitely a sense that there is space now in the contemporary rock climate,” Forge said to Metal Injection, “On one hand, as a fan, I feel sad about it. There’s a lot of bands that pass on. They either quit or perish. That, from a rock fan point of view, is a sad thing, knowing that a lot of the old rock guards that we used to know are a dying breed.”
“Helvetesfönster” is intriguing in particular, as it is a classic rock diddy that throws-back to the polka-esque influences that powered “Secular Haze” on Infestessumam.
And at the heart of it is that “something skewed” that has always been Ghost. That little something wicked that makes the first time listener question their moral compass. “Witch Image” points the finger of blame at the warmongers who should be forced to carry the weight of their irreversible sins. “Faith” laughs in the face of mainstream demagogues with guitar and vocals that is at once a nod to European speed metal bands and yet so classically Ghost. It is this “something skewed” that is drawing old fans ever closer to the band, rendering the plaintive cries of gatekeepers impotent, and has new fans thronging to join the flock.
This is Ghost!
Previous Ghost albums will always hold a special place in the hearts of fans. However, there is no doubt that Prequelle is the album putting Ghost on the map. For better or worse, fans from all over the world are converging on venue spaces to see Ghost’s latest incarnation do what it has always done: deliver a powerful show with characters we have come to love as close friends. Prequelle‘s adherence to Ghost’s former styles as well as its embrace of pop rock inspiration infuses the album with new blood while remaining unabashedly Ghost.
For those who are questioning where their band went, Ghost is right here! Rest assured, fans and faithful, nothing has fundamentally changed about this band. Even with the new Ghoul line up and new front-man character, Ghost is every bit the band it has always been, and Prequelle is just one part of the big things to come.
Prequelle is available at all major music outlets including Spotify. You can get tickets for A Pale Tour Called Death wherever tickets are sole, but Austin, Texas will want to get them here.