Ghost Embraces the Past With New Album, Prequelle

Cardinal copia stands with his four Nameless Ghouls in the first promo pictures for Ghost since the release of Meliora in 2015.

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.

Prequelle

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.”

A ghoulish "Scourge in the guise of sanctity" rides a mult-headed rat creature on veiny bat wings as the new album art for Prequelle.
Album art for Ghost’s fourth studio album, Prequelle.

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”.

Cardinal Copia points the tip of his cane at the viewer outside a diner amid corpses strewn in the streets and blood splashed everywhere. He's of middling height with black hair and a waxen face, a mask, like the Papas before him.
Cardinal Copia, welcome indeed! Do you know how hard it is not to write “Papa”?

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.”

Cardinal Copia stands at the base of a white staircase in Houston to perform "Pro Memoria" he wears the white suit that is new to this tour and album.
Cardinal Copia performs “Pro Memoria”, once again embodying the voice of Lucifer to deliver an important message.

“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.

Cardinal Copia wears the red cardinal regalia to perform a new song from Prequelle back in May. He and the Nameless Ghouls performed faith at the Warner Theater in D.C.
Cardinal Copia finds his belt and sings “Faith” for the first time in Washington D.C.

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.

Want to keep up with the latest from Ghost hour-by-hour, show-by-show, check out Children of Ghost on Instagram and Facebook. 

The logo Ghost has been using in three dimensional gold from the music video for "He Is".

Them Rats! Oooh-Wa-Ah!!

Ghost’s New Front Man Makes His Debut

*If you want my opinion on Ghost as a band, I will state it in a different post.*

It is no surprise to myself and the screaming throng of Ghost fans that a music video emerges so soon after the announcement that Cardinal Copia inherited the mic from Papa Emeritus III.

“Rats” marks the first studio single to drop since “Square Hammer” in the spring of 2016. “Rats” debuts Cardinal Copia in the penultimate role as front-man extraordinaire.  In the opinion of this humble reviewer, “Rats” is everything we have come to expect from Ghost and so much more.

“Rats”

In addition to dropping the single on Sirius XM Octane last Thursday, Ghost released the official music video for “Rats”. “Rats” speaks to the higher production priority we saw with “He Is”. The video looks more like what you would expect from an actual music video. Where “He Is” tells the Jim Jones-esq story of Papa III leading a cult, “Rats” takes a look at the motion of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and spins the fabric of that video into something far more perverse than Jackson ever dared to approach. The combination of the 80s throwback and Ghost’s own flair for the dramatic will leave fans either loving it or hating it.

Ghost's new front-man, Cardinal Copia, points the tip of his cane at the viewer outside a diner amid corpses strewn in the streets and blood splashed everywhere. He's of middling height with black hair and a waxen face, a mask, like the Papas before him.
Cardinal Copia, welcome indeed! Do you know how hard it is not to write “Papa”?

Sprinkled throughout the video are finally shots of the band members that were lacking in “He Is”. The Cardinal dances an eerie, spastic, version of “Thriller” mixed with a bit of “Singing in the Rain” and “Coyote Ugly”. Veteran fans of the band will remember the  80s-style progressive and classic rock parodies that marked the band’s first EP, “If You Have Ghost”.  However, “Rats” transcends those parodies. Like “Square Hammer”, “Rats” is an arena opener (and if you all don’t like me saying it, then here it is from the mouth of Forge to Loudwire). It’s every 80s hair metal band music video you’ve ever seen on Metal Mania, only the breaks make more sense. Pinpricks of purple light recall the band’s promo for “Rats on the Road”, but is also distinctly pop.

Throwing the pop-ish aspects into sharp relief is the juxtaposition of the Cardinal’s dance and the corpses piled in the streets, with people in haz-mat suits removing bodies in bags. The music is also heavier, using a fraction of the synth used in Meliora. “Rats” favors the harder rock base, which is exactly what Forge was going for.

A Nameless Ghoul on guitar shreds his life away in a graveyard lit with purple and white light, like an old 80s video. Ghost band members wear masks to disguise their identities
A Nameless Ghoul shreds for us as in the days of old.

The overall video is a masterwork of pop parody, hair metal perfection, and the darkness promised to us when this album was only in the works. “Rats” is the evolution of Ghost, a natural evolution that speaks to the “New Blood” foretold by the Sister of Sin and Papa Nil. We were given the groundwork for this, and the expectations were set. This is Ghost! True fans will look at the band and realize that nothing has changed. Gatekeeper fans and purists are looking for a band narrative that doesn’t exist and never did. More on that in a different post.

Ghost and Lyrical Genius

Then there’s the lyrics to the song. “Rats” recalls the band’s latent talent for producing songs that are both strikingly familiar and strangely alien. Add this to Ghost’s knack for inventive lyrics. “Rats” is a huge detour from the band’s third original studio concept album, Meliora, designed to be performed and listened to from beginning to end as a full “church” service. Veterans who remember Ghost performing Opus Eponymous and Infestessumam will be pleased with the return to the bands roots–as it were. Songs like “Secular Haze”, “Ghouleh/Zombie Queen” and “Elizabeth” all reference progressive and surfer rock styles, yet are nothing anyone could say they have heard before. Ghost is every music genre, and yet they can be categorized into no specific genre of metal or rock at all. Lyrical content has a lot to do with it.

Poetically, “Rats” is something we’ve never seen from Ghost before. Even if you look at “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” as lacking some of the straight narrative style of Ghost’s songs, or “Spirit” and “Deus in Absentia” as “preaching” a particular message, the structure of the lyrics for “Rats” is entirely different. Each verse is only a few lines long, ended with a repeated two lines varying only in stressed syllables. Without the music, it reads like a poem by Poe:

(from Genius Lyrics)

[Verse 1: Cardinal Copia]
In times of turmoil
In times like these
Beliefs contagious
Spreading disease
This wretched mischief is now coursing through your souls
Never to let go
Never to let go

[Refrain: Cardinal Copia]
Them rats! (rats–rats–rats–)

[Verse 2: Cardinal Copia]
Into your sanctum
You let them in
Now all your loved ones
And all your kin
Will suffer punishments beneath the wrath of God
Never to forgive
Never to forgive

[Refrain: Cardinal Copia]
Them rats! (rats–rats–rats–)
(Aaah whoah)
Rats! (rats–rats–rats–)
(Aaah whoah)
Rats! (rats–rats–rats–)
(Aaah whoah)
Rats! (rats–rats–rats–)
(Aaah whoah)

[Pre-Solo: Cardinal Copia]
This devastation left your cities to be burnt
Never to return
Never to return!

[Guitar Solo: Nameless Ghoul (Fire & Aether)]

[Post-Solo: Cardinal Copia]
Them filthy rodents are still coming for your souls
Never to let go
Never to let go!

[Refrain: Cardinal Copia]
Them rats! (rats–rats–rats–)
(Aaah whoah)
Rats! (rats–rats–rats–)
(Aaah whoah)
Rats! (rats–rats–rats–)
(Aaah whoah)
Rats! (rats–rats–rats–)
(Aaah whoah)

[Outro: Cardinal Copia]
They’re still coming after you
(Aaah whoah)
And there’s nothing you can do
(Aaah whoah)
They’re still coming after you
(Aaah whoah)
And there’s nothing you can do
(Aaah whoah)
Rats!

In verses one and two, there is a longer fifth line before the repeated last two lines. In verses three and four, the longest line is the first line before the repeated last two lines. Each first line of the repeated line is in major, and the second line is in minor.

Cardinal Copia dances slowly and luridly in the front window of the destroyed diner, dancing amid corpses, rats, trash and blood.

A nameless Ghoul on piano with his arms outstretched. An interesting camera angle, as it is down and facing forward, projecting the line of sight down the same hallway Papa Nil inducted Cardinal Copia.
The mirror action of Cardinal Copia and the Nameless Ghoul on piano I found to be extremely striking. Of course, you’ll recognize the Ghoul performing in the same hall that Papa Nil inducted Cardinal Copia into his role.

Since I had to listen to the song about six times to get the lyrics and to get the images, I think I’ve made a little bit of a discovery.  “In times of turmoil, in times like these, belief’s contagious, spreading disease,” reminds me of the ease with which a few demagogues can disseminate ideas–be they true or false–over the internet, and how all of us have become carriers of these digital pathogens, playing into the hands of influencers. The lyrics also speak to how difficult it would be for us to stop–or how difficult it would be for someone to stop us.

“Rats” and Ghost Ideology

Of course, the idea that the human race at large behaves like rats or carriers of disease is not new to Ghost. The lyrics of “Year Zero” asserts,

“Since dawn of time the fate of men is that of lice/Equal as parasites and moving without eyes.”

Like rats, we continue our behavior because its what we’ve been programmed to do. Where “Year Zero” spoke of the coming of the Dark One hiding among us, waiting to emerge, “Rats” declares that the damage has already arrived. Cardinal Copia seems to be celebrating this devastation, leading a group of zombie back-up dancers that follow him as if he were the Pied Piper. The dancers, like the congregation in “He Is” are willing subjects, followers of the Plague Bearer who, like any audience at a metal show, are prepared to go forward blindly to do his bidding. Like the deranged pastor in “He Is”, Cardinal Copia revels in being our glorious leader. In the video, he even dances with an umbrella like Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds from Singin’ In the Rain.

Cardinal Copia stands under a black umbrella that he will later dance with as he is showered with water from a busted water main.
Cardinal Copia imitates, in my opinion, the movements and dances of Dean Kelly and Debbie Reynolds from Singin’ In the Rain

Like the congregation in “He Is”, Ghost continues to play on the symbiotic relationship of metal band and audience, the way the band imbues the crowd with energy, which is fed back to the band. This speaks also to Ghost’s rising fame, popularity, and prominent billing in recent years. Ghost has come a long way since 2010, and “Rats” is proof of that ambition.

Conclusion

According to a Nameless Ghoul, Ghost’s fourth album, Prequelle, will be a return to a darker theme, and Forge mentioned in his interview with Loudwire that the coming album and “Rats” will add sincerity to the spectacle. I think it’s safe to say that “Rats” is sincere in its respect to Ghost’s previous works as well as sincere in its motives. Ghost seems to have taken a step back (and that’s probably true in a lot of respects), but have also plunged forward.

Cardinal Copia's outstretched hand blocks the view of his waxen face.
In one fluid motion, Cardinal Copia beckons us forward, and draws us in by force of will, part of an incredible dance sequence that was difficult to capture.

If there was any doubt in your mind of Ghost’s continuing genius, dispel it now. “Rats” is an 80s throwback done so well that I can’t even criticize it for that. “Rats” does everything correctly, and even those who are displeased with the new direction can appreciate how important this video is to the evolution of the band, and after all that’s happened, evolution is exactly what this band needs. This band needed an arena opener, a fresh start, something to bring newness to the band that is sure to also delight veteran fans, something to announce that Ghost is always going to be rising, taking over, spreading it’s contagion of thought and spectacle. After Meliora, “Rats” is a celebration of a return to Ghost’s original purpose, a celebration of the changes they have wrought and the changes they will continue to affect.

Watch the Video!

There is so much to look forward to from Ghost! Prequelle is set to drop June 1 of 2018, and Rats on the Road tour has already begun! If you have not yet, make sure you watch the video for “Rats”, and judge for yourself whether or not Ghost is as Ghost has always been, or if the changes we’ve seen in the last few months are irreversible.