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".

Debut Novel Review: Witchbane by Morgan Brice

The cover art for Witchbane at left, with "Morgan Brice" in the upper middle, and the title for "Witchbane" in the center. The blog tour dates are April 23rd through May 4th.
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ABOUT THE BOOK

Seth Tanner and his brother Jesse’s fun evening debunking local urban legends ends with Jesse’s gruesome murder. Seth vows revenge on Jesse’s killer–too bad the murderer has been dead for a hundred years. Seth uncovers a cycle of ritual killings that feed the power of a dark warlock’s immortal witch-disciples, and he’s hell bent on stopping Jackson Malone from becoming the next victim. He’s used to risking his neck. He never intended to risk his heart.

Paranormal Romance’s New Name is Morgan Brice

Urban Fantasy isn’t my usual genre of choice when it comes to consumer media. I walk in the shadows of the fabled heroes of the Time of Legends. I tread the same paths through the stars as the dark, malignant cosmic terrors who stalk lurid and unnameable through the sleeper’s dreaming mind. However, if a certain author pens a certain type of Urban Fantasy under certain auspicious conditions, I won’t be far behind. That is why I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Morgan Brice’s debut novel, Witchbane.

The unquiet voices of a section of Sci-Fi/Fantasy clamoring for more inclusiveness have spoken. It is not an illusion, nor is it merely a figment of the populist imagination, that Sci-Fi and Fantasy are evolving genres. Readers are now active participants and allies of the LGBTQ community. That community is finding a voice of its own as more and more genre writers embrace inclusiveness and make attempts at writing for an audience of non-white, non-CIS-gendered readers. Though it is difficult for outsiders, it is possible to write sensitively to that audience in a genuine way that is also an engaging read to anyone interested in picking up the piece.

Disclaimer: if you do not favor novels that include a very nontraditional relationship, I suggest finding something else to drink your coffee with. Witchbane is not traditional Urban Fantasy. I think it only fair to warn you that if you give Morgan Brice’s novel a miss because you don’t like the idea of two guys madly in love with each other, you are missing out.

The cover art for Witchbane features two rugged looking men on a glowing blue effervescent background with "Witchbane" at the bottom.
Men in shirts is the new sexy. Say “Hello” to Seth and Evan!

The Review: Witchbane

Technology and Magic

Witchbane is not just an Urban Fantasy. Brice explores the depths of fear and paranoia faced every day by victims of domestic abuse. We live in a world where anyone can be exploited, and anything can be found online. Everyone could be a predator hiding in plain sight. Current technology and the ease with which we trust our information to the “ether” to is used to ratchet up the characters’ anxiety. Brice is careful not to bog her novel down in pseudo-scientific jargon. There is just enough commonplace technology necessary to keep the story moving and keep the anxiety at maximum overdrive.

And of course, don’t forget the magic. When it comes to magic in urban fantasy, we readers want to see magic users dealing with the constraints of their art and talent in a mundane world. Brice delivers. Her depiction of magic verges on the GrimDark. There’s enough blood to hold your attention for sure. Witchbane is certainly not a Horror novel. Brice does not force magic on the reader either. Magic, like technology, is a tool in Brice’s novel. Magic is great for performing small tasks, or riding into combat hell bent for leather. When it comes to Brice’s villains, blood magic is used to court dark forces. Hopefully we’ll get to see more glimpses of that heinous warlock in forthcoming material.

A Spark of Truth In Fiction

Brice has a knack for creating relatable characters, even to those who have no experience in a homosexual relationship. People of any gender identification could fall prey to an abusive partner. Many people will be able to relate to a veteran coping with civilian life.

In addition to Brice’s characterization, the novel is grounded in the reality that life is hard for homosexuals, even in a progressive Western society. Brice reminds her readers that finding meaningful connections is even harder for members of nontraditional sexuality. This is especially true in a world where at best no one is interested and at worst those minorities are aggressively disliked and marginalized.

Though heterosexual and married, Brice does not call attention to her outsider status. Brice’s language has a normalizing quality that does not break the fourth wall. She uses masculine words to describe body parts and sex organs, like “cock” and “asshole”, much the way any gay man may use them to describe sex with a partner.

Brice’s novel clearly demarcates the relationship of her characters as that of two gay men. Brice carefully balances the work of crafting a good piece of fiction with maintaining authenticity and sensitivity. She is not simply a woman author writing about two men getting it on. Her characters are tender, endearing, and human. They are full of the same misgivings and disquiet that might be found in any new relationship that blossoms under untenable circumstances. Hopefully, Witchbane will find a place in the hearts of all lovers of paranormal romance regardless of gender identity.

A Hot Romance

In the midst of all these things is a steamy, adrenaline-fueled new love that any avid reader of hardcore romance will not want to miss. Brice literally takes both characters all the way. This was new territory for me in a lot of ways. I felt Brice handled the love scenes tastefully. I felt the language normalized the actions of the two characters. Brice shows attention to detail, and the scenes leave the reader as breathless as the characters themselves, swept away on rolling waves of passion and compassion. Masculinity is an equal part of both characters. Neither of them can be said to be wearing the pants of the relationship.

There is no shortage of meaningful plot either. A palpable sense of threat hangs over the pair as they make a mad dash to end a filthy evil. Spirits and ghosts, supernatural allies, and ritual sacrifice are part and parcel of Witchbane. Brice brings a love of ghost stories, supernatural encounters, urban legends, and folklore to Witchbane, filling out the novel’s pulse-racing story.

Conclusion

Those looking for a great romance that spares no hapless bystander will find lots to look forward to in Witchbane. There’s enough magic and mayhem that even the GrimDark readers will find it satisfying. Brice’s novel is a refreshing take on both the romance genre and the urban fantasy genre. Urban Fantasy and Romance are two genres in both large-scale and indie publishing that tend to be so traditional they might as well have a problem with the color of the Starbucks cups at Christmas. Brice introduces us to a world of new devilry to rival any good pop-corn-popping urban fantasy series. Witchbane is  a gorgeous love story. Her two beautiful characters that can best be described as so very real, so very human, and so very fun.

A new-found love will roar its way through scenic Richmond, Virginia. You can pick up Witchbane in the Muscular Shirtless Man section of any big-box bookstore! Don’t forget to get your Kindle edition here, or get your hands on a physical copy on Amazon.

About the Author: Morgan Brice

Morgan Brice is the romance pen name of bestselling author Gail Z. Martin. Morgan writes urban fantasy male/male paranormal romance, with plenty of action, adventure and supernatural thrills to go with the happily ever after. Gail writes epic fantasy and urban fantasy, and together with co-author hubby Larry N. Martin, steampunk and comedic horror, all of which have less romance, more explosions.

On the rare occasions Morgan isn’t writing, she’s either reading, cooking, or spoiling two very pampered dogs.

Watch for additional new series from Morgan Brice, and more books in the Witchbane universe coming soon!

You can find Morgan Brice on Facebook in The Worlds of Morgan Brice Facebook group. Her Twitter is @MorganBriceBook. You can see what’s new on Gail and Morgan’s Pinterest page.

Blog site: https://morganbrice.com

Print Length: 244 pages

Publisher: Darkwind Press (February 19, 2018)

Publication Date: February 19, 2018

ISBN-10: 1939704685

ISBN-13: 978-1939704689

Photo Album: Sherwood Forest Renaissance Festival

Off To The Renaissance Festival

Texas has no shortage of excellent Renaissance and period festivals. There’s the Texas Renaissance Festival (TRF) in Plantersville in the fall, and in the spring there’s Scarborough Fair in Waxahachie (we have a town called Waxahachie–but you have to say Wax-ay-hae-tch-ee like a Texan or you might as well not say it). But if you’re in the Central, South, or West Texas, Sherwood Forest is a pleasant compromise.

Sherwood Forest Renaissance Festival

Sherwood Forest Renaissance Festival is nestled between Austin and Houston on scenic Highway 290. Year-round camp grounds for season-pass campers and small-scale campers make it convenient to stay for the weekend. In 2018, Sherwood started March 3 and continued through April 22.

Sherwood is no small affair. Though it has grown since it’s inception, Sherwood strikes a beautiful balance between casual weekend fun and the commercialism synonymous with TRF. Almost every attraction available at TRF will eventually make its rounds at Sherwood, attractions like Arsene the Magician, Rondini the Magnificent Escape Artist, Tartanic, Sound and Fury, and the fire dancers. Of course, there are some things you can only see at TRF. Cast in Bronze can only be seen at TRF, and I believe there is also a different group that does Birds of Prey. Adam Crack was also not billed this year when we attended, though he was present in 2017.

Sherwood Forest is one of the only Renaissance Festivals in Texas to feature an all-day theatrical event. Sherwood boasts a wonderful cast for a park-wide theatrical event that includes a court dance, plots between the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John, a contact joust, and of course, the daring and dashing Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

Between the attractions and the theatrics, there truly is something for everyone at Sherwood. That’s why we chose Sherwood Forest for our annual Swordplay UTSA Alumni Retreat. We lovingly refer to ourselves as “the Fencers”.

The Fencers

We first started attending Texas Renaissance Festival back in 2008. Our group has changed a lot since then. Many of us have married and divorced. Despite the general upheaval, the core of our group that is still in Texas tries to get together once a year to carry on our Renaissance Festival tradition. We’ve been disdaining TRF. It’s far too big now, and too far away for day-trippers. Sherwood is practically next door, so off we went.

This year saw a good mix of campers and day travelers. The Austin-ites made our regular trek. One of our girls was able to come all the way from Denver. We even had a good smattering of little faces along for the ride.

In honor of our shared love of period clothing and fireside violin–I know, very specific–I put together a photography project of our time at Sherwood. Regretfully, I’m not in any of the pictures. Don’t worry. I had a great time behind the camera this year. Special thanks to Jeremy and Lidia for the use of their Canon Rebel T5i with EFS 55mm-250mm lens. Photos were edited in Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.

For the purposes of privacy, I have left out pictures of the kids.

Photo Album

A minstrel at Sherwood Forrest in a tunic bearing the French colors of blue and yellow plays a guitar in front of the jousting arena to the delight of onlookers before the French and the English square off in one of the first scuffles of the day.
A minstrel on guitar. He wears the livery of the French, whose king stood with us and gave us the scoop on the Great Rondini.

 

The Court Dance

The Princess of Sherwood takes the arm of one of her ladies in a contra dance with the rest of the court.
The Princess of Sherwood dancing a contra dance (that seemed mostly accurate) with her ladies and gentlemen of the court.

 

One of the crown princes of Sherwood Forrest dances with a lady of the court at Sherwood Castle.
One of the crown princes dances at court. I can’t remember which one he is.

 

The Princess of Sherwood Forrest Festival enjoying the dance, clapping, singing and laughing with her subject. The Queen Mother looks on behind her. The Princess wears mostly period-accurate gown, wimple, and headband.
The princess enjoying the dancing and merriment.

 

The Queen Mother of King Richard looks on expectantly in her traditional yellow and purple gown and wimple as the court dances at Sherwood castle.
The Queen Mother looks on as if expecting something.

 

A band of merry minstrels perform for the court at Sherwood Forest.
Merry Minstrels perform for the court. I chose this one out of the other pictures of the minstrels I got because this is the only one I had that didn’t also include the bathroom sign.

Around the Park

The daily parade through the main roads of Sherwood came through after the dance. A little fella in a short tunic and beret cap carried the sign for Dublin Harpers.
After the dance, the parade came through the main thoroughfare. This little guy carried the sign for the Dublin Harpers, one of the many live music attractions at Sherwood.

 

A costumed goblin in realistic goblin makeup is part of the parade. He throws the heavy metal horns for the camera.
One of the best things about Sherwood Forest is the wide array of costumed performers, not to be outdone by the costumed patrons of Sherwood.

 

A very convincing vampire costumed patron of Sherwood posed for us by the castle. His wings were controlled by his arm movements. He unfolded them for the picture. I tried to make this particular image look like a still from Nosferatu, or one of Francis Ford Coppola's stills from Dracula.
I took some creative liberties with this one. The gentleman unfolded his wings for us just outside Sherwood castle after the parade.

 

Under the pergola outside Sherwood Castle, the core of the Fencers pose for a picture in the King and Queen's thrones.
From left to right: Lidia Plaza, Zarissa Cline, Jeremy Shoemaker, Kelsey Moore, Alicia Wright. Sherwood Forest Friends for life!

 

At Sherwood, Heather Terpstra as Lady Loki stands with her entourage for a picture in front of one of the many vendor shops.
Heather Terpstra made an appearance at Sherwood the weekend we attended. Her entourage includes Joffrey Baratheon, Twig the Wood Elf, Medieval Lady Loki (Heather), Ste-ven the Executioner and William MacKenzie the Younger. It was so nice meeting you, Heather! Follow her on Instagram at @another_lady_loki  !
The Great Rondini escaping the chains and manacles draped across him by a group of volunteers from the crowd that her hand chosen to be the meat shields taking his barbed jokes.
The Great Escape artist, Rondini, only moonlights as a master magician. In reality (according to the King of France) he’s a sixty-year-old bounty hunter. Does the man get any cooler?!

 

The Joust

A competitor in the joust astride his horse at Sherwood.
One of the joust competitors, the rider for the English, fires ups the crowd.

 

The competitor for Saxony (I think) fires up our side of the crowd at the joust of Sherwood.
The second rider, the rider for Saxony (I think), fired up our side of the crowd, prompting the outburst of “Huzzah Y’all!” that now encapsulates this state’s love of Renaissance Fairs and our own colloquialisms.

 

Our Herald for the joust amuses the crowd with tricks on horseback. He managed to jump up into the saddle with both feet. This one's an action shot, taken right before he stood up.
Our Herald amuses the crowd with horseback antics. I called this image “Lost Cause” because I had so much trouble with it during edits. It was fully blown out and I could never angle the sun correctly. I settled on this one, I admit.

 

The rider for the English barrels down on his opponent during the Joust at Sherwood.
Next came the full-contact joust. Check out one of the comments below to learn a little more about the joust!

 

The hand-to-hand combat of the joust, with Saxoy (I think) beating England into the ground with a huge mallet.
After the mounted portion of the joust, the opponents squared off for hand-to-hand combat. The gladiators did a good job on this one. Also, you can see there are differences in this composite. I used a different canvas texture, hoping to achieve the appearance that the image was old and had been deteriorating. This is one of the first I worked on, before I established a workflow and theme. I kept it this way because I liked being able to see my progress as I improved my workflow and balance in my composites.

As We Wended our Merry Way

Kelsey sitting in an oversized red chair at Sherwood while Jeremy and Zarissa shopped.
Kelsey Moore sitting in the Big Red Chair. Because why not?

 

A living statue in gold paint gives Zarissa a gentlemanly dip for the camera at Sherwood Forest.
Zarissa gave a dollar to the living statue, who apparently also read Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking, or at the very least saw her TED talk. You might say to yourself, “She did a good job on this one”, but I had to really rework the structure of this image because the camera’s ISO was not set for the distance I was shooting at, and quite a bit of extra stuff was going on behind them.

 

The Swordplay UTSA Alumni on a bridge at Sherwood Forest.
I went with a more earthy, foresty feel for this composite. You can see the veins of a leafy texture behind my friends. I reworked this image quite a bit, as it was one of my first. I went back to the image and added techniques I had used in later composites. From left to right: Zarissa Cline, Kelsey Moore, Lidia Plaza, Alicia Wright (behind Lidia) and Jeremy Shoemaker.
Tom the Blacksmith from Custom Iron Works heats up a piece of iron in his forge at Sherwood.
Tom at Custom Iron Works heats up a piece of iron that he is using. I suppose I should back up a bit. We searched that entire park for a corkscrew. There was a bottle of mead with our name on it back at camp that we couldn’t get into. Hence the corkscrew. Tom had never made a corkscrew before, so he decided to whip one up for us. According to Tom, he had never spiraled the metal before. This was all new for us. Blacksmithing iron has been a practice since the middle ages, and Tom uses those same practices to make everything from kitchen utensils to decorative hardware.

 

Jeremy holding his new corkscrew at Sherwood Forest. Thanks, Tom!
Here is the finished product. We were all proud of Tom for creating this piece. Just looking at it, you would never know he had never done that before. Jeremy took it back to camp to test, and we found it to not only be an excellent conversation piece, but fully functional. Jeremy went back the next day to thank Tom and buy some drawer handles to compensate Tom for the free corkscrew.

 

Undead faun at Sherwood Forest. The deer skull used for the mask is bleeding from the black eyesockets. The horns are tipped in blod. The photo is in black and white with spot colors of red for the blood and black and red fur. Amazing!
I like to leave my readers feeling comfortable, so here is an undead faun from Sherwood. I was incredibly adult as I stood there and shot this picture. I am actually really anxious around these kind of costumes. The mouth had been closed as he/she/it approached. As I took the picture, the maw slowly opened. A departure from the rest of the album, as this was shot on the second day with my iPhone 6s.

See You Next Year

I would like to thank the wonderful cast, crew, servers, costumed patrons, and performers of Sherwood Forest Renaissance Festival for an unforgettable weekend retreat and another great UTSA Swordplay Alumni reunion! See you all next year!

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.