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Ghost – Prequelle

 

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Cardinal Copia surrounded by Nameless Ghouls

Are you on the square?
Are you on the level?
Are you ready to swear right here right now
Before the devil?
-“Square Hammer”

Ghost concerts are sermons from the Satanic clergy lead in this incarnation by Cardinal Copia and backed up on stage by mask clad, black robed Nameless Ghouls playing the instruments. Think the spectacle and fun cheese of Alice Cooper and KISS in their heyday and you are on the right track. In reality, Ghost is the brainchild of Tobias Forge, portraying Cardinal Copia on stage, and the Nameless Ghouls are a rotating mix of anonymous musicians. Dave Grohl has sat in for more than one performance on drums and it’s strongly rumored that, at least at one time, former White Zombie bassist Sean Yseult has filled in on stage for an extended run.

The identity of the Faceless Ghouls is largely irrelevant. Tobias Forge is Ghost. Ghost is Tobias Forge. For more on that click this link for a great interview at Revolver. He writes the music, records most of the instruments for the records, he performs the vocals. He devised the concept.

With Prequelle, Ghost finally delivers a great album from start to finish. Using the Black Plague’s arrival in Forge’s homeland of Sweden as a jumping off point, Prequelle is a partial concept album detailing the horror of the plague. While any number of black metal bands have used this concept before, never has it been quite so..uplifting. Rather than dour aggression Prequelle is one of the most uplifting albums obsessed with Death in quite some time. Yes, that’s Death with a capital D. Death pervades the album, and it hangs over every song. Nowhere more evident than on “Pro Memoria”:

influences range from The Cure, to 80’s pop-metal, to the Jim Steinman penned Meatloaf anthems. Part of the charm of the album is that it’s nearly impossible to pin down their sound. The choruses are anthemic and huge, the melodies are instant ear worms, and each song is cohesive to the whole. On first pass Prequelle could have been transported whole cloth from 1986 but dig deeper and the complexities of the album become more apparent. For example of this you can look no further than “Miasma”. As a rule I’m not a fan of rock instrumentals but “Miasma” is perfection from start to finish. Building slowly it layers on the melodies before finally erupting in a joyous saxophone solo straight out of a Joel Schumacher movie.

There isn’t a bad song on the album, but for me the crowning achievement is “Dance Macabre”. From the first listen this song grabs you and doesn’t let go until you’ve listened half a dozen times in a row. The lyrics are haunting, clever, and fun to sing. It’s a fist pumping goth-romance anthem offering a snapshot of an endless night gripped by the plague. The revelers party like there is no tomorrow, because for them there very likely won’t be.

At only 10 songs, two of which are instrumentals, Prequelle is one of the leanest albums in recent memory. The deluxe edition includes two bonus tracks, both of which are covers: “It’s a Sin” by Pet Shop Boys and “Avalanche” by Leonard Cohen. Both are good songs but leaving them off the album was a smart choice as they do break up the flow a bit. That said, I still recommend picking up the deluxe edition. If you can get it on vinyl even better as the packaging and full size artwork is all the more ghastly and gorgeous.

Here’s one final clip, a bootleg video of Ghost performing “Dance Macabre” and “Square Hammer” on May 20th in Washington D.C.

This video should leave no doubt, the dark reign of Ghost has begun.

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