Ghost - Meliora (2015)

It's no accident that the band we call Ghost has quickly become one of the most talked about, and arguably most popular, bands in mainstream metal today. a band of Nameless Ghouls, cloaked and masked, a third Papa Emeritus at the helm, a clash of dates with the Pope himself, it all adds up to a nonstop stream of publicity that couldn't possibly be anything other than glorious. With their third album on the horizon, the band released numerous tracks in advance of the release, pulling even the casual listener into their web of theatrical, melodically inclined heavy rock. And once your feet have touched the sticky strands of their web, you aren't likely to remove yourself any time soon. Meliora is everything it was meant to be, even if you weren't ready to admit it.

While being fronted by an ominous papal figure might be a constant reminder of the Church, Ghost have learned to best utilize their organs and choirs here, with a track like Spirit transporting you to a different kind of house of worship, or at least the one many of us wish we had found at a young age. There are seamless transitions from one part to the next, each one a smoothly executed shift of pace. It makes the tracks that were released early, like From The Pinnacle To The Pit, feel more at home. This continuity also renders the "style over substance" argument many detractors have made moot. Perhaps moreso than on Infestissumam, you find a sharpness here that was so urgently needed. Cirice, the first official single from the album, embodies all of the vast improvements made in both musicianship, production, and general sound. It rings clearly in the more aggressive moments, and carries a crisp whisper in the interim. One could argue it to be the best Ghost track to date.

Whether you fixate on the strangely empowering He Is, with grandiose choruses and expansive instrumentals, or the more driving and punchy Mummy Dust, you get the best of that side of a multifaceted band. Both sounds come off as natural, with mood and response being the central theme throughout. The final track to see early release, Majesty, carries with it the smoothest and most dynamic bass line, one that really gives the track it's power, especially when coated in that airy layer of church organs. It's pairing, followed immediately by the second of two interlude tracks, is a smart decision for flow and feel. Without leaving the thematic elements behind, the band does a masterful job of creating a secondary reality, one where songs like Absolution can be taken at face value, as well as the deeper, more cynical approach. Its meaning, through lyrical content that many consider absent from the entire Ghost catalog, is left to your own belief structure. It's an interesting juxtaposition, really, pairing dark, almost blasphemous lyrics with a jaunty, upbeat tune. Deus In Absentia accomplishes that on so many lyrical levels; "The world is on fire, and you are here to stay and burn with me."

The non believers aren't likely to be swayed by Meliora, but not for lack of quality or meticulous care. The fact of the matter remains, Ghost isn't for everyone. The stage presence and the music are not attached on the proverbial hip; you don't have to like one to like the other. But if you find yourself drawn to the theatrical element of a band that does it so well, it stands to reason that the music would only reinforce it. There will always be the argument that it isn't heavy enough, not dark enough, or whatever other cliche complaints people will drag up to support their decision to pass on the album. Taken for what it is - a dark, often tongue in cheek album shrouded in mystery and lyrical riddles - you'd be hard pressed to find a band doing it with more gusto than Ghost. Done live, it'll be the stage show of the year.


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