Ghost transcends gimmickry with excellent album 'Meliora'

Really though, no one has ever made blatant Devil worship so damn catchy.

Gimmicks and tricks rarely bid well for artists seeking longevity. The ruse may dazzle audiences initially, but once the flair fades away so does the relevance and notoriety — a downward spiral vicious enough to catapult thousands from their “15 minutes.”

And yet, a choice few manage to break the mold with a gimmick valuable enough to keep fans enthralled with the music. GWAR and KISS, the undisputed royalty of ridiculousness, are impenetrable to the effects of time. But in an era of overstated hip-hop and EDM tailored for the short attention spans of children of the Internet, acts such as these seem sparsely necessary.

That is until the Swedish quasi-metal band Ghost, formerly known as Ghost B.C., appeared bearing a searing message to a music industry that takes itself far too seriously — a gimmick is exactly what we need.

“Meliora,” the third record from the Pope-defacing Papa Emeritus III and his five black-cloaked Nameless Ghouls reassures Ghost's place after its lukewarm follow-up, "Infestissumam," to the brilliant debut “Opus Eponymous" (If it sounds ridiculous, it's supposed to be. Accept it). 

With its incessant riffing and penchant for melody, “Meliora” is an excellent starting point for the music fan intrigued by Ghost’s fantastically macabre backstory and persona.

Within seconds of pressing play, the opening track “Spirit” tantalizes with a corny B movie alien synth and harmonizing choir vocals. Moments later chugging guitars and colossally driving drums usher in a chorus much too catchy for its own good.

“From The Pinnacle to the Pit” follows suit with another fierce riff and contagious momentum — only this time with a bit more Satanic adoration. Ghost’s relentless exaltation of the Dark Lord on “Meliora” could be off-putting to some. But a large part of enjoying a Ghost record is suspending disbelief and immersing yourself in their outlandish big, loud and dumb fun.

All of the instrumentals here are expertly performed and recorded. No musician overplays as evidenced by the mostly melodious guitar solos and quick and effective drum fills. “Cirice” has these traits in spades and soars as a major highlight for the album because of it.

Unfortunately Ghost’s biggest flaw continues with “Meliora” — a fairly unimpressive vocal performance all-around. Where the medieval castle-crashing moments of “Mummy Dust” needed more Ronnie James Dio, instead we get paper-thin mumbles and weak snarls. Unfortunately the singing hits the same note far too often, leaving the excellent instrumentation dangling without a powerful voice to bolster it.

That’s not to say the singing is terrible though. In fact, singer Pope Emeritus III is surprisingly competent at writing some of the most memorable hooks rock music has seen in recent memory. Really though, no one has ever made blatant Devil worship so damn catchy.

As a whole, “Meliora” is paced in a way that accentuates all the trite dramatics and aforementioned gimmicks. Filler tracks like “Spoksonat” and “Devil Church” cleanse the palette with eerily plucked strings or thick organs and choirs built to summon the beasts below.

Ghost brings variety, too. “He Is” channels the inner '80s power ballad in all of us. “Deus in Absentia” cascades through multiple meter changes and closes “Meliora” with yet another hell-raising choir recital.

Those who wear their religion on their sleeve need not apply, Ghost is probably not for you. But anyone who’s ever imagined themselves a silver-sword wielding vampire hunter, I have good news for you. “Meliora” is the soundtrack to your fantasies. 

Ghost has essentially siphoned its entire look and sound from "Castlevania" video games and Van Helsing. One listen will have you raiding the halls of a black hilltop manor, slaying rabid fiends against the light of a full moon and thunder – in your head, of course.

“Meliora” may not be perfect, but it’s certainly close if you’re even remotely interested in today’s bands altering past sounds of Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath. Rock fans rejoice, the anti-heroes of modern music are back and better than ever. 

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