We’ll have to wait a little longer for a proper follow up to 2015’s “Meliora“, but to bridge the gap between albums, the Swedish genre-spanning band Ghost has released “Popestar”, an EP of covers with one new composition. The 2015 Grammy winners for “Best Hard Rock/Metal Album” have polarized metal fans with their hybrid of 80’s alternative, 60’s psychedelic and metal; fans either loved their genre bending music or hated them for not being metal enough. Anyone that felt they weren’t “true metal” enough will be appalled to hear this EP as their 80’s pop influences are at the forefront in a major way.
“Square Hammer”, the first track and lone original song, is in line with the previous record but with a glossier, pop sheen to the production. Synths overtake the guitars during the verses, but come back in strength for the choruses. It’s a tantalizing tease of what a follow-up to “Meliora” could sound like.
Next, the band covers Echo & the Bunnymen’s “Nocturnal Me”, and makes it its own entirely. Chugging guitars give the track an edge the original doesn’t have, and the vocal delivery creates an air of dark religious celebration. “I Believe”, originally by obscure electronic act Simian Mobile Disco, drops most of the original’s elements and reconstructs it as a droning prayer to the forces of darkness. Much like they did with the erratic Roky Erickson track “If You Have Ghosts”, they took an unfocused song and reinvented it in their own style, improving on the the flawed original.
But the highlight of the album is their rocking cover of Eurythmics’ “Missionary Man”. They’re staying fairly faithful to the original, only making it heavier and slightly quicker. Papa Emeritus’s nasal tone contrasts with the strong vocals of Annie Lennox we’ve loved all these years, and gives the song a more bizarre feel. Decidedly, these guys have a knack for appropriating songs. The EP concludes with “Bible”, originally from an obscure 80’s Swedish band called Imperiet, and Ghost doesn’t stray from their version at all. It is grandiose, and provides a fitting conclusion the EP.
Clearly this release is a placeholder until the band can come up with a proper follow-up to their breakthrough album. It also provides them with enough reason to go on tour this fall. It’ll be interesting to see how wide they can grow their audience with such a pop sound because one has to figure that at some point the satanic imagery will turn some people off. But for anyone willing to expand their horizons, Ghost is proving to be an interesting experiment in genre melding.