Album review: Ghost – Prequelle

Ghost - Prequelle

“Prequelle” is the long-awaited follow-up album to Ghost’s 2015 Grammy-winning breakthrough “Meliora“, an album that brought the Swedish band to new heights of popularity. In between, Ghost released an EP called “Popestar“, whose lone original track showed very strong pop influences and offered a glimpse of where the band might be headed.

The two advance singles, “Rats” and “Dance Macabre”, showed indeed a lighter sound and and very melodic vocals. “Dance Macabre” in particular, sounds like Ghost mainman Tobias Forge spent a weekend binging on ABBA before writing it, and it is gloriously well written. I finally understand why my iPhone has a “loop single track” option.

This is Ghost’s most musically adventurous album so far, and of course it won’t please everyone. “Faith” could have easily fit on “Meliora”, but the emphasis on melody will probably have some fans renouncing them on grounds of not being “true metal”. Whatever: it’s n excellent album, but one that lacks coherence. It feels like 10 tracks put together in somewhat logical order, but it never flows naturally. It took me a few listens to really warm up to it beyond the two singles, and I think that has something to do with it. Even the intro track “Ashes”, half sound effects, half music, awkwardly stumbles into “Rats”, and feels like a missed opportunity.

“Miasma”, the first of two instrumentals, has an old school prog metal vibe (think early Dream Theater without the insane virtuosity), while the second “Helvetesfonster”, reminds one of “Heritage” era Opeth, complete with a guest appearance by Mikael Åkerfeldt on acoustic guitar. Both instrumentals kind of interrupt the flow of the album, but are good tracks in and of themselves. The closer “Life Eternal” is mournful, spiritual song that closes the album on a grandiose note.

The deluxe edition comes with two bonus tracks: a cover of the Pet Shop Boys’ “It’s a Sin” and Leonard Cohen’ “Avalanche”. The former is the standout, a perfect fit for Ghost’s pop tendencies. The Cohen track’s gravitas fits Ghost’s vibe well, but loses a bit of the intimacy the original song had. Still, Ghost keeps showing a knack for picking unexpected songs to cover and making them their own.

In the end, I don’t feel it’s as good as “Meliora”, but it’s a very good album that shows the band expanding its musical language further and further. It’ll find a place in my playlists for sure.

The band offered many special editions on pre sale, with surprising offers of cassette and 8-track editions, and some bundles are still available here. I grabbed the “clear smoke” vinyl edition, that comes with a 7″ with the bonus tracks. The mastering of the LP is excellent, and worth seeking out if you’re into vinyl.

Jean-Frederic Vachon
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