REVIEW: Ghost – ‘Meliora’

Review by Greg Maki
Summer is not quite over yet, so is it too early declare an album of the year? Whether it is or not, I nominate “Meliora,” the third proper album by Ghost. It comes in the middle of a period that has seen new releases from a lot of the heavy hitters in hard rock and metal, including Lamb of God, Disturbed, Iron Maiden and Five Finger Death Punch—-and it stands above them all.

The Swedish band of Nameless Ghouls, now led by “new” frontman Papa Emeritus III, has built a near deafening buzz over the course of its first two albums—”Opus Eponymous” (2010) and “Infestissumam” (2013)—and the teases and build-up to “Meliora.” It’s the rare case of the product not just living up to.but exceeding the hype.

The opener, “Spirit,” feels like a transitional song from “Infestissumam’s” throwback, more exploratory sound, but from the moment the crunching bassline signals the start of track two, “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” it’s clear Ghost has something else in mind this time, namely cranking up the volume and asserting itself as a true metal band—something some may have called into question after “Infestissumam” veered off in different directions. That’s confirmed by the stomp of “Cirice,” the first single, and it’s worth noting that both of these songs—really, all eight tracks on “Meliora” with vocals—boast singalong choruses, the band making great use of its frontman’s smooth voice and refusing to sacrifice melody for heaviness.

A short instrumental piece, Spöksonat, leads into the stellar power ballad “He Is” before “Mummy Dust” and “Majesty,” sporting the album’s strongest riff, come screaming in. A slightly longer instrumental, “Devil Church,” leads to “Absolution,” on which an evil-sounding riff and sinister verses give way to a catchy, poppy chorus. “Deus in Absentia” brings the proceedings to a close, its initially spare arrangement swelling to end the album in grand fashion and, along the way, incorporating the choral singing that was such a big part of “Infestissumam.”

With 10 songs running a total of 41 minutes and 35 seconds, “Meliora” is a concise, powerful piece with a flow to it that benefits from being played in its entirety. While Ghost certainly has its influences, it pulls them together on “Meliora” to create something unlike anything else in heavy music today.

(Loma Vista Recordings, August 21, 2015)

Rating: 9.5/10


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