Perhaps if I hadn’t seen GHOST at Roadburn back in 2011 I wouldn’t be so tolerant or even interested in something that is not only relatively mellow for my tastes but also faces sneers of “style over substance” for the theatrics of their performance. Their hot air balloon of hype was already rising then but the fact is I thoroughly enjoyed that show, and even though now they’ve probably hit the stratosphere in the meantime this new release similarly hits the spot in expectations, even though the knowing construction of an old school rock album may not be to every metal head’s taste.
Starting off with some eerie effects that conjure up b-movie horror feelings the retro riffing of “Spirit” opens the album. They firmly plant their feet in the 60’s/70’s/ 80’s of hard rock/ metal, BLUE OYSTER CULT are often cited as a comparison and while that’s a band I’m not very familiar with, I know I similarly enjoyed a sunny, smiley afternoon at a festival in their company.
So there’s a great clarity of production and clean accessibility to their sound, with great vocal hooks that worm into your head and will get you singing along. In their celebratory occult darkness they could almost come across as a lighter TYPE O NEGATIVE or more upbeat DANZIG.
Despite apparently being a new singer under the mask the vocals are as strong as ever and any change is pretty seamless. Beyond that core of melodic if melancholic steady riffing there are suggestions of wider influences to these incredibly well-crafted songs, touches of thrash energy call to mind “Angel Rat” era VOIVOD, while the ominous carnivale-esque beginning of “Deus in Absentia” could almost come from the Danny Elfman songbook. Additional keyboard or effect layers are used skilfully in enhancing the sinister atmospherics, a vague feeling of their being a tongue in cheek about their approach but at the same time not slipping into cheese.
Ultimately for me, for all its deliberate wickedness, it’s an album to lift the spirits and raise a twisted smile, which I’m sure would only be added to by having the visual aspect added to a live experience. Cast aside those crosses you bear and enjoy some glorious evil vibes!