The last ten years have seen Sweden’s Ghost ascend from underground doom metal favourites to a band who routinely play arenas and are barely contained by them. What sort of venues they expect to be booked into after the sharp, melodic, metallic songs on display here are released into the world – this being their fifth album and first since 2018’s ‘Prequelle’ – remains to be seen. Does the 4.6 million square feet Tesla Factory happen to put gigs on? The 5.4 million that make up the Mall of Dubai? The moon?
Whereas ‘Prequelle’ concerned itself with the plague and pestilence prevalent during Europe’s Middle Ages, this time round Ghost are telling stories set within the 19th century, buoyed by the chug and twiddle of incoming Opeth guitarist Fredrik Åkesson. This means crumbling empires, the march of the war machine, and the rise of the industrial, as automation becomes commonplace on the continent and the people who toil the pistons and looms cough up black, gunky bits of lung. Cheery stuff – and likely a comment on the late capitalism hell-scape into which the record arrives.
And yet the music that Ghost make over twelve tracks, more than ever before, is a truly delicious pop-rock proposition. Much of this can be attributed to the sky-scraping multi tracked vocals of singer Tobias Forge – the man behind Papa Emeritus IV’s ceremonial mitre – and the crisp production of Robyn producer Klas Åhlund (who also manned the recording desk for Ghost’s breakthrough 2015 release ‘Meliora’). Some of the credit should be given to the handful of additional Swedish songwriters who have aided Forge in crafting the most eclectic set of Ghost songs yet, including The Cardigans‘ Peter Svensson, former Kent vocalist Joakim Berg, and pop producers Salem Al Fakir and Vincent Pontare. But more than anything, it can be put down to the simple fact that when heavy metal is recorded well, played loud and features giant, hulking choruses the size of an entire continent, there really are few forms of music more exciting than this.
This encompasses the Iron Maiden-indebted gallop of ‘Kaisarion’, the thundering ‘Call Me Little Sunshine’, the hungry brain worm of ‘Watcher In The Sky’ and, with a firm nod to the sort of power ballad routinely churched out by AOR [adult oriented-rock] gods REO Speedwagon, the emotional sprawl of ‘Darkness At The Heart of my Love’. The latter is a song worthy of draining thousands of gallons of lighter fluid.
Yet best of all is closer ‘Respite On The Spittlefields’, which sounds like one last Jim Steinman classic dropped from heaven. How the Ghost story plays out now is a tale that will be written on empty pages, most likely in blood and from the tip of a quill – and it promises to be a tale more bold and beguiling than anything that has come prior.
- Release date: March 11
- Release label: Loma Vista Records