Ring-a-ring o’ rosies,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down…
Prequelle, Ghost’s latest opus, is a Baroquian masterpiece ripe with enough medieval imagery and hooks to make Ritchie Blackmore jealous. The band’s fourth full length release is, without a doubt, their Rainbow album, and it achieves this feat by summarizing the aforementioned guitar maestro’s body of work into 10 songs. It is a work of aural art, and as any good art should be, it is polarizing. Their fan base, as well as the rock and metal community, are divided on how they feel about Prequelle’s grandiose blend of metal, rock, pop and your local Renaissance Fair. It’s nothing they’ve ever heard before. Or have they?
Outside of the metal community, nobody really knew of Ghost, even when they had won the Grammy for their album Meliora in 2015. Formed in 2006, band leader and lead vocalist Tobias Forge, along with a group of Nameless Ghouls, started on a journey that led them from blending the black metal imagery of King Diamond with a bastardized Catholic mass to what we see today; the world’s premiere theatrical hard rock band. It wasn’t until their second E.P., Popestar and the hit single Square Hammer and a gig opening for Iron Maiden on their latest worldwide tour, that the public began to take notice of the Swedish band. With success also came the lawsuits and controversy, over what and who Ghost was, started. You can google that and form your own opinion. I will say this, the lawsuit may have actually helped Ghost’s cause. Removing the demonic pope characters of Papa Emeritus and replacing them with a Christopher Plummer mask and a new player, Cardinal Copia, may very well have been the last hurdle this band needed to overcome on their path to the top of the charts.
I was introduced the to band through their first E.P., If You Have Ghost, and their cover of Erickson’s If You Have Ghosts. The influence of Dave Grohl, a producer on the E.P., is strong. The Foo Fighters front man plays guitar on their popular cover of Erickson’s classic song about haunted pasts, as well as drums on two of the other tracks. Tobais Forge is a wise student, absorbing everything he observes. He learned from Grohl, of that I have no doubt, and he’s applied every last bit of it since. Forge is much like Grohl, much like Blackmore, in that he is a musical genius seeking to create a specific vision.
Prequelle is anthemic and epic, if it is nothing at all. Set during the time of the Black Death, it tells a loose story about love and death during a time when half the world’s population died. Laden with pop hooks that would make Lady Gaga and her song writing team proud, Prequelle is on par with other classics throughout the decades. Sgt. Pepper’s lonely Hearts Club Band, Machine Head, Rumors, Destroyer, Appetite for Destruction, Nevermind and Metallica’s Black album are its peers. It’s the album Blue Oyster Cult always wanted to make, but never did.
Songs such as Dance Macabre and Rats force you to move your hips while they play, channeling KISS’s underrated disco album, Dynasty, if George Lynch and Dokken had played it. He takes a page from John Carpenter with Miasma, a wave synth 80s soundtrack homage ripped straight out of the director’s Prince of Darkness. Ghost openers Zombi no doubt influenced this track, except for the left field saxophone a the song’s epoch, which neatly brings us back to the 80s. The albums other instrumentals are straight out of Ritchie Blackmore’s playbook. The introductory track, Ashes, and the album’s penultimate track, a window into a Hellish cathedral, Helvetesfönster remind one of Rainbow’s Greensleeves adaptation and his current work with Blackmore’s Night. Whereas Blackmore chooses the stringed approach, Forge has gone the route of major chords on an organ and harpsichord. The album’s ballads are its heart. See the Light, Pro Memoria and Life Eternal all lament love through death, reminding you not to forget your mortality. The heaviest song would be Faith, and perhaps the song that will be most overlooked is one of my other favorites, Witch Image. The latter hearkens back to great deep cuts like S.A.T.O. or Little Dolls from Ozzy’s Diary of a Madman.
Prequelle is an album about death, and life and change and rebirth. It is the album Ghost needed to make, the album Tobias Forge needed to make. It is a masterpiece rising from a perfect storm of controversy and growth in an artist. Ghost now stands aside the likes of Deep Purple, Nirvana and Fleetwood Mac. Inspired and beautiful to behold, Prequelle stands out as our first masterpiece album of the 21st century.