IMPERA: Have Ghost Finally Started to Lose Steam?

I have a very love-hate relationship with Ghost. On the one hand they have released some of the best and catchiest rock songs of the last decade. On the other hand, their slower tracks don’t do a lot for me. The revolving door of band members can come up with some great, heavy riffs, but I don’t usually like Tobias’ voice enough to enjoy tracks that don’t have a lot of instrumentation. Hopefully this new album changes my mind. I heard one or two singles but am coming in relatively blind. This may even be the first Ghost album I’ve listened to from start to finish. Let’s do this!

A short, beautiful acoustic intro track builds perfectly as the drums and electric guitars come in. The riff itself is uplifting but also reminds me a lot of the ‘Battery’ intro. It also leads pretty well into the first proper track, ‘Kaisarion’. For a second I thought I was instead listening to Boston’s ‘More than a Feeling’, but to his credit Tobias hits an impressive high note that I didn’t think he had in him. The instrumentation is a little lighter than I’d have liked, it’s almost soft rock as opposed to the metal they keep being shoehorned into. It’s alright though. It doesn’t get much heavier either, almost coming across as pop punk when the vocals come in. Is it just me who heard Bowling for Soup?

The chorus is characteristically catchy though, and I expected no less. The bridge after the second chorus teased going heavy, but then we instead enter into some strange Rush-style solo part. The build-up after the solo was nice but felt a little lacklustre when it led to the same chilled chorus. An odd start to the album, for me.

‘Spillways’ opens so much like Bon Jovi’s ‘Runaway’ that I am shocked there aren’t more people on social media comparing them. It keeps up with that feeling until a pretty much glam rock chorus comes in. It isn’t as good as the ‘Runaway’ chorus (very few are) but it’s still kinda catchy. The guitar solo was nice here, easily the highlight of the track for me. Two for two on meh songs so far on this album.

One of the singles, ‘Call me Little Sunshine’, is up next. I have heard this one before, and it’s immediately a lot more what I was expecting from Ghost than the other two tracks. The riff is awesome and evil sounding, perfectly fitting their image. It’s a little slower and lower during the verse, but it maintains the Mercyful Fate type of evil that the band is known for. Oh, and the chorus is by far the best one on the album so far. It’s so catchy and benefits so much by being over good instrumentation.

We get another awesome little guitar solo in the middle to break the track up a bit. Then, a stripped back chorus to really build up the epicness and effectiveness of the part. I didn’t like this track that much when I first heard it but this time round damn, it may be one of the best they have written, it’s that good. Playlisted!

Another single, this one written for last year’s Halloween Kills movie, ‘Hunter’s Moon’ was another that I wasn’t too into upon my first listen when it was released. Unfortunately, unlike the previous track, this listen didn’t win me round to it. I don’t even know what it is, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with it. I just feel like Ghost have treated us so well with their massive singles over the past few years, and everything in this is simply average. It’s great that it got some mainstream exposure as they definitely deserve it, but this track may not have been the best pick for it.

‘Watcher in the Sky’ hits powerfully straight out of the gate with a great guitar riff. The vocals help the track build up into the verse and this is easily the most rock track so far. No slow stripped-back parts here, all balls to the wall rock. It helps give the album some diversity. I’m already getting bored of saying this, but again Tobias nails the chorus, it’s so catchy and sounds massive. This track definitely got back to the quality I was expecting of the band and easily made the playlist!

Another short interlude track leads to their most recent single, ‘Twenties’. It opens on a dramatic horn composition before launching into yet another good riff. The time signature feels funky, I like it. The slow down into the almost screamed vocal was a great moment, too, and keeping the horns present made it all the more epic. The guitars drop out for the verse but it sounds possibly as evil as Ghost has ever sounded, the whispers and sighs throughout sound amazing. The guitars come back in for a rather low chorus in comparison, but it’s still catchy and enjoyable. The lyrics are also a lot more emotion-filled and aggressive than I have heard from the band before, calling out multiple critics. The guitar solo was the icing on top of the awesome cake, and everything about this song made it a must for the playlist. Check this one out!

The following track is the slower track of the album, opening on a quick, clean guitar riff and some low, quiet vocals over the top. The clicking was a nice touch that came in halfway through the verse, but generally this track bored me. I’m usually a sucker for ballads but for some reason I can never get into Ghosts ones. I just prefer when they go hard, not lean into their soft rock/pop tendencies. I’m sure there will be a lot of people who love this though, and it may very well grow on me still. If it does, I take back everything I said.

The opening riff for ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’… oh no wait, ‘Griftwood’ is good and the whole glam rock sound continues throughout the track. It’s definitely a fun track, but I can’t get the Van Halen comparison out of my head enough to truly get invested in it. Again, maybe after a few more listens. Then, after another interlude, we reach the final and longest track on the album, ‘Respite of the Spitalfields’. It’s another slower track, reminding me of a combination of Pulp, HIM and Type O Negative. It’s not my sort of thing at all, and definitely not the right call to close the album on, in my opinion. The chorus is as usual okay when the heaviness increases slightly, but generally it’s a plodding track that closes the album on a whimper.

Overall: probably one of the most mixed bags we’ve had here at Overtone. On the one hand the vast majority of the songs were good or great, but there were definitely a few that let down the album just a little bit. It’s a shame too, as two or three of these I’d put up with some of my favourite Ghost tracks. As I have said, hopefully it grows on me, but the first impression wasn’t great.

The Score: 6.5/10

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