Written Before Listen
Ghost is one of the most popular bands in modern metal for a reason. Unlike most modern metal, they tend to bring the sounds of 70s metal, 80s arena rock, and the slightest bit of prog rock. I’ve liked their music but I always have to be in the mood for them but when I’m in the mood for them, I’m really in the mood for them. For the sake of this review, I did listen to some Judas Priest and Van Halen before this to get me in the appropriate mood for this so without further ado, let’s get into this.
One thing that I like most about Ghost is that they choose some great production choices. The guitars are anthemic, the drums are hard-hitting, the bass is heavy and the vocals are very gothic sounding and reverberate in a cool way. The opening track for example is an instrumental epic with anthemic riffs, power chords, and march-like fills. We then get the second track that has a lot of energy to it as well. Even with the bad tracks, I can say that the production elements stay strong throughout the album. Despite how I feel about the instrumental choice itself, I will say that the horns on “Twenties” were done to the best of their abilities. The only song that I wasn’t sure about on the production side was “Darkness At The Heart Of My Love” where it's kind of like EDM meeting metal but not with EDM instrumentation, more like the structure of an EDM song, but the guitars and harmonies just don’t pack enough punch for it to be done well. Other than that, Ghost (like usual) releases a well-produced record.
In my opinion, as a songwriter, Tobias knew what was up but as a lyric writer, not so much. I always thought his subject matter choices were very campy but when Tobias comes with a great song, he comes with something really good. The song “Spillways” is not only an anthemic arena rock song but it’s also about releasing negative energy in one way but it’s not done with an overt campiness that Ghost usually has. I also love “Griftwood” because it’s about someone who is just carried on someone’s shoulder but it’s also backed up by this anthemic Van Halen style instrumental. Unfortunately, Ghost does bring cliche topics to the table like The Devil on “Call Me Little Sunshine” and horror movie tropes on “Hunters Moon” and religion on “Darkness At The Heart Of My Love”. Ghost does their usual when it comes to songwriting on this album which is completely fine but, it’s to a stronger extent than what I remember it to be.
Ghost has mentioned multiple bands as influences, and if you listen to their music, you can see comparisons from Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Blue Oyster Cult, and most recently, Van Halen. This time around, the Sabbath influence is still there and so is the Van Halen influence, especially on “Griftwood”. There’s also a lot of influence from 80s arena rock from artists like Styx and Foreigner alongside the anthemic grooves of Dio’s solo material. Some riffs remind me of something Black Album era Metallica would do and some of the solos kind of give me Alex Lifeson vibes, especially on the song “Kaisarion”. With that being said, are Ghost derivative? Maybe but what I like about Ghost is that they are taking influences from an era of music that is barely taken from nowadays. Ghosts are the top arena rock band of our time, and they wouldn’t have had that title without the bands before them.
The aesthetic of Ghost I always found kind of corny but holy shit, they emphasize on that camp like they’re leaders of a Boy Scout group. The vocal deliveries are way more forced, the keyboard sounds are layered and soaked in reverb and the pop accessibilities are done to Disney levels of theatrics. It is part of their sound and due to it being a sound that I like, I think the fact that they are taking the influences from a genre that’s already campy, to begin with, Ghost still wants to add these elements in their music to make what I consider their campiest record yet.
When I listened to the first three tracks on this album, I thought I’d be in for more than a treat, but those three tracks got followed by 2 awful ones. I thought it would go downhill from that but instead, I got “Watcher In The Sky” which I loved, but that got followed by a pretentious interlude, followed by two of the corniest Ghost songs to this day. Well, we have three tracks left and we end up with one last hoorah, followed by another pointless interlude and a 7-minute track that surely sounds like a 7-minute track and nothing more. Let’s just say that One good track comes, a bad track comes next.
Luckily, with a band like Ghost, you’re bound to have a couple of great tracks and that album has exactly that, but it has more weak points than nearly every other Ghost album. I don’t know what it is but they wound up taking what people didn’t like about them and made them more prevalent. I like Ghost in general so my opinion on this album is that I’m indifferent about most of it. Some good, some bad but overall a mediocre project.