An overly dramatic Plague
Sweden has provided many great imports, particularly in the world of metal. But one style that has never really been a namesake for the country is hard rock. Sure, there are bands like Treat and Baltimoore, but they don’t give Sweden as much flashy showmanship as hard rock bands did here in the States. For the most part, Tobias Forge and his band Ghost never really found themselves diving too deep into that genre pool either. Ghost has always been more heavy than hard. That is, until their latest album Prequelle. In every theatrical sense, Forge has taken Ghost to a whole new level of arena rock that totally works for them, melodrama and all.
For starters, Forge’s Catholic-inspired costumed character that fronts the band has switched from its usual Papa Emeritus to one called the Cardinal Copia. The same creepy energy exudes from the Cardinal as it did from the Papa; instead, corpse-paint-Pope is traded for a pale and bleary-eyed clergyman with some slick dance moves. It makes the dramatics of the album’s theme come even more alive.
Prequelle is a concept album centered around the Black Plague, and it tries to give that fairly bleak vibe from the start. It opens quietly, eerily building on spooky children’s laughter into where the loudness begins. The album’s lead single “Rats” comes next, establishing the record’s somewhat comical, somewhat brutish take on ’70s rock. The video does more to exhibit the track’s fun quality, showing the Cardinal Copia dancing freely through the song’s harmonies. “Faith” also calls back to the ’70s era in a glam rock sense, with Forge’s evil growl balanced in between a shouted chorus.
Even though Prequelle’s theme is pretty dark and morose, Ghost finds a way to bring a lighthearted air to it all. “Danse Macabre” sounds like a hair metal power ballad with a very catchy rhythm, while “See The Light” is key driven and delightfully corny. There are instances where the corniness fails to entertain, though. Both “Pro Memoria” and “Helvetesfonster” are so overly dramatized that they actually end up falling flat.
Those who have loved the already established kitschiness of Ghost will find Prequelle an enjoyable step towards being even more over the top; and for the fourth release from an ostentatious act, the record is quite fitting.