Album review: “Meliora” by Ghost

“Meliora” has come at a perfect time for metal fans, which happened to be last week. The Swedish metal band Ghost has delivered with their third full-length album, giving their listeners a devastating but controlled heavy metal experience. Each song weaves through a dynamic soundscape that makes the album a rich, dense sonic treasure trove.

Ghost has been together since 2006 with their first album, “Opus Eponymous,” debuting in 2010. Their first album was a great introduction, with riffing guitars and jubilant vocals; Ghost was setting itself up for a meteoric rise in the metal world.

Unfortunately, their 2013 sophomore album, “Infestissumam,” fell short of the band’s potential. The song structure was inferior to their first release, and the musicianship did not shine as it could have. The production was far too clean, far too sterilized to be an enjoyable musical encounter.

This new album is a major redeemer for Ghost, bringing them back from what could have been the end of their careers. “Meliora” not only harkens back to Ghost’s roots, but also the roots of psychedelic rock and heavy metal bands in the late 60s and early 70s. With many songs prominently featuring an incredible able keyboard, the album is the perfect mix of old and new, familiar and intriguing.

The musicianship and mixing draws the listener into a sonic smorgasbord that stays true for the remainder of the album. “Spirit” is a triumphant explosion of energy and intention. The lyrics sound out for the coming of the end of times and the music matches that level of hysterical mania.

The second song, “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” is by far the grooviest song on the album. The bass is the distorted driver of this tune while the drums gives the marching orders for the rest of the group. The choral elements of the vocalization bring an otherworldly texture to the already luxe song structure. The only unfortunate thing about this song is that it is not longer.

And the third track called “Cirice” is an insanely heavy hitting jam. The guitars and bass have a magnificent balance of power and simplicity throughout the track. There is a point in the middle where all the instrumentation drops out and the vocals are left to ring through the listener’s soul, and then the well developed synth sound pipes in and solos. The combination of these three songs is the highest quality metal that has come out in a long while.

Abruptly, the band turns its attention to acoustic instruments. Although the counterpoint of a calmer, more reflexive musical scape comes at the right time, the intensity and insanity that came in the first fifteen minutes of the album never fully returns.

The song “Mummy Dust” is lyrically silly, with phrases like “You are summoned in cupidity / Purulence and lust / I am the magnet for stupidity / Divine you feel my thrust,” the sweet and rocking groove of the rhythm section are almost forgettable because of the ludicrous words.

The album wraps with “Deus in Absentia,” a very strongly written ballad that shifts between the richest instrumentation and echoing vocals. The keyboards absolutely make this track, giving the song wholeness that some of the other tracks are missing. The soft presence of the metronome clicking away in the background shows how quickly even the best of things end.

“Meliora” is neatly mixed and lusciously produced. Though the middle tracks do not have the same demanding momentum of the first three songs, none of the songs were throwaways. Each one served its tonal and aesthetic purpose.

Unlike a lot of metal albums coming out today, Ghost chooses the less gritty and more precise route for their albums, which truly sets them apart. This album is a complete 180 from the underwhelming nature of their second album. Ghost’s sound is continuing its evolution in “Meliora” to be precise but not mechanical; demonic and spooky without the creep factor that other bands play up.

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