GHOST — Meliora (review)

GHOST — Meliora album cover Album · 2015 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Is this ABBA?

I know that my review titles tend to be goofy and rarely make much sense, but this time I'll sooner die than let this one be classified as such! Ghost is a Swedish metal band, their sound layered with catchy harmonies, somewhat symphonic in their sound and almost sickeningly melodic. And yet, while it could easily be tagged "pop metal", there's enough ambition, passion and skill poured into this music to make even an irredeemable snob like myself feel no shame in liking this band. Now, take a moment to cross off the word "metal" from the lines above and it could just as well be me talking about ABBA.

Jokes aside, though, what really makes Ghost stand out? After all, there are countless accessible metal bands out there that, while often popular, get little respect from the critics and other, well, people who just can't help spoiling everybody's fun. I believe the secret to Ghost's success lies in them striking a happy medium between being serious about their craft and yet very conscious of its context. Ghost manages to put up an amazing show fueled by their crazy, tongue-in-cheek, sacrilegious image and yet, charmingly unpretentious and cheesy as they are, there's a deeper purpose to all those fireworks. Regardless of whether you're willing to delve deeper into the concepts on display here or not, Meliora's overall sound benefits from this meta-approach. The sound is retro, polished but punchy, themes extremely catchy but often spiced up with some understated excursions into heavy, psych and symphonic prog territories. I, however, especially enjoyed the way Ghost shamelessly turns all the pomp up to eleven with theatrical arrangements reminiscent of The Scorpions, operatic choirs, flowery solos and... God, it's all just so freaking showy! But again, in a good way for the most part thanks to the underlying laid-back attitude the band has toward their art.

As far as mainstream heavy metal is concerned, it doesn't get much better than this. Meliora manages to strengthen all that made Ghost charming in the first place - stylistic diversity, vocal harmonies, pulp-gothic ambiance, solid, hook-based songwriting - and builds upon the concept of "Blue Öyster Cult meets Satan on a pride parade" with bricks made of bones and glitter. It's well-written, obscenely catchy and flows well from the beginning to the end. While it's not exactly my cup of tea, I can't help but enjoy the sound Ghost developed on this record. All in all, if you like old-school stuff in the vein of Kind Diamond or Mercyful Fate, give Meliora a go.
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