(Loma Vista Recordings)
Ghost’s Meliora is just one of several highly anticipated albums to drop this season from prominent metal, doom, prog and theatrical rock bands. But unlike most of the genre merchants in this batch, Meliora pulls from just about all of it. Understandably, the band was under immense pressure to build on the success of its first two offerings, with 2013’s Infestissumam giving it global exposure. But rather than resting on its laurels—infectious pop hooks and quirky covers—Meliora takes things in a more challenging direction.
The album opens with “Spirit” an epic statement of intent, laying the groundwork with a flurry of vintage Farfisa organs, choral flourishes, staccato riffs and the wispy prose of Papa Emeritus. The combination brings to mind a curious combination of The Doors and Blue Öyster Cult with a whimsical mid-section tossed in for good measure. “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” is one of the more textbook heavy metal numbers, featuring Papa’s more ominous vocal work. Lead single “Cirice” offers up the strongest combination of heaviness and hooks, with a slow-burning chorus that takes hold upon repeated listening. “Majesty” sees the masked ones tackle vintage arena rock, circa Deep Purple, with its bluesy guitar and organ riffs.
While the immediate hooks of the band’s first two offerings are more subdued on Meliora, the production and tonality—especially that of the thick guitar sounds—has been ratcheted up, no doubt due to veteran engineer Andy Wallace. But, several of the songs—such as the otherwise heavy “Absolution”—feature these quirky, spacey instrumental sections recalling ‘80s pop-prog and new wave bands like Toto, The Buggles, Trillion and Yes (from the band’s pop period). And it’s this aspect that helps to distinguish things.
Indeed, the album’s strengths are in the arrangements and executions, even if the songs aren’t quite as simple to digest. To that end, the Nameless Ghouls of Ghost have taken their musical prowess to new levels. But it would’ve still been nice to have worked in a few more of those sweetly satanic hooks that the band has become so known for, which otherwise would’ve made Meliora completely unstoppable. (Jim Kaz)