Ghost are not strangers to the bombastic theatricality of Hollywood Satanism made popular by movies such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen back in the ’70’s and ’80’s. It’s what made them rocket from a mild buzz band playing in clubs, to selling out bigger and bigger concert venues with each passing year. And Meliora is a testament to this.
Meliora is Latin for “better” and better it is, and I absolutely loved their last record. Regaining the heaviness of Opus Eponymous, but keeping the big-room, creepy-yet-cheesy organs and choral chanting from Infestissumam, Ghost have hit a gold mine of audio flow. Musically, each track flows into each other, as if there is a lingering, and later, more potent evil that arises slowly. The production is crisp and clear, that I do not find to be brick walled, which is something I have problems with listening to some recent albums. Which is a good thing; the drums, backing vocal tracks, bass and guitars, everything, all flow well here. Papa Emeritus III sounds even more youthful and energetic than Papa II did. He seems enraptured by the fact that He Is…here with us, and causing society to fall. It seems the theme of this album is corruption from within society as a whole, rather than just religion. Let’s take a closer look, track-by-track.
The opening song is a great opener, because it gives a vibe that something is happening, something grand. Also, Ghost thought to make use of a theremin for the opening part to this track. This song showcases how the album will play out, heavier but still a grandiose affair. The way Papa III sings is reminiscent of Opus Eponymous but it carries the newer instrumentality of Infestissumam, best heard at the very ending when he is able to drag out the word “Spirit” so beautifully. This balance is one of the best things about it. Personally, I like the whispers and alien feel of the backing chorus’. A good one for repeat plays.
2. Pinnacle to the Pit
This is one of the three prerelease singles given to us, and I find it the weaker of the three. I love the way he sings it and the lyrics, but I feel the drums are kind of weak, and there is nothing strong otherwise instrumentally. It is poetic and it fits the album, but I am very glad this was an early track. If I was listening to Meliora on repeat, I would most likely skip this track over any other here.
The first of the three singles, this is my favorite one. Maybe because the opening acoustics sound like the new Slayer single, maybe it’s the way it sells itself as a cult’s way of dragging someone into their schemes. The repetition on the vocals and lyrically fit therefore, and I do like what all of the members get to do here. The guitar riffs sound retro, which again is Ghost’s style. The drums sound much better then on “Pinnacle to the Pit” Finally, the swell of determination in Papa at the end makes it an epic end. This is one fans should put on repeat to get the effects the song has thematically!
This is a very pretty instrumental. For radio, it would make a good DJ backing track, but it’s also very short, making it a little disappointing. However, the very music box-like sound transitions well into…
5. He Is
…The best track on the album in my opinion. This song starts with a jingle and acoustic that is so uplifting, it hooks you in completely before the vocals even kick in. The lyrics are reminiscent of what you might remember from Christian televangelists back in the day, except Ghost is encouraging the despair and unity of Lucifer and his kin here. The addition of the Latin sections give a very bouncy feel to it. This song is very much the definitive track for the album. The way Papa III sings this song leaves you feel a fire in you, a dark happiness. This is my favorite and I can see it being played over and over.
6. Mummy Dust
This is a heavy hitter. Papa sounds angry, but whispy, like he is casting a spell. This is aided by the few piano keys right after he sings, “And mummy dust…” The mid section of this song is also very fast paced organ and makes it have danger in this track. I really enjoy that, it is not bombastic like the other tracks, but it instead gives off a dreaded feeling of cursing everything around them. I like it’s tenacity, but I prefer the other tracks for their overall impact, which this track did not leave me.
The final single released before the album came out. Another heavier song, I found myself loving it’s riffs and the main chorus vocally. I do have a problem with its repetition, in that, it does not feel like it needs to be so repetitive. I’m glad the song exists, but I felt that “Mummy Dust” overshadows it.
8. Devil Church
The second instrumental track. I like this one more than “Spöksonat” for it’s ominous feel from the solo organ and the backing vocals going along briefly, but I would be lying when I said I didn’t find it somewhat typical.
This is another Opus Eponymous throwback song. And it’s epic, because the lyrics are so cheesy, yet dangerously evil. “Ever since you were born, you’ve been dying, Dying for the setting sun” That sounds very mean, but it makes sense and fits the band. Overall, the instruments get to exert their passionate notes and it’s very sweet how you hear a background chorus of “You’ll cry” almost twenty times. This I find a must play track, one that is my second favorite.
10. Deus in Absentia
Sort of incorrect Latin for “in the Absence of God” this track is a shorter “Monstrance Clock” from Infestissumam, but I actually like it better for it’s evil lyrics. “Your so goddamn frail…” referring to the old God with hate, as how I interpret it, is something you don’t hear often. Yes, not even from most black metal bands. This song is a great end to a fantastic album, including the concluding ominously choral chant of the title, “Deus in Absentia”
Overall, I found this album cut out my love for Infestissumam, and I personally find it “better” than Opus Eponymous but that first album does have a place in my heart for its doom metal feel.
The strengths of this album are it’s ability to capture Ghost as they were in their debut, as well as their sophomore album days. Papa III has expanded his vocal range, which I hope continues to progress. The instrumentation is getting better, except on a few tracks. The weaknesses include, tracks that sometimes seem like they could be longer, especially the two instrumentals. On the topic of the instrumentals, because there are two of them, the album is only eight songs, which feels short compared to the last album, which had ten full length tracks. Also, this album may not dissuade detractors from Ghost being a very popular current band because of perceived blandness, copying of what better bands have done, and the generic lyrics and vocal style to some. However, most fans will enjoy this album.
A final note, give praise to Zbigniew Bielak, Polish artist for his fantastic artwork featured on the cover for this album! For movie buffs, you may realize the artwork takes inspiration from Metropolis (1925) and Donnie Darko. Fantastic!
Overall rating: 9 out of 10