GHOST - Impera (Album Review)

GHOST – Impera (Album Review)

ALBUM REVIEW WRITTEN BY CGCM GUEST WRITER: Britny Alfonzetti

So I was a bit excited to receive the new Ghost album Impera yesterday. I have said before that not many new bands over the past couple of decades have got me excited, I find most new stuff bland and not a patch on the stuff it is trying to emulate. Ghost are part of my shortlist of exciting, more modern bands, which consists of The Glorious Sons and fellow Swedes H.E.A.T. Much as with H.E.A.T. I was pretty late to the party with Ghost, I heard “Square Hammer” in a club in early 2018, started listening to a few tracks on YouTube then heard the wonderful “Dance Macabre” and was hooked. I have to say I love the 80’s renaissance Tobias started on Prequelle and am over the moon he is upping that with Impera. I did of course backtrack and buy the older albums. I do thoroughly enjoy them but Ghost are now playing directly into my comfort zone. I know many original Ghost fans hate the current direction but it is inevitable that any band wants to grow and hey ho if the Devil wants to increase his followers he has to appeal to a wider audience eh?

So I thought that after my second listen I would give you my initial thoughts of the album. It’s purely about the sound and feel as I haven’t had the chance to read and think about the lyrics, so I know only that the general theme is the rise and fall of empires. Before we start with my track-by-track thoughts I will reiterate what many other people are thinking. Is Tobias a bloody Seer? We got a plague with Prequelle and now the end of the world with Impera, life imitating art much?. Please Tobias, can the next album be about rainbows and unicorns? We have had a crappy enough couple of years without you foreseeing anything else depressing! I have watched a couple of interesting recent interviews where he discusses the cyclical nature of history, thought-provoking indeed, the man never seems to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Anyway here go my initial thoughts on the tracks:

1) “Imperium” – an instrumental starts off slowly and builds to a marching drumbeat, are we marching full of hope to a new brighter future?

2) “Kaisarion” – an absolute banger, power pop-sounding song full of great melodic hooks. Starts off with a great 80’s melodic rock scream and has an infectious guitar hook running through it. Plenty of crowd punching, fist-pumping arena drum moments, some typical Ghost choir backing vocals, an anthemic chorus and even a little prog section. Tobias is throwing everything at us here. I can certainly see why it was chosen for the US tour.

3) “Spillways” – it starts off initially reminding me of Bon Jovi with a bit of Foreigner in the keyboards. A definite Desmond Child feel throughout and lots of big Def Leppard 80’s backing vocals in it. I could actually imagine being at Firefest with the whole crowd arms in the air, jumping up and down whilst singing along. Absolute AOR perfection. Definitely not one for the Ghost doom fans. Amazingly upbeat in spite of the lyrics not meant to be positive. Hey though the Devil has to have the best parties. A dancefloor classic in the making just like “Dance Macabre” maybe?

4) “Call Me Little Sunshine” – back to more traditional Ghost here. When I first heard it as a single I was a little underwhelmed. In true Ghost style though the more you listen the more it builds and grows on you and burns into your soul. I definitely feel the confusion of the Industrial Revolution here. It starts off slowly maybe lamenting the changes and a feeling of being left behind by life and people. It picks up and the Devil starts making his appeal as it grows, he is burrowing into your soul and letting you know that while the world seems to be leaving you behind he is there for you. The song is insidious and infects you the more and more you listen. Again some more good crowd punching drums, can’t wait to hear this live. Definitely seems like an interaction between band and followers moment. Oh and that bass through it (I do love my driving bass).

5) “Hunters Moon” – Yet again I have the benefit of being more familiar with this one as a single. Starts off with the campy, typical 80′ horror movie theme vibe. Great chugging, life driving forward (maybe out of control and towards our doom) sound going on with a bit of yearning for something. A metal interlude with those Ghost choral vocals again. At one point there is a “Still of The Night” (just for Andrew Murray even a slight Ten feel). Definitely the most metal-sounding track on the album.

6) “Watcher In The Sky” – it starts off very dark, then quickly builds into a huge 80’s melodic sound. A slight bit of Metallica in the guitar and drum sounds at points in the verses. An absolutely huge chorus with (don’t shoot me) a slight Duran Duran feel in the bridge into it. Quite a few shifts in tempo in this one and that feeling of marching on into the future (again almost against our will). Another one where I love the driving bass and again a track absolutely made to dance along to, yup once again those fist-pumping drums during the guitar solo.

7) “Dominion” another instrumental which gives us a break and a chance to reflect, almost invokes a feeling of Titanic blowing her horn and allows us to slow down before ………a bit of a WTF moment.

8) “Twenties” – So this is the track causing a great divide, most seem to love it or hate it. On first hearing, I loathed this track. It is frenetic and confusing. Starting like a 20s movie theme then building into metal guitars and drums (very much Metallica/Slayer feel to an extent), then slows down again. Having heard it a few more times it does grow a bit, I have even found myself sitting at work humming the chorus in my head. It brings forth varied feelings, decadence, confusion. I guess a parallel that our current introductions into the 20s hasn’t been that great eh? It works better in the context of the album theme as opposed to a single. I do wonder if I will grow to like it or if it is always going to be a bit of a WTF moment for me.

9) “Darkness At The Heart Of My Love” – starts with a slight haunting Blue Oyster Cult vibe then builds into another huge 80s chorus full of longing. There’s even a bit of a Simon & Garfunkel/War of the Worlds feel at times.

10) “Griftwood” – starts off oh so Van Halen for the guitar sound and goes into those huge Def Leppard‘s “Yeah yeahs“. In fact, I think there is a bit of every 80s melodic band thrown into this one. Absolute hair metal perfection but without those happy, party on and life to excess lyrics (although some “babys” in there to keep us in that 80s lyrical vibe). A haunting piano sound towards the end where the pace drops a bit.

11) “Bite Of Passage” – an instrumental which takes the mood down. Dark and haunting.

12) “Respite on The Spitalfields” – More reflective and sombre then builds up to a menacing heavier break and then back to sombre. Again loving the bass in this one. An ending and a beginning, leading us up to thinking what is next …………. (please please unicorns and rainbows).

I have to say this is an absolute monster of an album on only two listens. Looking forward to spending more time with it to hear more complexities within it and to think more about the lyrics and themes (I do find Tobias comes across as an intelligent and well-read chap). In an odd kind of way, it takes me to The Buffy episode “Once More With Feeling” (bear with me on this train of thought). In that, the demon was leading the people to their demise by them singing and dancing so frenetically that they burst into flames. Are Tobias and Ghost leading his followers to their doom by making us sing and dance way too enthusiastically with these last couple of albums? Although I do find this 80s upbeat sound conflicts with the album’s dark theme. If Tobias continues in this musical direction we may be lauding him as the saviour of AOR. Think about it Ghost have the following to take melodic rock back to the masses!

I do often wonder what is in the Swedish water, beer and vodka that creates these musicians who seem to create such melodic, infectious, catchy tunes so effortlessly?
I applaud how much Tobias has grown Ghost over the years and given we are somewhat lacking modern, theatrical, campy bands, it is great that Ghost have that side too.
I can’t wait to attend my first Ghost live ritual In April. All I can say is Tobias just take my soul now, it is eternally yours!

OFFICIAL GHOST WEBSITE / FACEBOOK / INSTAGRAM

ALBUM REVIEW WRITTEN BY CGCM GUEST WRITER: Britny Alfonzetti

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