Ghost – Popestar

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Back when Swedish occult rockers Ghost were just hitting their stride of popularity, Ghost Cult was fortunate enough to interview a Nameless Ghoul. At the time, they dropped an exclusive bit of news on us, that they had the plan for their entire next five years of releases pretty set in stone.

This was right after the Infestissumam ( Loma Vista) release and before their first EP, If You Have Ghost. As meteoric as Ghost’s rise has been, from underground unknown, to Grammy winning sensation, the band has managed to keep their aura and mystique intact, as well as their chops. The brilliant Meliora showed when they want to be, they can be an untouchable heavy metal rock band. However, the pattern of their EP releases, especially with their new one Popestar has been very slick, with well-chosen covers that cleverly align with their message and vibe.

First single and lone new original track ‘Square Hammer’, is a short pop-rock ditty. In typical Ghost fashion it has a killer chorus and overtly Satanic lyrics. There is no mystery to any of the Ghost lyrics, even their most inventive ones, leave nothing to the imagination. The track definitely sounds new and not a leftover from Meliora. It almost veers into Type O Negative territory during the solo break. It nearly I might have liked it more if it were a touch heavier.

Second track ‘Nocturnal Me’ is a blisteringly hard. A cover of an underrated track by Echo And The Bunnymen, when you hear it you will wonder aloud why they didn’t do this track sooner. Heavy, smart, and well produced with tons of vampy keyboards, and Papa Emeritus III’s deep baritone voice to entrance you. Great cover.

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‘I Believe’ is the real curve ball of the set. A cover from indie DJ duo Simian Mobile Disco is an odd choice on the surface. The track is eerie, and is nearly an urgent love song with Papa crooning again. This track would be prime for a dope remix at some point.

The track I was anticipating the most was the ‘Missionary Man’ cover, originally by The Eurythmics. Living up to and beyond my expectations, the cover absolutely crushes it. Oddly enough, when hearing this fairly straight up heavy version of the original song, you can appreciate the similarities of these two visionary groups. Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were light years ahead of the pack when it came to paradigm breaking story-telling with pop songs in 80s. The added female backing vocals and harmonica performances are spot on. Popestar is worth owning just for this track.

Final track ‘The Bible’ is by beloved, but lesser-known Swedish post-punk synth rockers Imperiet. The track is glorious and definitely brings the churchly, power-ballad vibe the band hasn’t really had before. I could see this getting aired out live, since the band does enjoy performing their covers on tour.

Anything but boring; Ghost remains hard to pin down from release to release, and they seem to want to keep it that way. Hated by many, loved by many more. This release will certainly give more fuel to the naysayers, but pull the zealots in that much more.

9.0/10

KEITH CHACHKES

 

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