Sweden’s exploration into metal has a history of holding on closely to Satanism. Lyrics weave in and out of dark tales of the Devil and surge with crackled voices and accompaniment. It’s become expected of the country’s musical contribution.
What Ghost’s Meliora offers us instead is hope. The story of the Antichrist hasn’t been abandoned, but it now runs parallel with a light for us to follow, a light that will lead us to peace.
The band continues to hold their influences for all to see being that the church-driven bridges are built around the strength of old horror soundtracks. The influence is a strong one that adds familiarity, not in a Top 40 kind of way, but in a sense that ties listeners together into a communal experience.
And here I was worried that the band wouldn’t evolve. Foolish of me, really.
Following their self-made tradition of having the opener define the sound of what’s to come, the brevity of “Deus Culpa” and “Infestissumam’ are replaced with the 5:15 length of “Spirit.” We still have the spooky choir we experienced in the previous release’s title track but with added funk. It’s happier almost, already taking the form of the freedom theme this entire piece is about.
It’s uplifting and the setting up of a Satanic adventure.
What follows is “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” quite easily the weakest song on the album. The Ghost-sound is there, certainly, but almost stereotypically so. We have the verse, the sinister repetition of the song title, the church-like highs, the grandiosity of the bridge. I would have liked a bit more departure and not so much predictability here.
Things are revitalized again with “Cirice,” an oddly comforting track that also happens to be the longest. “Church” is the word we’re presented here, making it the first of two times the word pops up in a Meliora song title. In the previous albums, the lyrics were told like a story. Here we start to feel like we’re in mass, with our corpse-paint pope speaking directly to us.
Despite the extravagant feel of Ghost’s sound, you start to feel singled out. Papa is talking directly to you, and you better listen, because here’s someone that cares.
The brief intermission of “Spöksonat” is a beautiful track in which nothing but a harp is played. At its end, for a moment, there’s silence. Then “He Is” begins to play, and everyone at mass stands up now to sing together. It’s the oldest feeling track and by far the best. Although it tiptoes on the edge of cheesiness, it feels right. It feels safe.
The softness of it all slips into “Mummy Dust” where the groove is kicked back up again and continued with the classic rock-feeling “Majesty,” which holds itself like Deep Purple Mark II.
Everything culminates with “Devil Church” and “Absolution.” Mass is about to end and the preacher’s message of the day is to be told. Every hit at the strings and every slash at the symbols is not a condemnation of sin but an appreciation of self.
Before, “Cirice” spoke to us about how our souls aren’t tainted, “even though you’ve been told so.”
Now we’re told that “all those things you desire/you will find there in the fire.” Behind their masks and showcases of faux-Satanism, you start to believe that the members of Ghost really want the best for those tuning in.
“Deus in Absentia” starts with a finalizing sound, much like the concluding vibe of a movie’s final scene. The clock is ticking in the background and everything seems to be coming to a close. Meliora translates into “the pursuit of something better.” The choir pleas for it wholeheartedly, and it’s this plea that closes out the album.
If Ghost were really in the pursuit of something better, then they definitely found it.
Don’t forget to follow me on social media!