Review: Ghost’s IMPERA Is the Soundtrack to a New Satanic Panic
Ghost always smack of ’80s horror movies, when the special effects finally caught up with the public’s sick thoughts and horrific fantasies. Listening to their music, one can hear the upbeat anthems, slow power ballads, and pop-influenced melodies of those first glimpses into animatronics, fake blood, and foam latex. Despite being one of modern metal’s most important bands, Ghost embody the ‘80s in that decadent and materialistic way. And with their new album IMPERA, having it all is important, and showing it off is obviously paramount. With a satanic excess of nostalgic cliches, Ghost are giving the people what they want — bigger, shinier, and heavier than ever before.
Sonically, IMPERA is an opulent combination of Avatar and King Diamond — theatrical, catchy, and evil in the most approachable way. While it doesn’t create anything new, the record does reinforce the band’s move towards heavier and more complex arrangements and melodies, with similarities to Cathedral or even Dimmu Borgir. The band, it seems, are finally ready to take their many different influences and merge them into a single point, with great success.
While Ghost’s unique combination of angst, arty theatrics, and infectious melodies remains present throughout the record, their menacing intros and leading drum tempos create a more serious atmosphere than on previous releases, which ebbs and flows throughout the album. This is especially present on tracks like “Call Me Little Sunshine,” with its raspier vocals and solid guitar riffs over doomy background chants; or “Hunter’s Moon,” where the band briefly introduce guitar picking, dense drums, and quick tempo singing that drive the song into a husky choral layout reminiscent to that of “Solitude” by Candlemass.
Then there are tracks like the single “Twenties,” which give birth to a thick, dynamic, and foreboding soundscape, combining The Night Flight Orchestra’s elaborate style and vocal harmonies with a hint to Testament’s powerful chanting. The lyrics praise money and the downfall of civilization while still playing with the band’s signature anti-religious undertones — teasing, in Ghost’s characteristically tongue-in-cheek fashion, the conflicting lifestyles of mainstream elites and their mindless, adoring masses.
At the end of the day, Ghost will always be Ghost — passionate, flamboyant, and catchy, an icon of exuberance in a realm often dominated by tough-guy personas and overachieving masculinity. What has kept them going is exactly what has makes IMPERA such a success: taking what they’ve always done, and doing it better. For lovers of Ghost’s previous output, Impera is a must-have; for everyone else, this is an album so brimming with hubris, uncontrolled boldness, and sky-scraping anthems that it simply can’t be ignored. It’s good to be back in the ’80s.