Written by Sydney Taylor
Modern day metal giants, Ghost, have continued their climb to the top of the glittery glam rock pile with the release of their fifth studio record IMPERA earlier this month (March 11th). The highly anticipated album featuring catchy hooks and pristine production came four years after 2018’s Prequelle, which was strangely themed around the Black Plague. We know – a creepy coincidence – and we’re starting to think that Ghost mastermind, Tobias Forge, might be psychic. The band seems to have predicted the future once more as IMPERA focuses on both the rise and crumbling of empires; a frightening observation of the current state of the world. But, as Ghost always seems to have done, they make the dark and disturbing seem joyful and light.
Produced by Klas Ahulund (who also worked with Ghost on 2015’s Meliora), IMPERA continues right where Prequelle left off, exuding pop-rock greatness and riffage reminiscent of the hair metal heydey of the 1980’s. The album opens with the atmospheric instrumental “Imperium” leading right into “Kaisarion”; a track that Ghost fans had a chance to become very familiar with on the band’s most recent tour with Volbeat and Twin Temple. (See our gallery from the show in Camden, NJ here.) It contains layered and soaring vocals that set the scene for the big riffs and choruses seen throughout the full length of the record.
The ever-so-catchy “Spillways” kicks off with a Bon Jovi inspired riff a-la “Runaway” and segways into the thundering bassline of the album’s second single, “Call Me Little Sunshine”, which includes a hefty dose of Ghost’s trademark satanic imagery. (“Alexa, Google ‘Mephistopheles'”)
See Ghost’s performance of “Call Me Little Sunshine” on Jimmy Kimmel Live here:
IMPERA‘s strongest moments include the opening riff to the grizzly track “Watcher In The Sky” which feels straight out of the playbook of iconic ’80s shredders such as Randy Rhoads, as well as the politically charged “Griftwood” said by Forge to be inspired by former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. “Twenties” is arguably one of the heaviest songs on the record and is most comparable to “Mummy Dust” from Meliora. The highlight of the track is Forge finding a way to rhyme words like “moolah”, “hoo-hahs”, and “da ruhla” amongst lyrics riddled with war.
This brand new album cycle also ushers in a brand new ‘frontman’; Forge transitioning from his character Cardinal Copia to Papa Emeritus IV. He dons a new mask and a flamboyant wardrobe fit with glitter galore. Although some seem to favor the dark and doom most closely associated with Ghost’s earliest releases (2010’s Opus Eponymous and 2012’s Infestissumam for instance), Forge and his army of nameless ghouls have truly followed in the footsteps of their predecessors including Alice Cooper, KISS, and King Diamond; creating a sense of mystery and taboo that is interwoven into accessible tunes that appeal to the heavy metal masses.
Although you never truly know what to expect from this band, you always know that whatever it is, is going to be great. Ghost’s star in the heavy metal world is continuously rising. and IMPERA proves to, somehow, be their best work yet; setting a dangerous precedent for future releases.
IMPERA Track Listing:
4. Call Me Little Sunshine
5. Hunter’s Moon
6. Watcher In The Sky
9. Darkness At The Heart Of My Love
11. Bite Of Passage
12. Respite On The Spitafields
See the band’s album release ‘ritual’ featuring performances of “Kaisarion”, “Call Me Little Sunshine”, “Hunter’s Moon”, and “Spillways” here: