Tobias Forge has spent the last year battling a heavy lawsuit that resulted in the name he once fought to keep so private be dragged in the dirt as a malicious, scheming, self-obsessed musician. Most people would either throw in the towel or pay off the plaintiffs — which in the case are the former members of the band Ghost, to keep quiet or drop the case.
However, Tobias Forge has decided to do none of the above, and instead decided to stand his ground and produce what I find to be the best album of 2018. Prequelle is the substantial proof that the devil may work hard, but Tobias Forge works harder.
If you’re new to the world of Ghost be prepared to buckle up, as I will try my best to break down the past eight years of pure-genius work in a paragraph or two, but I highly suggest you take the time to read up on every album individually, as they are all individual concept albums that precede the new album, Prequelle.
If you are already familiar with the band, feel free to scroll straight to the review of the album!
Brief History of Ghost
Ghost is most well-known as a Swedish heavy metal band that was formed in Linköping, Sweden in 2006. However, many metal-elitists like to classify them as Hard Rock, or even simply Rock. To me, they are theatrical metal, satirical metal, they are honestly a league of their own, Tobias has somehow mastered a mix of theatre music, Scandinavian black metal, and pop.
Anyways, in 2010, they released a 3-track demo followed by a 7″ vinyl titled “Elizabeth”, and later their debut full-length album Opus Eponymous. The album was nominated for a Grammis, causing them to catch the attention of many Europeans. And, no, that is not a typo, it’s the Swedish version of the Grammys.
Their second album and major label debut Infestissumam (Good luck trying to read that, it’s even harder to say out loud), had been released in 2013. The album debuted at number one in Sweden, and won the Grammis Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Album. The band released their third studio album, Meliora, in 2015, to much critical acclaim and high record sales, reaching number one in their home country of Sweden, and number eight in the United States. Its lead single, “Cirice”, earned them the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.
Despite many calling the band an “overnight” success, they, or should I say, He, has been putting in many years of blood, sweat, and lawsuits (heh, too soon?) into this beyond masterful band called Ghost.
The reason why I call the band Ghost pure genius is due to the concept of the band. It goes beyond the music, as the entire formation of the band is based on eccentric theatrics that creates a “wow factor” on stage. The band consists of six members, of the five are the ‘Nameless Ghouls’, who wear identical, face-concealing costumes and are the backing members of the demonic anti-pope.
Prior to the 2017 lawsuit filed by former members of the band, lead singer Tobias Forge kept his identity hidden behind the character “Papa Emeritus.” The character, which consists of Forge in a prosthetic mask and makeup as the demonic pope that is brought to earth to gather a cult-like-community. The Papa Emeritus Character has gone through four incarnations – I, II, III, and Nihil. As of the 2018 album Prequelle and current world tour, Forge portrays a character known as “Cardinal Copia,” who is described as being unrelated to any of the Papa Emeritus characters and whose costume consists of either Cardinal vestments or a black tuxedo alongside a prosthetic mask with black eye makeup and the multi-colored eyes which had been present in each Papa character.
There’s honestly so much more to say about the band, such as the individual storylines of every album that will blow your mind, especially how they now connect to their fourth studio album! The amount of work that is put into the music and aesthetic is something worth reading into if you have the time, but for now, that’s enough of the history lesson, let us talk Prequelle.
After a three year wait, Ghost, under the complete control and direction of Tobias Forge, has released their/his fourth studio album, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. This album is a resurgence of everything we, as Ghost fans, have known the band to be. Now that Tobias is no longer in the dark with his identity, he has the creative freedom to claim total control of his 12-year vision of the band. However, this worried many fans that the excitement of the theatrics in Ghost is dead.
Before the release of the album Forge stated in an interview with blabbermouth magazine that this album will be a rebirth. In a way, Ghost is dead, at least how we know it. Tobias has taken the initiative to push the envelope with Prequelle. Many people demanded the band to go back to its more “scary” theatrics like we saw with their first album, Opus Eponymous, and Papa Emeritus I. Due to the high demand in that, I genuinely believed, and feared, that Tobias would keep it safe with this record, especially post-lawsuit drama, by feeding into the demands of the fans, but Prequelle is completely the opposite of fans, including myself, had expected.
The concept of Prequelle lies in post-black-plaque-Europe. Forge stated in the blabbermouth interview:
“.. I think that especially if you think about the plague, the Black Death. When it hit Europe in the mid-1300s, it wiped out half of the population. That’s not every other person — it wiped out complete villages, and maybe that one peasant who was a bit too far off or a little bit too secluded, that was the only person that survived. Then you had other villages that miraculously lived, but that created a lot of shifts. After the plague faded out, it also led to a resurgence, and a lot of bloom, basically.”
Which the album is exactly that. The plague was the lawsuit, the drama of unmasking, the drama of people not liking that Tobias taking full credit and ownership of his band, the Ghost that we had come to know is dead, and now something better has blossomed. Prequelle is a huge step away from Ghost’s third studio album, Meliora. Prequelle gives me the impression that Tobias is giving a middle finger to everyone that spent the past 12 months berating him, he has broken the chain of having to please an audience and brought the concept of Ghost to a whole different ballpark.
Move over Papa Emeritus’, Cardinal Copia is here to take over the post-plague world.
It’s strange to describe this album as the lovechild of ABBA and Black Sabbath, but it’s exactly that. The retro disco-essence is balanced with the dark guitar sounds, although dare I say its more disco than expected.
The album’s opener, “Ashes“, quickly reinforces the black plague theme as it is a choir of children singing “Ring Around the Rosie” which is infamously known as its symbolism of the death of children during the plague. The album then shifts dramatically into “Rats“, the lead single of the album. Rats is more of an upbeat disco feel, despite the heavy guitar riff played throughout, the more open drumming gives the retro-dance-vibes — also, lets not to forget it’s “dancing in the rain”-esque music video. So fucking iconic.
The first two tracks alone depict the theme of the ten-track-album…a groovy-black-plague… only Tobias could create such an oxymoron of a theme. The third track, “Faith”, is one of the more “metal” tracks on the album, you’ll instantly find yourself headbanging along.
The track that I really want to talk about is “See The Light”, because I feel like its probably one of the most personal tracks Tobias has shared with us, ever. Typically, the songs are on theme and related to the concept/story he is telling. However, for once Tobias is sharing a true story from his life with us, well at least in a more blunt way.
The hair-metal-esque ballad is a touching story of how Tobias has overcome the struggles of abandonment by not only longtime fans of Ghost, but his bandmates and friends. Despite that turmoil he has persevered his dignity, he’s become stronger and put all that energy into this album. As a big fan of not only Ghost but all of Tobias’ projects, the song made me emotional, I feel proud to call myself a fan.
From start to finish Prequelle blew my head off in the best way possible. I had anticipated a good album, even a great album, but this? This is exceeded everything I could have dreamed of. There isn’t a single song on here that I would skip, a true testament of how talented Tobias Forge is.
I give the album a solid five stars, 10/10, I am waving my wallet in the air and willing to give such a creative soul all the money I have. Literally, I have $50 in my bank and I used it to buy a hard copy (deluxe vinyl) of this album because I find the work of Tobias Forge to be beyond genius. I know I keep saying that, but if you read into the level of planning he puts into the production, aesthetic, story, you too would be giving this man a standing ovation.
Tobias, if you are for some reason reading this, know that I support you 100% and many others do.
If you have Ghosts, you have everything (literally).
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