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EMP, Music, Special

Ghost – Prequelle: Album Review

Ghost have been going from strength to strength in recent years. When they burst onto the scene in 2010 they were more of a curiosity than a full-fledged part of the metal world, thanks to Papa Emeritus’ extravagant costumes, the fully disguised ‘nameless ghouls’ and the band’s knack for mixing blasphemous themes of death and the devil with downright catchy music and clean vocals. Certainly, they’ve never been a band that you could be indifferent about. And whilst the gimmicks might have been a nice way to get attention, it’s the music that keeps the fans there. Music which has remained of an extremely high caliber since day one (or Year Zero, if you will). So naturally there was considerable hype regarding the release of the band’s new album ‘Prequelle’ with a brand-new member of the satanic clergy at the helm.

In a way, the choice to ‘fire’ yet another Papa Emeritus (we were already on Papa Emeritus III by the third album) in favour of the significantly less intimidating Cardinal Copia looks quite a lot like a deliberate step away from their satanic image towards something which is still quirky but a bit less cumbersome. Since the satanic pope’s real identity has been making its way into the media anyway thanks to the legal quarrels between (nameless) band members, it was probably time for Tobias Forge to shed a couple of layers of papal robes and be a little freer. What does this mean for the music, though?

Whilst the band’s image and music have always been separate beasts, there is certainly something of a trend going on. When I last saw Ghost at Bloodstock festival in 2017, Papa/Forge shed most of his costume halfway through the set anyway, opting for a mostly black ensemble and a corpse-paint makeup style instead, marking a shift from the band’s first two albums to the slightly more classic rock style of Meliora. Yet another image change and (mock) personnel change looks to herald another significant shift in musical style for the band. In my opinion, it seems that they’re gradually trying to drop some of the gimmicky elements which made them famous but have gradually begun to hold them back in terms of experimentation. We can no longer expect spooky organs, satanic invocations and liberal use of slightly grammatically-incorrect Latin. Instead, the band have gone full steam ahead with the energetic classic rock with a twist that’s been part of their sound all the time, but has now come to the fore.

(Photo credit: www.rocksins.com)

The album opens with a creepy kids’ nursery rhyme which introduces the theme of the Black Plague / apocalypse that loosely ties the album together, then plunges straight into the lead single ‘Rats’. Straight away, you can recognize that typical Ghost sound, with the characteristic vocals and keyboards, although with a more simplistic structure and a slight 80’s touch, especially the OTT backing vocals. Is this a good direction? In my honest opinion, this isn’t one of the best tracks they’ve ever produced, which is a shame, although it’s certainly on the catchy end of the scale. As with any band, over the years the style does change and some will be more or less happy.

Faith’ kicks in with an utterly epic metal riff, which unfortunately doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the album. Whilst Ghost have never been extremely heavy, I sense the metal elements dropping away – none of the songs here have the heavy edge that, say, Mummy Dust did on the previous album. I’d have liked to hear a bit more of that riff, for sure.

Unfortunately there are one or two weaker moments on this album, especially ‘See the Light’ and ‘Dance Macabre’. ‘I wanna be wit’ you in the moonlight, I wanna be wit’ you all night’, Forge sings on ‘Dance Macabre’, a track which wouldn’t be terribly out of place on an Abba album. They are fellow Swedes, after all.

For some reason the most interesting stuff was left for the end of the album. Both instrumental tracks have left space open for Ghost to try something new musically and flex their creative muscles. ‘Helvetesfonster’ in particular has a slightly medieval sound and picks up on some of the musical themes earlier in the album, gradually seguing from classical melodies into energetic progressive rock.

My favourite track is probably ‘Pro Memoria’, something that would probably sound a little ridiculous coming from many other bands ‘don’t you forget about your friend death’… but when Cardinal Copia sings these lyrics over a background of perfectly executed keys, it ends up being a rather anthemic pean to death, which almost makes the idea of dying seem rather cheerful and fun. The final track, ‘Life Eternal’ isn’t bad either though, albeit it on the power ballad side. Forge has always had an uncanny ability to awaken the emotions, which he does here almost as well as on epic tracks like ‘Cirice’ on Meliora. It’s something that should almost be cheesy, but just because it’s Ghost, it isn’t.

Prequelle is probably never going to be my favourite Ghost album, but I can see the value in their maturing away from the satanic gimmicks and costumes and developing their style into something more universal. Whilst moments hark back to the 70’s or 80’s, others look forward to a new era of Ghost, which will definitely be something to keep an eye on.

Can’t get enough of Ghost? We have lots of Ghost merch to feed that obsession!

Alex Turner

BACKSTAGE, EMP, Music, Special

Venom Prison – UK Death Metal at its Finest

Venom Prison formed in 2014 and in the space of 4 years they have become one of the leading up and coming UK death metal bands.

In April, they embarked on a European tour supporting Trivium and I caught up with vocalist Larissa Stupar and guitarists Ash Gray and Benn Tomas before the show at London’s Brixton Academy speaking about all things Venom Prison and gaming:

 

After the interview, Venom Prison got ready to hit the stage and I went into the venue to get ready for the aural assault that they were about to unleash upon us. Brixton Academy is the biggest venue on the tour and when they appear on stage, they bring with them a wall of technical death metal that is not only played super tight (no easy feat) but with also so much energy that any newcomers to the band can’t help but be impressed.

Circle pits appear and Larrisa is dominating the crowd as Ben and Ash lay down riff after riff of technical brilliance. They are clearly on top of their game; I’ve seen them before and they were awesome but this show… this is something special and I cannot wait to hear what comes next from them. Like they said in the interview, a new album is being recorded in July so keep an eye out for that but in the meantime check out their debut album “Animus” and more band merch if you haven’t already!

Sam Kelly-Wallace
EMP Events Managers UK & IE

Venom Prison socials:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/venomprison
Instagram & Twitter: @venomprison

BACKSTAGE, EMP, Music, Special

Interview with Aaron Matts from Betraying The Martyrs – London

Formed in 2008, Betraying The Martyrs is the perfect example of English and French cooperation, after releasing 3 albums they have proved themselves as a consistent and solid band known for heavy death-growls and incredible piano leads courtesy of their clean vocalist and keys player Victor Guillet.

I was lucky enough to sit down with their frontman Aaron Matts back in March when they played Borderline in London where we talked pineapple on pizza, their latest album and touring in America. See the interview below:

 

After a chat and a drink we went each to our own, and I got ready for the show. The opening bands “From Sorrow to Serenity” and “Modern Day Babylon” played tight sets and were perfect to get the crowd ready for the main event!

The show being in a tiny bar without a barrier already told me this would be a show for the books! Out walks Aaron and the rest of the band ready to go, towering over the crowd in an almost religious manner, and from the first note the crowd went insane. I stood as close to the stage as possible, turned around for a second and there I see a late 40’s Irish guy I met a few hours earlier going mental in the pit together with strangers from all walks of life.

For the next 45 minutes or so the entire room was taken by an incredible energy and Betraying the Martyrs sounded stronger than ever! There were mosh pits, jumping and hugs all around – even though we were all strangers, everyone was friends during that show. After the set, all the bands hung out at the merch table sharing laughs and having drinks, showing there were no room for egos on this tour.

All in all, the experience was incredible and if you haven’t seen Betraying the Martyrs but are intrigued after hearing their music, definitely go if you have the chance, and I hope to meet you the next time they are in London!

Check out our Betraying the Martyrs and more band merch!

-Alex Dante