The well oiled machine that is Sweden's classic cult rock turned pop metal sensation Ghost keeps churning. The changing of the ghouls and the whole snafu regarding who gets paid seemingly forgotten, a new album sees the light of dawn. Impera, being the band's fifth full length, is a mixed bag of goods - though a clear step up in quality compared to direct predecessor Prequelle (2018). The fronting Cardinal of the previous album has left the building, leaving room for papal presence in the headlights; Papa Emeritus IV. At a cursory glance Impera would definitely seem a direct follow-up to over poppy Prequelle, but after few listens it turns out that much more multi faceted, thanks to improved songwriting - though it’s still a ways off from reaching the metallic heights of the great Meliora (2015).
It's still hella poppy, but the tone has shifted back to some of the occult sound and style of the past, while maintaining heaps of the pop stylistics and songwriting. They even some good old Meliora-isms and dark twists. Closer Respite on the Spitalfields a progressively tinged semi ballad that gathers all the ominous melody and bombast Ghost can muster for an epic finale. Though Kaisarion is a catchy opening number, laden with charisma and in-your-face attitude, most of the better stuff comes toward the latter half of the album. Both singles are - though catchy - among the least interesting numbers on the album, making the first half of the album more pop oriented than the second, superior half. A few songs do tend to drag on a tad, getting repetitive toward the end with the chorus on repeat. Watcher in the Sky and Griftwood stick out the most, though the latter ends up a highlight anyway thanks to its highly infectious hooks and thick riff layers upon layers.
Impera is the pits of Hell, the deep end of the abyss and despair, all in their usual tongue in cheek fashion, blending well with the poppy stylistics. I'll make no comparisons to '80s metal albums this time, because this is their own. It’s definitely going to be too poppy for many and the eerie ‘80s feel and sound of their first two albums (and perfected on Infestissumam (2013) is replaced with a crisp and clear production style. But for fans that can overcome this, Impera offers a nuanced experience steeped in the band’s dark tropes and new, exciting influences including some proggy sections. It all culminates in a trilogy of songs that place among Ghost’s finest ones to date, in terms of infectious songwriting and delivery. This is what Ghost is all about; the eerie sound of their early albums may be past but with Impera they bring that same charisma, that level of Hell that goes so well with afternoon tea with the clergy.
Standout tracks: Darkness at the Heart of My Love, Griftwood, Respite on the Spitalfields