Impera by Ghost - An Album Review
Tobias Forge and his faceless brethren return for their 5th studio album
When Ghost announced a new album in 2022, I felt a shiver of dread. Prequelle had been a poor follow-up to their breakthrough album, 2015’s Meliora. While there were glimmers of potential with Rats and Dance Macabre, the album was heavy on meandering instrumentals and lacked the consistency and heaviness of the previous album.
It turns out we should never have doubted. (Okay, I should never have doubted). Impera expels any doubts from the first track. An acoustic arpeggio leads the way, joined by majestic twin guitar harmonies and a staccato snare before Forge opens Kaisarion with a high pitched scream.
Listening back to Impera one year later, this feels like the perfect evolution of Ghost’s sound. They’ve retained the signature that they established on Meliora, but incorporated some of the playfulness that was beginning to emerge on Prequelle. There is a more commercial lean to this album - evoking more classic rock and metal sounds (and even a little ABBA fakeout at the beginning of Spillways).
Forge keeps the energy levels high throughout the first half of the album, through Call me Little Sunshine, Hunter’s Moon (from the Halloween Kills soundtrack) and reach fever pitch with the explosive Watcher In The Sky. Things get a little more offbeat with Twenties, which sees Forge in a grimy, cautionary tale about late-stage capitalism and drawing parallels between the 1920s and the current decade.
Watcher In The Sky and Kaisarion are the strongest tracks on this album. Watcher… is a pure frenzy of riffs, hooks and an arena-ready chorus. It’s Ghost at the height of their powers - building to an epic crescendo with a suitably over-the-top guitar solo. I remember playing this LOUD for a friend on a road trip and both of us going nuts over how good this track is.
Initially, Sunshine and Hunter’s Moon didn’t sit well in this track listing for me. However, once the album embeds itself in your psyche, this is less disjointed. Hunter’s Moon feels like it was crammed in because of its connection to the Halloween movie, but it’s still a powerful rock track.
For me, the weaker parts of the album reside near the end: Darkness At The Heart Of My Love is a pomp-laden track that hangs around like an unwanted visitor. And while Respite On The Spitalfields is a clever play on the Jack The Ripper legend, both of these songs feel more low energy compared to the liveliness and excitement of the first half of the album.
Overall though, Ghost have delivered one of their best albums to date, cementing their position in metal history. Forge has cleverly leaned on classic rock sounds and motifs while maintaining the energy, heaviness and downright creepiness that Ghost naturally evokes. And all this constructed around the themes of falling empires, which seems spookily prescient given the state of the world today.
If pandemics and global disorder are directly linked to Ghost’s last two albums, we can only hope the next one is a bit more cheerful. Until then, we’ve got Impera.
Impera: Track Listing
- Call Me Little Sunshine
- Hunter’s Moon
- Watcher In The Sky
- Darkness At The Heart Of My Love
- Bite Of Passage
- Respite On The Spitalfields