The Best Albums of 2015, #15

band0115. Ghost, Meliora (Loma Vista)

Why did so many people dislike Infestissumam? in the lead-up to Ghost’s third album this year, writer after writer went off about how the Swedish band’s 2013 full-length was a mis-step, how it lacked the energy of the near-classic debut, how it lacked riffs. It was one of those moments where I rolled my eyes. Good lord, people, does it always have to be about the riffs? Infestissumam was anti-riff, which is why I loved it so much. It was about mood, which I felt was accurately captured. But the band felt the pressure, as the album was rushed through the mixing and mastering process, and underperformed commercially. So with the cheekily titled Meliora (Latin for “better”) they sharpened their sound once again, cranked up the guitars a little more, and most importantly, found a producer in Klas Åhlund who pushed them hard. What resulted is an album that took a long while to grow on me, but months later I’m absolutely smitten with it. Indeed it’s more assertive in the riff department, as “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” and “Mummy Dust” prove, but from the beginning Ghost’s brilliance has always been how they artfully balance darkness and light. Their shtick is to sing outwardly Satanic lyrics while emphasizing melody, to attract flies with honey rather than vinegar. And there are moments on this album that are simply breathtaking. “Cirice” is a brilliant piece of work, juxtaposing an inspired doom riff with a hook that comes from the opposite end of the spectrum. “Absolution” justaposes a forceful verse riff with a chorus which finally warrants comparison to Blue Öyster Cult, with its rich vocal harmonies, melodic riff pattern, and cascading keyboards that are nothing if not Alan Lanier-esque. Meanwhile, absurd as it may sound, “Deus in Absentia” is Fleetwood Mac, through and through. Trust me. The high point, though, is particularly glorious, and again captures the essence of BÖC: “He Is” is a perfect marriage of doom and pop, theatrical and ornate yet seductive, the best thing Ghost have ever done. In the end, the critics were more behind Meliora, which was great, but if you ask me, this band, who are quickly becoming my favourite new band of the 2010s, are three-for-three. (Spotify) (YouTube)