By Adrian Woods, Contributor
[Loma Vista Recordings; 2022]
Key tracks: “Kaisarion”, “Call Me Little Sunshine”, “Griftwood”
The heavy and glam metal outfit Ghost is back with their fifth studio album, IMPERA, and when I say “glam metal” for this album, it is total glam metal. A lot of this album feels like a rock opera, and while that may sound like a positive thing, it ends up being a negative. If Ghost were to just make a pure metal album, it would sound so much better. However, the “glam” sound on this album mixed with the heavy metal instrumentation makes this album feel mixed and disjointed, not quite sure of what it exactly wants to be. Glam metal can be done well, with example from bands like Scorpions and Bon Jovi, that have the perfect mix of using that glam sound while the instruments fit in perfectly. Ghost tries to achieve that level of prestige, but falls achingly short.
This is not to say that this album does not have its high points. “Call Me Little Sunshine” has some of the best riffs and drums on the entire album, along with a strong vocal performance. The opening song “Imperium” is a good instrumental that builds up to the next song “Kaisarion.” Both of these songs feel like some of the most “metal” songs on the album with tight guitar work, charismatic vocals and good production. It is a shame because only a few songs after that have the same energy as those. The song “Griftwood” is really good too with catchy riffs, a nice drum tempo and some of the best vocals on the album, but a few good songs on the record do not make up for the messiness of this album.
Another issue with IMPERA is the vocal performances on songs. The sounds of the vocals change throughout the album, ranging from good to poor. On the song “Twenties”, the vocals sound like someone with a raspy voice trying their best to talk quietly and loud at the same time, and this voice carries on into other songs like “‘Darkness At The Heart Of My Love”. I also feel that the album’s production keeps it back from being really good, as the instruments should be way louder and less clean than what they are. I just feel that it would give the album more character than what it has, and what it has is not very memorable. The cleanliness of the instrumentals on a song like “Spillways” does not help the song reach its full potential due to the production.
Another amusing note about this record is that the few interludes are actually a bit more interesting than some of the songs on the album. The ambient sounds and horns on the song “Dominion” give it a buildup that actually makes you want to continue listening further.
Overall, IMPERA is not the worst metal album I have ever heard. It’s relatively harmless and does less harm than good. But the problem with Ghost is that they could be so much better if they just fixed up their sound a bit, and if they did that, they could be one of the best metal acts out there today. But unfortunately, these missteps just keep Ghost at a level below their rock potential.