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Sunday, 3 June 2018

Reviews: Ghost, Spock's Beard, Dopethrone, Motorjesus

Ghost: Prequelle (Loma Vista/Spinefarm)

Papa Emeritus is dead...I know this tends to be how we start a review of nearly all Ghost albums but as III became a vaudeville false prophet he was killed by Papa Nihil the older wiser eviler(?) head of Ghost’s Satanic church. In his place the young Cardinal Copia has been called up to spread the message along with some new Nameless Ghouls (who for the protection of the innocent shall remain Nameless), hungry to prove himself but under Papa Nihil’s control Prequelle (and the subsequent tour) is a way for him to prove himself and perhaps become Papa IV. Yes its Ghost folks they’re back and as gloriously entertaining and mysterious as ever, with this ‘new’ frontman at the helm I wondered what Prequelle was going to do, would it go back to the 70’s rock of Opus Eponymous or stick with the pop-inflected sound of Popestar?

The truth is the 80's are here in a big way as the funky sax laced instrumental Miasma (that has some Beat It styled guitar) splits the album between chuggy classic metal and bouncy filthy pop. The theme surrounding the album is death and doom with the Medieval period given the bulk of the treatment. Just take the two singles the plague anthem Rats is a Maiden gallop with a ripping solo and genuine sense of malice while Dance Macabre is a thumping apocalyptic disco song and Eurovision anthem in the making (surely Ghost have to enter at some point?) It’s the fine line between drama and farce but done so well it doesn’t matter. Faith and Witch Image keep up the rocking but as is tradition now there is a rock ballad in the form of the 80's-tastic See The Light a de-facto sequelle(sic) to He Is with the Ghost speciality of making yearning love ballads the sound innocent enough but have a delicious leather underbelly of deviance.

Pro Memoria is the most overtly Satanic song on the record referring to Lucifer by name, it's an epic with harmony leads and grand piano. Things get folky with second instrumental Helvetesfönster a song that utilizes a harpsichord and segues into the finale of the beautiful choral Life Eternal, it’s pure pop-metal of the highest order that demands replays as soon as the album ends, whatever you think of the kitschy visual this band portray musically they are incredibly talented and have managed to win over even the most hardened metal head cynics with their flagrant disregard for being hip or trendy, yet somehow they have found themselves as the ‘it’ band of the moment.

 If I were to say anything pick up the special edition which features a thumping version of The Pet Shop Boys' It’s A Sin which benefits from a metalization and the spectral vocals, while Leonard Cohen’s Avalanche is dramatic and puts a heavy rock sound to Cohen’s horrific tale of love, and lust. Pop-metal mastery, occult theatrics and out of the ordinary covers, check on all three this is Ghost’s modus operandi and it’s brilliant. 9/10

Spock’s Beard: Noise Floor (InsideOut)

Spock’s Beard are a band that have carried the banner for classic progressive rock music for over 20 years now. The Los Angeles band formed in 1992 with a sound that had all been wiped out by sleaze and grunge, especially in L.A where the Sunset Strip was the main place for music at that time. Brothers Neal and Alan Morse though looked back in time and across the pond for their musical inspiration, they style Spock’s Beard as band carrying on the legacy of Yes, Genesis and Gentle Giant with pop sensibilities strewn throughout their progressive rock music, their musical direction has remained pretty similar since their debut record in 1994.

As with all good prog bands the membership has changed, they even did the drummer-becomes-singer switch, but the band continues regardless, their use of intricate, multi-part vocal harmonies and counterpoint vocals a calling card that has also continued to this day. So to the present day Noise Floor is Spock’s Beard thirteenth album and their third with Enchant’s Ted Leonard behind the mic, it also marks the second album featuring original drummer (and previous SB vocalist) Nick D'Virgilio who away from the frontman role is solely here to be a drummer and part of the backing vocal harmonies.

Noise Floor hasn’t broken any barriers in terms of experimentation, we aren’t going to get a SB death metal album any time soon but it’s yet another record of mellifluous keyboard heavy (Ryo Okumoto) progressive rock with Alan Morse's emotive guitar lines still the beating heart of the complex soundscapes of this record, taking a track such as Somebody's Home which has lilting classical guitars, lush orchestrations and Yes-isms galore that continue on the folky Have We All Gone Crazy which segues into a jazz odyssey in the middle eight. Noise Floor is another superior example
of Spock's Beard's longevity, not unlucky at all album number 13 makes a lovely racket. 8/10

Motorjesus: Race To Resurrection (Drakkar Entertainment)

Shifting gears (sorry not sorry) to Motorjesus, the German band that marry religion and racing, not because they're a Christian band, they like the iconography and I mean they are called Motorjesus which is less Son Of God more Sons Of Nazareth. Smashing down your stereo Tales From The Wrecking Ball kicks off what is their fifth album in fine style, thick riffage, vocals worn by whiskey and a melodic sing along chorus, although not as catchy as King Collider a song that will be sung ad nauseum by drunken fans all over the world. Race To Resurrection reminds me so much of the leather clad biker rocking of Mustasch, Black Spiders, Volbeat and Black Label Society but also the modern American rock of Alter Bridge et al.

As soon as you hit play the nitrous kicks in and the record pulls 0-60 in less than 2 seconds, there's no let up as they plow riff after riff but throw in monstrous catchy hook lines that will help them secure a wider audience. Personally I can't believe I've only just heard of them, I may have to do some digging as Race To Resurrection has certainly been a surprise hit for me with a mix of groove driven hard rock, classic metal throwbacks, hooks that get right under your skin, throw in darker stuff like Casket Days (Sounding like Chrome Division), the odd acoustic number The Internal and trunk full of riffs it's a record that belies it's 13 song tracklist. Ironically (or not) it's ideal driving music, although you may get a ticket.

This is apparently the most well rounded Motorjesus record the band have made, well the fine tuning and production shine by Dan Swanö really makes this baby purr. Get the volume up, put the hammer down and praise Motorjesus! 7/10

Dopethrone: Transcanadian Anger (Totem Cat Records)

Can Canadian’s feel anger? I’ve always thought they were the friendliest people on earth but Dopethrone didn’t get the memo. They are a Canadian band (named after an Electric Wizard record) that play scuzzy, filthy sludge metal, sticking to their punk and hardcore roots the songs on this drug addled bastard of a record have titles such as Killdozer, Scuzzgasm, Tweak Jabber, Snort Dagger and Kingbilly Kush and in their press release it states that this fifth slab of sludge is influenced by “yellow snow, crack head diarrhoea, blood, tears and broken dreams” As you can probably guess it’s not a smile a minute the complete opposite to the Ghost record but then metal is a broad church, however I struggle with a lot of the straight ahead sludge bands as sometimes their music is a little too soupy with the distorted to hell riffs blurring into one long monotonous riff and snarled vocals, plus they rip off Tush by the mighty ZZ Top on Kingbilly Kush, which drops them a point further. If you’re sludge metal fan then get some Transcanadian Anger, if not stick with something a little happier. 6/10

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