Ghost - IMPERA Album Review

I think we're going to start this review with me talking about my favourite vodka. I think it will be clear as to why as we go on, but just bear with me for a moment.

At this point in history, I'm mainly a rum drinker, but when I first started drinking, my liquor of choice was vodka. I tried a lot of different brands and types of vodka. Pro tip: vanilla vodka and Pepsi or Coke makes a pretty delicious combo for when you want to add a sweet flavour to your drinking.

Oh, I should probably also take this point to say this is not sponsored content, though, if anything I'm about to mention wants to get in touch... You know...

Anyway, of these vodkas, I was partial to Grey Goose because I found it to be the smoothest of all the vodkas. Very little burn, very tasty; 5 on 5, would drink again. The problem with Grey Goose is it was, and to some extent, still is, pretty pricey, and as a college age drinker, I didn't have tons of money to throw around, so I needed to find an alternative.

So, one day, I was looking to replenish my alcohol supply when I came across a vodka I had never seen before. It is, and I guess still is, called Blavod. So, what was it that made me see this bottle and actually take the time to check it out among the sea of clear bottles at the liquor store? It was black.

I know, very cliche for someone that likes metal.

After I picked it up to examine this anomaly, I discovered it wasn't the bottle that was black, but the actual vodka itself. Why? Well, it has something to do with an extract from an Acacia tree... you can look it up if you're interested. I'm not an alcohol scientist.

As I looked at it, I of course had the thought, "This can't be good. First off, it's not super expensive. Second, vodka is supposed to be clear; this is the opposite. It must be awful," followed basically immediately by, "... buuuuutttt it's black, so I guess I have no choice."

I know, very cliche for someone that likes metal.

So I walked out of the store with my Blavod and can you imagine my surprise when I tasted it and found this cheaper, non-regular coloured vodka was just as good, if not more smooth and tasty than the higher shelf Grey Goose that I had been buying. And that is the appeal and joy that sometimes comes from gimmick products. On the very rare occasion, they can be as good or better than other "more traditional" offerings.

And so, with that, we land on a band that has taken their gimmick and run with it to levels only rivaled by KISS, that being Sweden's Ghost, formerly Ghost BC, formerly just Ghost.

Yes, the band has returned, with all the regalia and imagery intact, after their last ‘80s, stadium rock album, Prequelle, with a new record, IMPERA. But of course, it's still holding true to "Catholicism but all about Satan."

I know, very cliche for someone that likes metal.

Apparently set "thousands of years after the last record," whatever the hell that means. Were you too also under the impression that Ghost was copying the Catholic church of today? Well, it turns out we're the idiots and this was set in the past... Or maybe the new record is set in the future? Doesn't matter; the point is the concept is still going and apparently there's some story here and all of this is to highlight that I won't be talking about any of it. Instead, I will make the bold, and might I add, brave, stance of looking at just the music experience of this record, especially since the jump in time has affected that said music in basically no way.

Returning is the same ‘80s influenced stadium rock from the last record. Ghost seems to have landed on a formula that works for them with the notable exception of main mastermind Tobias Forge looking at the "prog" knob on the mixer and turning that up to mid levels.

This is pretty apparent as the record starts off with the particularly soaring "Kaisarion" that sounds like the band trying to formulate a track which has all the weirdo guitar passages of an ‘80s prog band, but with some sing along parts to really "get the audience involved,” and it pretty much pulls it off.

Though, he does manage to reel this in on tracks like "Spillways," which starts with the beginning of "(I Just) Died In Your Arms" and ends with every soaring guitar solo the ‘80s ever made.

That's not to say that older, let's go with "pre-’80s" Ghost is not present here. Most of "Watcher In The Sky," and "Twenties" have that weird "Mercyful Fate but at a circus" type of vibe you can imagine from Meliora.

There is another difference in this record, which may be a prequel (ha... see what I did there?) to Ghost going in an even more poppy direction with the last third of the record sounding like tracks that could easily sit as a "rock entry" in Eurovision, barring of course the length of the last track, "Respite On The Spitalfields."

So I guess if I have to rate this record on the scale of Ghost records, I'd say we're at a solid mid tier. It's not as smooth as the Grey Goose that is Meliora, but I'd say it sits around a SKYY or a Stoli level; not quite reaching the popularity of Smirnoff, but always looking to try to take the spot, especially now that Russian vodkas are being banned at liquor stores. Oooh look, a topical reference!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go run my Crystal Head Vodka through a Brita filter a bunch of times to try to make it palatable enough to drink.

I know, very cliche for someone that likes metal.