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Over the past ten years, Ghost have fast been making a name for themselves, and you have almost certainly heard that very name in some way, shape or form – be it their recent Grammy success or the controversy that tends to surround them regarding their Satanism image, which gets them into all sorts of trouble in the United States.

Ghost were formed in 2006, and are primarily described by the band themselves as rooted in black metal; although they have been called anything from heavy metal to hard rock, and have even been called doom metal in their time. In some tracks however, they sometimes have a very characteristic pop-like sound to them.

The band have always cloaked themselves in mystique, refusing to reveal their true identities and only conducting press in full costume – they have chosen this method as they want to focus on the music as an art form and not ruin the illusion with their private lives. Their costumes enter a new iteration with every new studio album, and they also tend to have a ‘new’ vocalist join the band with every new cycle – replacing the former with another similar but apparently younger frontman, all of which go by the name of Papa Emeritus. So far there have been three incarnations of the mysterious singer, the current being Papa Emeritus III; although it is rumoured that each vocalist is actually the same person – he just changes his identity with each new album.

On September 16th, Ghost released their new EP ‘Popestar’ via Spinefarm Records, which was a surprise five track offering featuring the original track Square Hammer, and the band’s interpretations of unconventional pop tracks from the likes of Echo and The Bunnymen and Eurythmics. On this day, they also released a deluxe version of their 2015 Grammy Award winning ‘Meliora’, which was debuted to critical acclaim. ‘Popestar’ EP is available as a bonus disc on this deluxe offering, and a music video has also been released for Square Hammer.

Getting onto ‘Popestar’, and Square Hammer starts the EP with an upbeat synth sound and hammering drums before all instrumentation comes in. The track has a hooky chorus and riff with strong pop music undertones – a theme that is of course carried through the EP with the pop music tributes. I found the sound almost reminiscent of the Kaiser Chiefs which was unexpected, considering I have always thought Ghost targeted themselves at being quite heavy and alternative. Although I have never personally rated Ghost’s music and sound, this track is pretty good with a decent catchy sound. As much as it pains me to admit, after the sixth or seventh listen I was starting to enjoy the track more each time.

Nocturnal Me is a lot grungier than Square Hammer, and an entirely different sound to accustom oneself to. It manages to keep the essence of Echo and the Bunnymen very well, with Ghost giving fair tribute to it – but of course keeping their own characteristic sound to it. I have to say, this track was a very good fit for Ghost to have covered and out their own spin on it.

Going into I Believe is quite surreal, thinking one is listening to Phil Collins or something of that ilk when really it is a cover of the off-kilter choice Simian Mobile Disco – who I was not quite sure what to make of after watching the video of the original track (they aren’t a band on my radar admittedly). In my opinion, I would say Ghost have done a pretty good cover of this song – and I actually prefer their version to the original.

Missionary Man, which of course is a cover of the mighty Eurythmics, is another solid Ghost re-interpretation of the original classic from 1986, and one I found I kept revisiting in my mind after I had listened to the track. It also features a fantastic guitar solo towards the close of the song which was nicely done and fully makes the track my solid favourite of this EP.

Bible was my least favourite track from the EP, as although the track is a faithful cover of the original from Imperiet, I didn’t really rate either version that highly and subsequently Ghost’s tribute failed to hook my attention.

All in all, I am sure Ghost fans will be more than thrilled with this surprise EP release, as it is still a strong addition to the Ghost repertoire and quintessentially covers all their hallmarks on a slightly different tangent; though I however am less than enamoured. Ghost have not managed to sucker in my attention with this EP – although generally Square Hammer is a decent track with its catchy riff and striking lyrics, and Missionary Man is very good also.

If you are a fan of Ghost then I am sure you will be getting this EP either on its own or with Meliora Deluxe; however if you aren’t a fan now or yet then I would say maybe listen to Meliora first and go from there – the albums are on Spotify which means you are able to check them out easily enough.

Niki Flynn

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