Everyone’s favourite throwback metallers Ghost return with another tongue-in-cheek EP, Popestar. The cloaked lead singer Papa Emeritus leads his band of five masked “Nameless Ghouls” through five tracks – four of which are cover songs – following 2013’s similar EP, If You Have Ghost.
The entire album is pretty much built around opener Square Hammer – which is so good that it should have been on last year’s full-length album, Meliora. Heavy tom hits, oscillating organ and trademark theatrics define the song, which has Papa belting out falsetto in the verses and letting rip in a chorus worthy of air guitar.
Doom-laden rhythms, metallic scraping and sinister vocals follow on Echo and the Bunnymen’s Nocturnal Me. The song really fits Ghost’s rock-opera style, and is the most effective cover on the record. Simian Mobile Disco’s I Believe is the most unexpected re-take, and the band transforms the French duo’s pulsing electro track into something that more resembles a eulogy played by Coldplay.
Things begin to grate when Papa adopts a cowboy twang on Missionary Man (made famous by Eurythmics). A funky distorted harmonica solo does little to offset the bland chords and irritating wailing in the background of this karaoke-in-drag track.
Imperiet’s Bible wraps the EP with an atmospheric intro that leads into huge drums, U2-style stadium guitar and a crescendo worthy of Queen. Overall, Popestar is a fun but occasionally dry EP that sheds some of the theatrically evil overtones that made previous releases so compelling.