Despite what naysayers continue to argue against, the Satanic Pope and his band of ghouls are back with their third record, Meliora, the follow-up to the generally well received Infestissumam. Dodging the sophomore slump, would these Swedes be able to continue to build on their success and musicianship or would the detractors finally have their way and see them fall on their faceless masks? Haters be damned. Ghost is back again and, arguably, better than ever.

Part of the issue fans had with the band’s sophomore record, Infestissumam, was that it wasn’t a good old fashion rock album like its predecessor. It was full of pomp and circumstance and was a little to “big” for fans of the band’s debut. Bouncing around from the operatic Yero Zero and Satan’s Eyes to the split waltz to surf rock Ghuleh/Zombie Queen track to the more familiar Secular Haze, it was like Ghost wanted to create as much variety as possible to see what stuck. While I, and many others loved it, it appeared to be a bit much for those that were hoping for just another record full of Mercyful Fate and Blue Oyster Cult nods.

With Meliora, the band has seemed to have found the balance. Instead of trying to distance themselves from Opus Eponymous, they went back to the well that worked for them. On the surface this is once again a great hard rock record. The bass, which tends to command the lead of the rest of the instruments, sets the tone for the groovy sounds ala B.O.C but sticks firm to the grandness of the sophomore record. The albums second single, and coincidentally the second track, From The Pinnacle To The Pit, has such a sense of bravado that sets the stage of what will follow. If you are looking for this album’s Elizabeth, start right here. In a bit of experimentation, but without the traveling too far down the spectrum, the He Is track has a good bit of psychedelic to it that, with Papa’s vocal delivery, reminds me at times of some of that 60’s California pop (think Mamas & The Papas or Jefferson Airplane). Clearly they weren’t done with trying out that sound but this is much more contained and true to course than Zombie Queen was on the last record. In the closer, Deus In Abstenia, we get our showcase track, the one that will stay with you long after you finish listening the record, much like Yero Zero and Ritual did for the previous records. In what sounds like a bit of a nod to Thin Lizzy riffage, you get the all the gusto they are capable of with a memorable, infectious chorus that will demand you to hit the repeat button at its final note.

Not only is the music fantastic on this record, the production is on another level. I’ll admit, the dirty/raw sound of the first record was part of the attraction and the clearness of Infestissumam was a bit off putting at first due, but it was something that I quickly grew accustomed to. With the showmanship and all that goes into their gimmick, Ghost isn’t supposed to sound amateur. Sure they borrow their entire musical idea from bands from four to five decades ago, but they are meant to sound better than that. Meliora is perfection in this department. The drums punch you in the chest, the bass tone is hypnotic, and the guitars and keys are leveled just ever so slightly behind them, that it complements the low end drive extremely well. Klas Ahlund and Andy Wallace have worked with some of the biggest names in the business and, clearly, there is a reason why. They have made Ghost sound colossal, to the point where it actually makes my car stereo sound better when this record is playing.

It’s time to stop doubting Ghost and writing them off as some sort of buzz, hype, or whatever trendy word you want to use to describe them. As far as I’m concerned these guys are the real deal. Sure, they wear their influences on their sleeves but that doesn’t take away the fact that they write some seriously killer tunes. 3 for 3 and they are only getting better. Time to jump on and enjoy the ride before it passes you by.