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Album Review: GHOST Phantomime EP

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With an upcoming tour with Amon Amarth coming later this summer, Ghost gives us a five song EP to whet our appetites a bit for some more gothy, pop-inspired goodness. Phantomime is a stellar record that's only going to get Ghost fans even hungrier for more from their favorite preacher as they follow him along the left hand path.

The opener, "See No Evil," will have you bouncing along with it's massive bass. It's very prominent in the mix along with some Gary Numan-sounding keyboards. A modern guitar solo makes an appearance as well, updating the very '80s sonics of the Television classic. This is a cover that will have you toe tapping and foot stomping without missing a beat as Ghost takes a relatively simple straight-forward rocker and adds their own brand of gothic atmosphere. They elevate the track it into something much larger and bombastic than the original. You can't help but love it immediatly.

"Jesus He Knows Me" features a really big sound as Ghost seems to utilize a large amount of Nameless Ghouls on many different instruments to pull this cover off. It's significantly heavier and meatier than the original Genesis version which first appeared on the band's 1991 record, We Can't Dance. The song, of course, was released as Genesis' critique of televangelists who were duping millions of Americans out of large amounts of cash all in the name of Jesus. With that, I do particularly love the lyric towards the end of the track where Papa sings, "I'm counting my blessings and I've found true happiness cuz I'm getting richer day by day." The irony is particularly compelling here as I keep forking over more and more dollars myself to Ghost as I stare at my collection of Ghost action figures that live above my desk as I write this review. The thing is, I'm perfectly content spending even more money on Ghost merch as long as they keep churning out bangers like this one.

Ghost's version of "Hanging Around" immediately grabs your attention with a keyboard introduction that comes right out of the John Lord (Deep Purple) playbook. It is a more pronounced use of the instrument compared to the original cut. Ghost also adds a much heavier production and added layers of backing vocals when compared to the original Strangler's tune. All together we really get a punk rock meets Deep Purple type of atmosphere that makes the cover rather intriguing and distinct from the original.

The crown jewel of the EP is, without a doubt, their breathtaking cover of the Iron Maiden classic "Phantom of the Opera." This is from the Paul Di'anno era of the band and specifically comes from the self-titled 1981 masterpiece. What has always stood out to me on this song, as a longstanding fan of Maiden, has been Steve Harris' bass, which is so intricate and so forward in the mix. When I first heard that Ghost was covering the song, I was actually a bit hesitant thinking to myself, "Can they really pull this off while doing justice to Steve?" The answer, of course, is a resounding yes as whichever Ghoul plays the bass on this cut seems to have made a deal with the devil himself.

I also love how Ghost integrates some piano along with the lead guitar about three minutes into the track, giving the cover a unique spin. It's these little accents here and there like this that help Tobias Forge craft something new from a classic. He has this distinct knack for really making all of his covers his own while not straying too far from the original canvas.

That John Lord-style keyboard makes another appearance in the final track of this ridiculously marvelous record at the very beginning of "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)." Ghost really takes a risk here and decides to take on an '80s classic that was originally performed by living legend Tina Turner. This song was a huge radio hit that came from the third Mad Max film which also featured Turner as a member of the cast. Now clearly Forge doesn't have the pipes of Tina Turner, and smartly, he doesn't try and match Turner's vocal. Rather he changes it just a bit to keep it within his register abilities. Additionally, Papa and company give the song a bit more heft and heaviness with the addition of more guitars. Now I was waiting for the sax solo in the track (originally performed by Timmy Capello) and another possible resurrection from Papa Emeritus Nihil but, alas, the original sax solo is swapped out in favor of a shorter, punchier guitar solo. Still completely works.

As someone who was alive when all of the originals were released, I have to say I'm extremely pleased with the direction that Ghost took with all of the covers. Injecting their own Gothic style into pop and arena rock is what this band does so well and the band essentially puts on a clinic of how to do covers with the Phantomime EP. This is not only a must have for any Ghost fan, this a record that can be enjoyed by so many outside of the continuously growing congregation.

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