GHOST – Phantomime (EP Review)

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Why?

Why in God’s name is this necessary? I mean, coming on the heels of “Impera” — which I rated the top album of 2022 — “Phantomime” is a letdown.  t’s just not special.

I know, Tobias Forge has done this before, putting out covers EP’s between albums. Maybe it’s a way to keep Ghost in the public eye. Maybe Forge is just paying homage to artists/ songs that mean something to him. Maybe it’s a chance to use royalties to support a cause (“Enter Sandman” monies went toward a Swedish camp that welcomes LGBTQ kids). Maybe some or all or none of those. But why?

The record kicks off with “See No Evil,” a great song by the Punk/New Wave band Television. The Ghost version is more sonically full than the original. But there’s little to match up to the twin Television guitar attack of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. An interesting choice, no question. But why?

“Jesus He Knows Me” is more of an obvious choice. The Genesis original poked fun and bile at televangelists — people who are out to gratify their wants as opposed to lifting the spirits of the faithful. Forge has been doing something similar for more than a decade, deriding organized religion and some of the pastors therein. The new version — and this may sound like a broken record — has a much fuller sound, highly produced and with a sheen that is pure Ghost. But otherwise, it’s pretty close to Phil Collins and company’s performance. Why?

I was actually thrilled to see the group cover Hanging Around by the Stranglers. If I’d interviewed Forge a couple of years ago (and I’m still available to do that, hint, hint), I would have asked him about doing that song.  It’s a natural — specially with the bad Jesus joke in the chorus:

Christ he told his mother
Christ he told her not to bother
Cos he’s alright in the city
Cos he’s high above the ground
He’s just hanging around (hanging around)

That being said, I prefer the original.  t’s sleazy and dirty (of course it is, it’s the Stranglers). Jean-Jacques Burnel’s bass drives the song throughout. Hugh Cornwell’s somewhat threatening vocals really make a difference — while Forge’s are very clean and crisp. Ghost’s take is heavier, with a thicker production. It’s just not dangerous. Why?

Iron Maiden’s “Phantom of the Opera” is also an obvious cover. The original is Prog-Metal, right up Ghost’s alley. But Iron Maiden — at least on this song — has more fire and brimstone in the performance. The Ghost cover is better produced and, just like the others, has a fuller sound. The lead vocals are comparable between Paul Di’Anno and Forge (Bruce Dickinson had not yet joined Maiden). But they both lack the “pop” needed to do the song true justice. As always, Ghost is interesting. There is no revelation here, unfortunately. Why?

“Phantomime” Artwork

The closer is the surprise: a performance of Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” This is the only song where the original was released during Forge’s lifetime (and barely). The Ghost-man’s vocals are good and strong on this one — but how does one compete with the incomparable Ms. Turner? You can’t. Honestly, Forge isn’t really trying to do so. This is his take on things. But Tina’s version is the standard, more of a plea than a statement of fact. Ghost is demanding that there be no more heroes. I wonder — what if they’d slowed things down, echoing “Impera”’s “Respite on the Spital Fields,” creating something sinister and dangerous? Alas, we’ll never know. Why?

Interestingly, these songs were recorded at the same time as “Impera” — and another five were cut with the thought of doing an entire album of covers. Forge decided not to go that far, and that’s probably wise (and that means there are another set of songs ready to go). I’ve admitted it before—I came late to the Ghost banquet, but I dove into the feast with mouth wide open. “Impera” was brilliant. “Phantomime” is okay but not special, certainly not in the way that I’ve come to expect from the Swedish savant. 

So I’ll go see the band on their current tour and marvel at all that they are. I’ll put “Phantomime” in the library, in the back with stuff I rarely listen to (“Impera” is at the front). And I’ll await the next original album by Ghost. And when it comes out, I imagine I’ll ask, “Why the hell didn’t they put this out instead of the covers EP?”

Released By: Loma Vista Recordings
Release Date: May 19th, 2023
Genre:  Symphonic / Metal / Prog / Arena Rock

  Band Members:

  • Tobias Forge (Papa Emeritus IV / Vocals
  • Nameless Ghouls / Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Drums, Background Vocals.

“Phantomime” Track-list:

 1. See No Evil (Television cover)
 2. Jesus He Knows Me (Genesis cover)
 3. Hanging Around (The Stranglers cover)
 4. Phantom Of The Opera (Iron Maiden cover)
 5. We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) (Tina Turner cover)

8.4 Great

The covers EP from Ghost has some interesting song choices, but there’s little special in this package. Tobias Forge may have his own reasons for putting this out, but it’s not obvious to the listener. So let’s anticipate the next full-length Ghost album

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 6
  • Production 9
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4 Comments

  1. The “why” is in the part of Ghost you’re missing: THE LORE. Father Jim DeFroque might turn out to be a recurring character. There’s the reason for ‘Jesus He Knows Me’.
    The cover of ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)’ is poignant lyrically, and important for a generation who might never have heard the song outside of Ghost/Papa bringing it to them. (It is actually a favor to this generation that they are being introduced to past music, and equally as important to the original artists to bring the attention of new generations.) As well, pay attention to the theme: post-apocalypse. Or, more appropriately, post empire.
    These albums are following the rise and fall of empires. ‘Thunderdome’ is certainly in theme, especially with Aunty and the empire she seeks to build — her time having come due to social destruction.And the children on the outskirts, building their Utopia. There’s a whole lot there.
    As with prior EP’s, it sets up the next LP in one way or another.
    Ever seen a stage production of ‘Phantom of the Opera’? Think of the song ‘Hanging Around’. How many people had actually seen the Phantom, the evil haunting the Opera house? Pay attention to how the tracklist is laid out.

    • Mark Boardman on

      I’ll grant you that Forge usually has a method to the madness, and that this one may have escaped me. And I’ll agree that this may be the start of the DeFroque era. But I still think the ep is jusst okay. Musically, it doesn’t do much to interpret the music in a Ghostly fashion, other than through instrumentation and vocals (unlike, say Enter Sandman). It is not as challenging or gripping as Impera, which is an amazing work. For me, this is a palate cleanser. Yes, that will prepare me for the next release, at least in some ways. But it’s not the strong addition to the Ghost canon that I’d hoped for.

  2. I understand that songs written and performed by Tobias Forge are beyond amazing but my personal opinion is anything Tobias Forge and Ghost put out there are worthy of praise as well. I can not get enough of Tobias’s vocals and I believe anything he puts his stamp on only improves the song. Whether it be covers or originals he lends a perfection as his ear for the instrumentals as well as his vocals are beyond reproach and all i can say is that ‘He Is’.

  3. Silver Chord on

    100% disagree with you on the Phantom of the opera cover. That song is art, it elevated the original in every way. Many of the guitar lines are pure genius.
    Accurate assessment on the rest of the album.

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