My word, there’s a lot to get your teeth into on Swedish pomp metal act Saint Deamon’s new album, Ghosts. Almost too much in fact, though I guess that’s a function of the fact that this is the band’s first album in a decade; Six of the albums thirteen ‘proper’ tracks weigh in at over six minutes in length, and at times the record threatens to collapse under the sheer weight of stuff going on, especially on the album’s first half. It’s overwhelming to say the least, and those of you with less sturdy listening constitutions might feel that listening to the album in small chunks will avail the best outcome to all concerned.
But this is an album, not a small chunk, review, and I’m nothing if not ‘professional – so I’ve tackled this sprawling epic of an album all the way through several times over to deliver this verdict to your slavering ears… On first listen, Ghosts pales in comparison to its superb predecessor from 2009, Pandeamonium. Only a couple of tracks – the pomp rocked tinged Hell’s Calling, and Land of Gold, which strangely purloins the portentous string arrangement from The Veronicas’ pop hit Untouched and uses it for its own, nefarious purposes, stand out. But, like all the best onions, Ghosts only truly gives up it’s secrets as you peel away the layers and absorb the eye-watering aroma of virtuosity over repeated exposures.
Somewhere Beyond is a difficult but rewarding listen, bringing to mind latter-day Europe as a close reference point. And in effect this is as good a signpost to the band as a whole as any – operating at an incredibly high level of proficiency (the Europe comparison does neither party any disservice), yet still sensible enough to allow melody to do it’s work when the temptation must surely be just to overegg the shred pudding and be damned.
Of the shorter material, the memorable Journey Through The Stars probably stays in the memory the best, featuring a tuneful refrain, a neat solo from Toya Johansson and some nice, metal vocalising from Jan Thore Grefstad; The Gary Moore-styled opener Captain Saint D will also get a few pulses racing I’m sure. But penultimate track Break The Sky is, on reflection, probably the best the band has to offer in 2019, not just bearing repeated listens but offering up new aspects of nuance every time you lock horns with the song. As a delicious melange of pomp, AOR, classic rock and out and out headbanging mayhem it’s pretty hard to beat. And, on the basis of this excellent track alone, let’s hope it’s not another decade until the next offering from Saint Deamon!
Ghosts is out on August 30th.