Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ surprise seventeenth is the protagonist’s second since the death of his son Arthur in 2015. ‘Skeleton Tree’ had already presented a markedly dark turn for the group in 2016, full as it was of ominous electronics and bleak soundscapes. But ‘Ghosteen’ takes the template a step further. Tragedy is at the very heart of this masterful record, with Nick’s deeply personal lyrics providing a captivating and at times heart-wrenching focal point. Frequent references to Jesus, and the presence of Eastern percussion on tracks like ‘Night Raid’, offer an ambiguous religious subtext - magnified by the presence of heavenly choral vocals (and even a rare Nick Cave falsetto). Disc One finale ‘Leviathan’ ends with a pining refrain - “I love my baby and my baby loves me”; “Peace will come in time,” he sings on opening track ‘The Spinning Song’. The feeling of loss is palpable, and despite the moments of hope that shine through the blackness, the presence of death is inescapable. Magnificently composed and emphatically emotive, ‘Ghosteen’ is an unforgettable piece of work.
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