Ghost, the Swedish horror rock band is touring in support of their fourth full length album, Prequelle. The octet, composed mostly of the supporting cast of “Nameless Ghouls”, erected their altar in an arena as the headliner for the first time. The Nameless Ghouls dress identically in all black, tailed tuxedos and spats. The jump from theaters to arenas is a coming out party of sorts for the newest alter-ego of front man Tobias Forge. Forge is the only member of the band whose identity is actually public. That outing was the result of a lawsuit filed by former members of the band and his true identity would presumably otherwise still be in doubt. The band has been fronted by several incarnations of the character Papa Emeritus over the years.
When the house lights dim, the darkened Forum is filled with the eerie drone of Ashes. The droning intro from the latest record is laced with the haunting lyrics of a young girl singing a perverted version of Ring Around the Rosy. The band appears as the stage lights come up and they take over from the recorded portion of the overture. Statue-like, they stand with no emotion as they usher in the rest of the start. The transition is made to Rats, the Ghouls move to predetermined spots on the multi-level, church altar that is the stage. All wearing metallic demon masks, the Ghouls seem to stand by to respond to the whim of their approaching master. With the initial lyrics, the Captain of the legion affects his entrance. Cardinal Copia waltzes on to the right side of the stage, to preside over the demented mass that will embody a two-hour plus gorging of the senses. Copia struts about the stage like a mad ringmaster, sans top hat. He makes exaggerated gestures with his arms, all while flawlessly vocalizing.
The baptism continues with Absolution and Idolatrine as the Ghouls move about the stage, in a semi-robotic fashion, like soldiers in a choreographed drill routine. The divergence between the Ghouls and Copia is profound. Copia swaggers about the stage like a cock of the walk, going through numerous costume changes. He is the only performer who addresses the audience. The Ghouls, aside from an occasional jump and a rare hand expression, are mostly emotionless and subservient to their taskmaster. Ghost accentuates their genre defying music with Papa Nihil (another papal figure, presumably Forge) on saxophone during Miasma. Copia then reappears in a white tuxedo and black fedora, for Jigolo Har Meggido, a number which features three Ghouls seated on the altar steps behind Copia, playing acoustic guitars.
After a 15 minute intermission, the second half of the liturgy begins and it’s already been about 90 minutes since the concert began. The back half sees Copia in red cardinal robe and headdress. The visuals for Satan Prayer is stunning, with tight red beams of light swirling around the stage. Every song from Prequelle is played with the exception of See the Light. Dance Macabre and Square Hammer are the final duo of the set. The encore is Monstrous Clock a mid-tempo piece, with a pace that mimics a metronome, and creates a fitting recessional with its repetitive organ and choir chorus. The jump up from theaters may have laid the cornerstone for a permanent cathedral in which Ghost can hold services. The show presents a visual and audible feast for the senses. Do not be deceived by the visual though, their music is a mix of melodic lyrics, sinister sounding riffs and tongue in cheek mockery of organized religion. Ghost may be on the verge of bringing this traveling revival show to an arena near you soon.
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