Whether you love or hate the band Ghost they have their legion of fans and a Grammy win in their corner so they must be doing something right. Ghost has hit the road this summer crossing North America in support of their new album Prequelle which was released on June 1st, 2018.
I was lucky enough for Ghost to choose my humble city of Columbus, Ohio for one of their concerts lovingly referred to by the band and fans as “Rituals”. More than 1,000 Ghost devotees braved the heat and possible impending storm to see our occult heroes.
Hailing from Linkoping, Sweden Ghost was formed in 2006. During the bands beginning, Ghost was fronted by Papa Emeritus a grotesque figure adorned with the garments of a satanic Catholic Bishop and supported by a faceless band known simply as The Nameless Ghouls.
As Ghost has progressed through their evolution every new release has seen the passing of the torch to a new singer. In reality the front man never changes but his appearance and costumes do. Singer Tobias Forge has debuted the new front man who surprisingly will not be following in the footsteps of tradition as an unholy Bishop.
Enter Cardinal Copia. The new flashy and flamboyant ringleader of Ghost. One thing that sets Cardinal Copia apart from his predecessors is the absence of the grotesque face paint that was the calling card of all of the previous Papa Emeritus characters.
As we filed into Express Live, the crowd swelled and you could cut the anticipation with a knife. As soon as the lights went black, the crowd roared as we waited for Cardinal Copia and The Nameless Ghouls to bless us with their presence.
When Ghost hit the stage, they opened with Ashes and immediately ripped into the newest single off Prequelle, Rats. Cardinal Copia stalked the stage as he belted out the lyrics which harken back to memories of the Black Plague which devastated Europe, killing an estimated 75 to 200 million people.
The crowd knew every word and sang along in unison. As the show progressed Ghost delved into their repertoire and played classics like Ritual, Stand by Him, Cirice and Deus in Absentia. At this point I had completely surrendered myself and was along for the ride through Hell and I loved it!
I have seen Ghost perform on 3 previous occasions and the band always puts on an amazing show. This outing was no different. When attending a Ghost Ritual it is so easy to get lost in their music and storytelling and forget your worldly problems for 2 hours. Even though having experienced a Ritual before, I was in just as much awe as the first time I saw them.
But during their performance Ghost did something that shocked even us veteran fans. They took a break mid show. Cardinal Copia informed the crowd that the band would be retiring for a 15 minute intermission. But we didn’t want to wait 15 minutes, we wanted more Ghost!
After grabbing more drinks and standing in the dreaded bathroom line we all rushed back to our positions jockeying for the perfect angle. Once again, the lights went black and it couldn’t have come any sooner.
To set the atmosphere Ghost began playing Masked Ball by Jocelyn Pook. When you hear it you know it as the song from Eyes Wide Shut. The unsettling backwards talking voice and the darkness ramped up the crowd as we could see the silhouettes of The Nameless Ghouls take their positions on stage.
The second half of the show was a return to some of Ghost’s best and classic material. As I watched the show I couldn’t help but view Cardinal Copia as almost a Phantom of the Opera type character. He was malicious, tragic, dressed to nines and women loved him. This particular Ritual seemed almost like an outing to the theatre, complete with an intermission and several costume changes by Cardinal Copia.
The band continued roaring along playing such fan favorites as From the Pinnacle to the Pit, Prime Mover, Mummy Dust, He Is, and two of my personal favorites Year Zero and If You Have Ghosts. The band closed the show with Dance Macabre and Square Hammer.
But wait a minute! We didn’t hear Monstrance Clock. You cannot attend a Ghost Ritual without Monstrance Clock. The band walked offstage and we all stayed put. I noticed a few of the uninitiated make their way toward the exits thinking the show was over. But we waited. We knew the band had one more trick up their sleeve.
Then we heard the opening to Monstrance Clock as the band came back out to give the rabid fans what they wanted. And they absolutely killed it! We all began filing outside desperate for fresh air, sweaty and enthralled by what we had just witnessed.
I feel very fortunate that a band like Ghost exists. I like to think of them as my generation’s KISS. Until recently the band took great pains to hide their identity as evidenced by the moniker of the band as The Nameless Ghouls and a masked singer. But a recent lawsuit filed in Sweden by former bandmates led to the public unveiling of Tobias Forge as the front man.
Even with Forge’s identity being publicly released, fans still embrace the character he portrays on stage and via the albums. They want to believe what they are witnessing is actually Cardinal Copia and his fiendish band spreading their unholy gospel across the world. And that is exactly what makes Ghost such a great live band.
While I believe the band could stand on their own musical talents without the flair, mythology and secrecy, when you listen to Ghost or attend a Ritual you do not want to witness a bunch of people in T-shirts and jeans parading around on stage. And that is what sets Ghost apart from the run of the mill bands attempting to do the same thing. It’s visual theater accompanied by a doom sound and it works. It works very well.
The only complaint I could even lodge about the show would have to be venue. It appeared that the venue was unprepared for the massive influx of Ghost fans. With virtually nowhere to sit or stand, you were kind of left to your own devices to worm your way through the masses to find the perfect vantage point. The venue also felt like it was 100 degrees inside, I cannot blame the band for taking a short intermission. I was dying of heat exhaustion I couldn’t imagine the band having to perform under those hot lights.
All in all Ghost performed an amazing show and I would expect nothing less. Their new album is available as of June 1. If the entire album is as good as the new song, this may be Ghost’s best and most innovative yet. Be sure to catch Ghost on the Rats on the Road tour if you get the chance. You won’t regret it. And Ghost, if you’re reading this, please add Here Comes the Sun back into the live set list!