Article and Featured Image by: Steven Principato
NYC – As the popular and progressive Pope Francis wrapped up his inaugural visit to New York City, an ominous blood moon ascended upon the gotham night, ushering in an ideal setting for the arrival of his un-holiness, Pope Emeritus III and his clergy of nameless ghouls. Hailing from Sweden, the land of perceived social utopia, Ghost casually preaches a sermon of ironically acceptable satanic enlightenment, minus the gore ridden, demonic nazi-zombie iconography of bands like Slayer and Morbid Angel. Ghost is the metal band the metal purists and conservatives love to hate, all with little impact on their ability to sell out every night. This fact reinforces the idea that anonymous band members, elegantly designed iconography, and subversive themes illuminate a beacon of originality in a murky sea of aging metal acts.
Opening this evening of evil was psychedelic retro act, Purson. Hailing from London, Purson modestly opened the show with their brand of not-so-heavy Coven inspired occult rock.
Purson’s overall performance was fair despite vocalist Rosalie’s somewhat withdrawn and brief audience acknowledgements, which roughly required english to english translation at times… maybe it was just my poor hearing? Truthfully, if I hadn’t known the name of this opening band, I would have ended the set still ignorant of their very name as Rosalie had failed to enlighten us to that simple fact at any point during their set! ..again, maybe it was just my hearing.
Despite their marginal live performance, their latest studio release: Desire’s Magic Theatre (Spinefarm Records, 2015) is certainly worth a listen. In Purson’s ultimate defense, I’d have to admit that Ghost is a rather difficult act to both precede and follow. Finally, I’d consider it a major career accomplishment for such a freshman act to have the opportunity to open for such a meteoric headliner.
As the night grew darker, the full moon dripped blood upon the ancient deco skyscrapers of upper Manhattan signaling the grotesque and corpse masked form of Papa Emeritus III to the stage, drawing righteous praise from his un-holy parishioners. Flanked by 5 nameless ghoulish clergymen, cloaked in faceless but devilishly horned silver masks, they identified themselves only by elemental symbolism embroidered on their uniforms. These anonymous but musically adept black-clad ghouls dressed handsomely in tailored uniforms – down to their contrasting white wingtips, Ghost’s elitist and ornate deco (though playful) imagery of satanic holy subversion foretold of a prophecy unfavourable to mankind. Visuals in mind, Ghost’s brilliant level of image and costume design in addition to their masterful album art, combined with their unique stage presence more than justifies their devout flock of wicked worshipers. From the packed house at Terminal 5 tonight, I would imagine that Ghost is more popular than Jesus Christ himself… and that other Pope.
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The unholy Ghost needed no divine miracle (by heaven or hell) in selling out the cavernous and multi-tiered cathedral of Terminal 5. “Hail Papa” chanted the surprisingly eclectic but deeply devout flock of parishioners, comprised of open-minded metalheads and hipsters alike. On stage the newly elected Pope Emeritus III and his 5 sharply dressed ghouls opened the show with “Spirit”, the intro track to their latest release, Meliora (2015 Loma Vista Recordings). Continuing the set with veteran Opus Eponymous (2010 Rise Above records) tracks such as the Merciful Fate inspired “Ritual” and highly danceable “Stand by him”, to breakthrough tracks from their sophomore record, Infestissumam (2013 Loma Vista Recordings) like “Year Zero”. The band even unplugged to bring us a foot tapping and fully acoustic rendition of “Jigolo Har Megiddo”. Ultimately, the setlist covered a textbook cross-section of Ghost’s limited and still growing Pop-metal-esqe catalog of materialistic and satanic enlightenment.
Appropriately closing the show with Roky Erickson’s obscure but immortal haunted classic, “If You Have Ghosts” to a defiantly un-absolved horde of inverted acolytes, Ghost finally brought the two hour plus set to an omega with an unforgettable encore performance of “Monstrance Clock.”
If we learned one lesson from this review it’s to understand that whether you’re a fan of metal music or not, Ghost appears to be a band on a meteoric rise to mainstream recognition where you’ll most likely hear about them very soon. Currently limited only by their graphic but playfully light-hearted satanic imagery and lyrics, especially in Christian fundamentalist America, Ghost seems to show little interest in image adjustment for future success within a historically ridged American music industry. It’s simply down to their revolutionary visual creativity and the inalienable Swedish gift of writing naturally infectious tunes (ABBA anyone?) that will draw today’s young, hip followers of the left hand path closer to Papa Emeritus III and his nameless ghouls, and remain firmly under their merciless grasp from now until the end of days.
Check out Ghost on their continuing North American tour!
..also, listen to Meliora in full before you buy, courtesy of the pope:
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