It goes without saying, but Ghost is one of the most grimly original bands to turn the heavy metal scene on its ear in the 2010s. Coming out of Sweden, a country with its own extensive collection of metal acts, Ghost used their love of horrific imagery and doom-induced guitar riffs and mixed it in with their dedication to Satanism to produce, if you will, one Hell of an act.
The group is led by vocalist Papa Emeritus III, replacing Papa Emeritus I and II from the previous two albums, who dresses in the garb of His Holiness the Pope had he pledged his allegiance to Satan instead of Catholicism—clad in black robes, a mitre with an embroidered inverted cross, and ghoulish face-paint paying homage to the likes of Kiss and King Diamond. Ghost additionally consists of five other members who are known as Nameless Ghouls identified only as Fire, Water, Wind, Earth and Ether, in keeping with the band’s anonymity.
Holding true to their namesake, the band’s ambiguity plays to their advantage. Papa Emeritus I, II and III are believed to be played by the same vocalist, though he takes on different names and personas every album and no one knows his actual name. This practice serves to ensure that no one has any expectations or misconceptions about the band. When I first saw Ghost, I thought they were going to sound much like the traditional black metal sounds of Immortal or Dimmu Borgir, but I was surprised to hear very clear and concise guitar playing reminiscent of 1970s rock and roll. It makes sense, as some of their main influences include Black Sabbath, Led-Zeppelin and Pentagram. They’ve often been described as a Satanic Blue Oyster Cult.
As if the music wasn’t enough to throw off the average listener, Ghost is also well known for their off-kilter theatrics. I’ve noticed that in recent years the shock-rock ethos has been coming back in heavy metal. Bands like Nightwish, GWAR, Rob Zombie and King Diamond have all used shocking theatrics paired with their often conceptual music, garnering huge crowds at their shows. Ghost is no exception—their stage set includes a backdrop of stained glass windows and mock gothic architecture, giving the grim ambience of the Church of Satan and keeping in compliance with their wardrobe.
Capitalizing on the success of last year’s release, “Meliora“, they followed up with the “Popestar EP”, which featured the previously unreleased “Square Hammer” along with four cover songs of “Echo & the Bunnymen”, “Simian Mobile Disco”, “Eurythmics” and “Imperiet”. The song “Square Hammer” received a massively positive response from fans and earned Ghost a few new fans, myself included.
I’ve been told Ghost is an amazing band, and I’m giddy with anticipation to see what their performance will deliver. “Popestar” is available everywhere, and “Square Hammer” is available for streaming online and well worth the listen. This will be the prime way to kick off the month of October and get some early Halloween celebration in.
The Complex, October 8, 7:00 PM, Showclix.com