Ghost gigs are an experience, I’ve seen them before and their showmanship is striking. I was at the Brighton Dome on a Sunday evening and the venue was packed. I spent a little while looking for a friend wearing a t-shirt and with long dark hair. It was an impossible task.
The warm-up band, Zombi, were performing when I arrive. At the back, the the stalls are already full; the two band members are on synthesiser, keyboard and drums. And I’m pretty sure there are various other instruments constituting the electronic John Carpenter-influenced tracks.
The set change was processional. The stage was dark as the instruments were arranged, black sheets covering everything. And then later revealed by two men who bow to the audience. Gregorian chants were played in the background, the smoke machines emitting enough white atmosphere-creating mist to fill the stage, and flow into the first few rows of the stalls.
Ghost are a Swedish six-piece band composed of five Nameless Ghouls and lead singer Papa Emeritus. They are known for their use of religious iconography, and including costumes in their shows. Also, a good deal of acting and theatrical influences. They have recently won the Bandit Award for Best Swedish Album, for their September 2016 release, a Swedish Grammis Award for Hard Rock/Metal Act of the Year, and will be releasing a new album towards the end of 2017. Although their music is heavy, it is also melodic. It has a darkly enchanting feel to it, but they also make me smile wryly.
Papa Emeritus came on stage dressed in traditional robes, and his face made up to resemble a skeleton. Now, I’m not a religious person – despite my mum being a Catholic – but on a visit to Rome a few years ago, I remember seeing the skeletons of local saints. Ornately decorated and in central positions in the similarly ornate churches. It’s pretty dark, isn’t it? I can see why this has appealing creative territory for a metal band. Their work is anti-religious, but it doesn’t approach it from the atheist’s workbook. Instead, they are engaging in the rhetoric of imagery of the religion. It’s kind of wonderful.
I’m writing too much about what they look like but the performance was excellent, Papa Emeritus moves around the stage, with a camp twist here and there and welcoming the audience as if they were his congregation. He’s also pleased to see such an excellent turnout. The music is guitar-heavy and vocals are epic, stand out tracks included Sqaure Hamer. I think this band will continue to grow in profile and appeal, they aren’t trying to be themselves or sell their personal image. And the music is damn good.
PHOTO: JOHN McMURTRIE 2015