Ghost Practices Satanic Riffuals at Regency Ballroom, 4/25/13
Richard Haick Ghost at the Regency Ballroom last night.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Better than: Going to Church on Sunday morning.
Ghost is a rock band from Sweden. The members dress up in funny costumes and worship Satan. Like, every song is about Satan. Their lead singer, named Papa Emeritus II, dresses like a skeleton pope. The band members' names are unknown, as they prefer to be identified as the Nameless Ghouls. They recently had to change their name to Ghost B.C. in the U.S. for legal reasons, but don't call them that or they get mad. They simply want to be known as Ghost.
To say Ghost have been hyped by fans and critics is a bit of an understatement. Ever since the band mysteriously showed up on MySpace (remember that thing?) three years ago and released the song "Con Clavi Con Dio," it has been touted as the great savior of modern rock and heavy metal. The truth is Ghost is too good at songwriting to be just a metal band. Papa Emertis' vocals lie somewhere between a young Ozzy and Sting. Musically and lyrically, the band has way more in common with Steely Dan than, say, Slayer. The Ghouls can get a whole audience of white people dancing along to sweet melodic hooks and funky beats all while touting the glory of killing oneself or swimming through rivers of feces. That's exactly what happened for 90 minutes to a sold-out crowd of heshers, record nerds and anime fans last night at the Regency Ballroom.
Ghost takes much pride in its stage production, and really tries hard to be "spooky," which kind of works. The band's lights are cool and they look kind of scary sometimes, but upon closer inspection, Papa really is just a small Swedish man in black lace sweating in clown makeup. Not helping the spookiness is the chubby guy in shorts on stage to the audience's right, operating a Macbook that runs the band's backup vocal tracks. The magic was kind of lost four songs into the set last night, when the main vocal mic glitched out and the backup tracks were clearly audible for everyone to hear.
Silly costumes and backup tracks aside, the band members are incredibly compelling players with some of the greatest songwriting skills in modern rock. Skeleton Pope deliberately pacing across the stage recalled a Genesis-era Peter Gabriel at times. Their stage sound is something to behold. The notoriously terrible acoustics at the Regency could not stop the power of Lucifer's sound guy, as Ghost was hands down the best-sounding band we've ever heard there. The guitars were crisp, the bass was out front, and the drums were mixed perfectly. These guys are rifftastic. Riff machines. They should call their concerts Satanic Riffuals.
The audience was enraptured in a Luciferian trance the entire show. Some folks were throwing the devil horns rhythmically in the air for the whole of the performance. The room seemed to converge during the first notes of the band's single from their new album, Year Zero. A driving disco-metal number had all the kiddies boppin' to the beat. Unfortunately, since this is disco-metal we are talking, the band veered very closely to the musical stylings of horror director Robert Zombie.
Really though, Ghost's genius is in its incredible songwriting. The ghouls know how to craft not just amazing riffs but beautiful melodies and fantastic hooks, taking cues from their psychedelic, progressive, and even new-wave heroes. The addition of a organ player added an aura of religiosity to the performance. In other words, watching Ghost feels like going to some sort of subversive church by way of Sabbath and Donna Summer, and it feels really good. If you get a chance to see this band, we highly recommend it. Just don't expect to be spooked.
Satanic? It's hard to say how much the power of Beelzebub has to do with
Ghost's appeal. But the subject of Satan is so prominent during their set that he has to be involved somehow. It makes sense, as everyone knows that Satan makes the best music. And with Ghost, the ol' rapscallion is really onto something. It's maybe his most promising act since Josh Grobin.
Really though: Seriously, what's with all the anime kids who are into Ghost?
Per Aspera ad Inferi
Con Clavi Con Dio
Depth of Satan's Eyes
Stand by Him