The PNE Forum in Vancouver played host to a Ritual on Friday night as Swedish band Ghost came to town with a full rock extravaganza.
Ghost are a bit of an enigma. Since forming in 2006 the band have managed to carve out their own unique place in rock history and continue to go from strength to strength. While this might not sound that out of the ordinary you have to bear in mind that until 2017 the identity of band members was not widely known.
For those not familiar, the band are all masked when playing live. The band has been fronted over the years by various incarnation of Papa Emeritus, a kind of anti-pope character, but since earlier this year a new leader has emerged – the charismatic Cardinal Copia, a somewhat charming satanic dandy. The rest of the band – The Nameless Ghouls, and Ghoulettes are clad in identical dark clothing with silver reflective masks.
While for some bands this would be seen as gimmick, Ghost pull it off flawlessly, and their fanbase has grown as the storyline around Papa and his cohorts has continued to play out over the years.
In addition to this band the band are almost impossible to pin down musically. While they are certainly a solid rock band, they really don’t consistently fall into any one category, they are a bit metal, a bit pop, a bit doom, and a lot theatrical. While this may annoy some hardcore music fans, it certainly provides for a very entertaining show.
I had not seen the band live before, so I was very much looking forward to my first “Ritual”. Even before getting to the venue it as great to see how many fans were decked out ready for the show, a sure sign that this was going to be a good one.
After 15 minutes or so of chanting choir music the lights dimmed, and the sound of a small child singing “ring o’ roses” rang through the arena, fans will have recognized this as the opening bars of the bands latest album Prequelle. As the song concluded the huge stage curtain dropped, and the Nameless Ghouls took to the stage for the opening riffs of Rats, soon to be followed by the Cardinal himself, dressed in a blood read suit reminiscent of a satanic Victorian gentleman, one of many wardrobe changes over the course of the show.
Show, is probably too small of a word to describe the event, this was a spectacular. The stage set itself was like a massive gothic cathedral, with stained-glass windows and multi-level stone balconies. The seven-piece band took full advantage of the space, and barely seemed to rest all night. Copia himself made sure he addressed his congregation from all areas of the stage, something the ardent fans lapped up.
The band played songs from all their albums, and it was great to be able to hear the latest offerings of Mary on a Cross, and Kiss the Go-Goat, both of which, like many of their songs, are irritatingly catchy.
One of the Highlights for me was the brooding Cirice, which merged beautifully into Miasma, which built to a dramatic climax with the aging Papa Nihil being helped to the stage from a blistering saxophone solo. This was followed by another crowd pleaser Ghuleh/Zombie Queen. The Cardinal took to the stage on a small bicycle, now dressed head to toe in white. Whether it was Tobias Forge’s comic genius, or just a happy coincidence the sound effects of the bike were out of step with the movement, which was just one of several light-hearted moments in the show.
While there was not a huge amount of banter with the crowd throughout the show, Forge’s easy manner with the fans was at its height leading into Mummy Dust. The cardinal asking if the crowd would like to have their asses wobbled and their taints tickled, not something you often have metal fans agreeing to 😊.
Mummy Dust was a blast, and really encapsulated the feeling of the show, with great musicianship, as well as spectacular lighting, pyro, dried ice, and confetti cannons. Over the top, of course, wonderful, absolutely.
With Kiss the Go-Goat, Dance Macabre, and Square Hammer closing out the night the band spent several minutes thanking the crowd, and promised to be back as soon as possible.
With a new album not due until maybe 2021 it may be a while before we get to see such a spectacle again, but if it is as good as this one was, no one will mind waiting to have their taints tickled.
Images: Stewart Johnstone