If You Have Ghost

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A disclaimer? Yes. I thought a disclaimer would be appropriate because this article is about the band Ghost, and their material, themes, and message are completely satanic. I know this may offend some people, so if you are one of them, here’s where you click the back button.

If you stayed, you must be prepared for a trip into the dark underbelly of rock music, a place seething with demonic imagery, debauchery, and all out praise of Satan. If you’ve never heard of Ghost before, what you must know about them is that this material is their bread and butter.

The first time I ever knew they existed was some time in 2012, after I watched an episode of VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, during which one of the hosts was wearing a Ghost shirt. So I looked them up on YouTube, watched “Ritual”, and became an instant fan. By this point, however, they had already been around for about six years, forming in Linköping, Sweden, and having released the Opus Eponymous album in 2010, which contains the aforementioned track, “Ritual”.

Ghost in concert at The Beacham
Ghost in concert at The Beacham

Their sound is very unique, unlike anything else out there. It’s like doom metal, but unlike most of their Scandinavian counterparts, you can understand the vocals, because the front man, Papa Emeritus, can actually sing. Damn good too, in my opinion. His style is often compared to Eric Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult, or even King Diamond, but I find the latter is way off. Papa’s voice is silky smooth, and he doesn’t scream; his voice is calming, hypnotic, and powerful, he makes the most evil lyrics sound as if angels were singing them.

Of course, you might be wondering who is this Papa Emeritus? To answer this, I must explain another of the band’s quirks. Anonymity. No one really knows who they are. There are six members in total, which I’m sure is just a coincidence, Papa Emeritus, two guitarists, one bass player, one keyboardist, and a drummer. There has been much speculation on the internet as to just who Papa Emeritus actually is, or if there have really been three of them, (one for each album), but the nameless ghouls are just that. No one really knows their identities. They wear black robes, devil masks with silver horns, and sign autographs with elemental symbols of alchemy.

So now that I’ve caught you up to speed on who Ghost is, it’s time to tell you what they do. Sell out the Beacham, for one thing. I got there in time to catch the last two songs of the opening act, Purson, who looked like they had just walked straight out of the seventies, and the club was packed, wall to wall with metal heads. There was no way I was getting anywhere near the front of this crowd. But lucky for me, right next to the merch stand is one of two circular bars, where the bartenders can serve a lot of the crowd right there. I love it. You won’t lose your spot just to go buy an overpriced drink.

I took up residence next to the bar, which offered me a pretty clear view of the stage, despite being towards the back of the club. “Miserere mei, Deus,” which is normally sung by a choir in the Sistine Chapel played as the ghouls took to the dimly lit stage, then the band began to play “Spirit”, Papa finally appearing, to the delight of the audience, who cheered loudly upon seeing him. He came out dressed in his costume that resembles the robes and hat of the Pope, but in a kind of inverted way, all black, decorated with “grucifixes”, which are like upside-down crosses that form the letter “G”, and black and white face paint that resembles a skull.

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Bear in mind, this is Florida, in a packed house, and the cooler weather has made a brief appearance, but not quite committed itself to sticking around. It is hot in here. But Papa and the ghouls, despite being decked out in robes, and the fact that they are from Sweden, hit it lick for lick. The first thing that struck me was how spot on they were. When you hear a recording from an album, it is mixed together in a studio, and often done in multiple takes to achieve the optimal sound. Sometimes when you see a band live, they don’t sound as good as the studio recording, but this was not the case with Ghost. They sound as good live as they do on recordings.

Papa addressed the crowd in his thickly accented voice, and commented on how warm, and moist it was here, before playing “From the Pinnacle to the Pit”, “Ritual”, “Con Clavi Con Dio”. The crowd knew every word, and sung along for every song. Evangelists could take lessons from Papa Emeritus. He is in complete control of the audience, and commands the stage.

After a couple more songs, “Majesty”, “Body and Blood”, Papa disappeared. He re-emerged after a costume change, hatless, and wearing what appeared to be a Victorian era suit. He knelt down to hold some lucky woman’s hand as they performed “Cirice”. I have never seen him without the hat, and it was a little off-putting, but I got used to it.

One other thing I noticed as they continued with their set. They are LOUD! I was in the back of the club, and it was deafening. I can only imagine the decibel level closer to the stage. Something else I found odd was that there was no moshing, no crowd-surfing, and no drunken brawls. It was as though everyone was charmed by a spell, and no one wanted to get kicked out for doing anything stupid. Everyone was enthralled by the performance, singing along and moving rhythmically to the music, and they played “Year Zero”, “He Is”, and “Absolution”.

They played some others, ending with “If You Have Ghosts” before exiting the stage. The crowd chanted loudly for them to come back, and they did, Papa explaining that they have a tradition of ending each show with a song that unites us all in praise of Lucifer, how it makes us like a family: “Monstrance Clock”. We all sang the chorus: “Come together, together as a one. Come together for Lucifer’s son”.

I left for the van with a ringing in my ears, and sore feet, but feeling very satisfied, walking through the circus that is downtown Orlando on Saturday night, I was surprised to see a group of Christian picketers holding signs who tried to hand me literature. They asked me if I had heard the good news, to which I replied I had just left there, and that they had missed it. But I hadn’t. Ghost was the best. I highly recommend them to anyone who appreciates awesome music.

Ghost is on the last leg of their North American “Black to the Future” tour, promoting their new album, Meliora, finishing up a few dates out west before hopping the pond for a European tour. I’m sure Papa will find the climate much more to his liking there. So unless you live in Europe, you’ve probably missed them this time. But you can always follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thebandghost?fref=ts or head over to their website and buy some merchandise: http://shop.ghost-official.com/ . As always, tell them RARAs Farm sent you, and if you don’t follow us on social media, here’s your chance! https://www.facebook.com/rarasfarm?fref=ts

Philip Snyder

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