Concert Review: Ghost at the Pageant in St. Louis, September 28, 2016 - Words and Pictures by Danny Nichols
My definition of a metal elitist is one who declares any band they do not like as being "not metal" and /or asserting any such band should not exist. In the age of the internet it is a popular metal elitist activity to declare Ghost as being not metal. I disagree.
The direct lineage from Black Sabbath (a band which interestingly I have seen many metal elitists somehow claim to not be metal) alone qualifies them to be metal. The rhythm, tempo, and harmonic structure which relies almost exclusively on power chord based riffs, often featuring the quintessential diabolus in musica tritone, is definitively metal.
The imagery, theatrics and lyrical themes of Ghost are almost nonexistent outside of metal. Maybe there is some confusion caused by the melodic and operatic vocals. Maybe these are seen as somehow being too pristine for metal, but I think there is plenty of room within the genre for songs of such melodic quality they are attracting interest outside of the genre.
Or maybe the fact that Ghost won a Grammy for best metal performance automatically disqualifies them from actually being metal, because the Grammy's never get it right. Well, this time, they finally did. Ghost is a metal band in every sense of the word. They may be other things also, but they are definitely metal. And a Ghost show is not to be missed.
The show opened with their recently released single "Square Hammer", which once again exhibits Ghost's supreme song craftsmanship. Although the song hadn't been released long enough for fans to know all the lyrics, somehow they did anyway, and were in fine voice as Papa Emeritus III and his Nameless Ghouls led the dark mass congregation.
From there the show proceeded through a set list very similar to the one they performed on last year's Meliora tour. Despite their meteoric ascendency in the last three years, I had some concern they may not be able to again fill the Pageant Theater after having just played there less than a year earlier. My concerns were unfounded, as the crowd was every bit as crammed into St. Louis's finest venue.
One element I particularly enjoy about Ghost is the mystique surrounding the band. It is almost like being in on the early days of KISS. Despite much speculation, rumor, and some probably accurate detective work, the band has managed to keep their secret identities largely intact. The audience does not know the back stories, names or real appearances of the band members.
It is easy to imagine this is actually the anti-Pope and a collection of demons sent to subjugate the earth with songs so catchy we welcome them with open arms. One identity which has changed in the past year is that of their bassist, who now, based upon body frame, appears to be female. A little bit of internet digging would reveal her identity, but I don't want to spoil the illusion.
The musicianship was tight, the hooks irresistible and the performance enthusiastic. Ghost is, above all, a fun band. It is possible to enjoy this band for the music alone, but the gimmick makes it better.
It is musical theater, it is parody, it is satire, but the audience need not understand this to enjoy the spectacle and the epic songs. Do not be confused by words like gimmick, parody and satire. The songs are there too. Powerful, melodic, thought provoking and sledgehammer heavy.
Ghost blazed through the thumping rocker "From the Pinnacle to the Pit", the hypnotic "Secular Haze" and other odes to the devil such as "Stand by Him" and "Con Clavi Con Dio". Several songs into the set, and after having distributed unholy Communion via a pair of audience selected nuns, Papa Emeritus disappeared from the stage. When he reemerged, no longer garbed as a Satanic Pope, but rather as a maestro with an eastern European dictator flair, they broke into their Grammy winning song "Cirice."
The highlight of the show was a searing version of their most metal song "Mummy Dust". During this song the crowd was showered with confetti containing Ghost money, which is specially counterfeited six hundred and sixty six dollar bills.
All three of the band's studio albums were well represented, with particularly rousing ovations reserved for Infestissumam's stand-out track "Year Zero" and the contemporary Christian inspired, with much darker lyrical content "He Is" from Meliora. As always, Ghost closed with "Monstrance Clock."
The metal was delivered in fine form, and none left disappointed. I hope we do not have to wait a full eleven months for their return.
Papa leads the congregation, with a very metal backdrop
Six hundred and sixty six dollar bills rain down on a raucous crowd
Papa Emeritus and the Nameless Ghouls
Papa Emeritus burns incense at the black mass which is a rock-n-roll show
A Nameless Ghoul on the keyboards.
A Nameless Ghoul guitarist
The new Nameless Ghoul bassist
Papa Emeritus III and his sisters distribute communion