(This article was originally written for Montreal Rampage)
It was under the dying notes of a gregorian chant, and with the smell of incense wafting through the air, that the lights went down at the Metropolis as Sweden’s Ghost hit the stage. The stage’s only piece of scenery was a church backdrop that set the mood for the pseudo-religious undertones of their lyrics.
The five masked musicians, all named Nameless Ghouls, kicked into “Spirit”, from their latest album “Meliora”, and were joined under thunderous applause by lead singer Papa Emeritus III. “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” was next and it was clear that despite the new album being out for only a few weeks, the fans knew the material inside out. People sang along to all the songs, old and new; it seemed like the band was backed by the Metropolis Unholy Choir at times.
Their satanic shtick belies the fact that their music is polished and very melodic. Emeritus’ Swedish accent and demurred tone isn’t what you’d expect from your typical rock star, but it’s oddly fitting for one dressed as a zombie pope. Halfway through the show, he ditched his papal robes and came back in coattails, looking very much like an 18th century aristocrat. The rest of the band remained faceless and mute (their masks don’t even have mouths), which meant the albums’ extensive vocal harmonies had to be played back, but at least it was never distracting. The band’s live sound was miles ahead of the bland production of their records, making one hope that they’ll release a live album with much material from their first two as the songs sounded heavier and livelier than on the albums.
The band played all but one track off “Meliora”, along with a generous selection of cuts from their first two albums. The musicianship was flawless, both instrumentally and vocally, and the visuals mostly relied on lighting and the backdrop, with a two-level stage affording a better view of the drummer and keyboard player. The latter even took out a keytar for a short solo. I’m seeing more and more of those these days; of all the things that could come back in style and be cool again, I wouldn’t have bet on the keytar, I must admit. The band even allowed themselves a short “unplugged” segment where they played an excellent rendition of “Jigolo Har Megiddo”; surprisingly, acoustic Ghost is great!
The show ended with a lyrically appropriate cover of Roky Erikson’s “If You Have Ghosts”, and after a short break the band came back to close the 2 hour musical ceremony with “Monstrance Clock”. It’s safe to say that most people in attendance would have stayed for more. One has to wonder if their look will hinder their popularity at some point, but judging from the people that packed the Metropolis, they can count on a very devoted fanbase. Great show from a great band.
England’s Purson, led by sexy singer/guitarist Rosalie Cunningham, kick started the night with their psychedelic rock that channels The Doors and Jefferson Airplane with a pinch of Black Sabbath. The crowd was really into them and the band did a great job of getting the evening going. The songs tended to lose focus after a while but watch out for them; they’re really talented.
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Con Clavi Con Dio
Per Aspera ad Inferi
Stand by Him
Body and Blood
Jigolo Har Megiddo (Acoustic)
If You Have Ghosts