After impressing at the Maryland Deathfest and a small show in New York last summer, Swedish sextet Ghost kicked off their first proper U.S. tour Wednesday night (18) at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. The band had a lot to live up to: a tour scheduled for last Fall was cancelled,but word had continued to spread about the band, fueled by the band’s persona – or lack thereof. For those few not in the know, they’re not just an anonymous band – they’re a completely anonymous band, performing in hoods and led by “the ghoul with no name,” or a rubber mask-clad satanic pope. Gimmicky? Hell yeah. But it’s working, as evidenced by the band signing with high-powered management (Rick Sales, who also manages Slayer and Mastodon) and a small army of label brass scouting the band at the show. And while the band’s debut album, 2010’s Opus Eponymous, is a catchy, well-produced album, none of it would matter if the band couldn’t back it up, which they did.
Let’s get this out of the way: it’s hard to actually call Ghost “metal.” Granted, that ‘s the genre that has championed them the most, and it’s easy to see why. All of their lyrics are about Satan, and their onstage persona suggests King Diamond by way of Slipknot (with some Portal mixed in). There are also persistent unconfirmed rumors that the band are actually a bunch of guys in less successful metal bands. But musically, the album is really ’60s psych-pop with some distortion mixed in. Type O Negative called themselves the “drab four” in homage to the Beatles, Ghost might as well call themselves Blue Oyster Satanic Cult. Yet for all their lack of blast beats and death vocals, the sold-out crowd sang along to every word, proving that their persona and songs resonate with a metal crowd.
The tour actually had some pretty appropriate openers. leaning more on the rock side than metal. Austin’s Ancient VVisdom played a set that sounded like a darker, semi-acoustic Alice In Chains, with singer Nathan Opposition playing drums while standing. Blood Ceremony have gotten a lot of hype, and like the headliners, drape their occult-drenched songs with ’70s psychedelia. Oh yeah, and also plenty of flute, courtesy of singer Alia O’Brien. If Jefferson Airplane sang about witches, they’d sound a lot like BC. Finally. after some Gregorian chant-sounding music, the headliners appeared onstage to an enthusiastic crowd that included quite a few people from Roadrunner and Warner Music Group head Lyor Cohen.
Once the band took the stage, they delivered faithful renditions of the majority of Opus Eponymous. That’s not a complaint at all, as the gimmick could have easily overshadowed their performance or covered for lack of chops. Neither was the case. However, it might have sounded a little too polished, as the vocal harmonies appeared to be sampled (unless of course, the band had headset mics hidden by their hoods). But if there was any real complaint about the show, it’s that it wasn’t long enough, which is kind of understandable, given that the album is only 35 minutes long. After seven songs, the band paused briefly, played a minor key cover of the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” (which substituted “it’s alright” with “he’s alright), then the single “Ritual,” and they were done.
If their heavily-rumored tour with Mastodon actually comes to fruition, look for Ghost’s popularity to explode. At this point in time, they’re a cult band. This short tour will further fuel the fire, and given the sound of Opus Eponymous, the band definitely has the potential to become a Pitchfork-approved metal band for non-metalheads to embrace. There’s no need to start a backlash yet, however. The band has a good album, a great gimmick, and they back it up live.
Ghost, January 18, 2012
Con Clavi Con Dio
Stand By Him
Here Comes the Sun