It’s been nearly a decade now (2010) since Ghost released Opus Eponymous, their debut album. Since then, they’ve gone from an obscure Swedish band to one of hard rock and heavy metal’s premier acts. I first caught them live at Metallica’s Orion Festival in Atlantic City, NJ back in 2012. They played an early afternoon set (which is a bit out of place for an act that relies so heavily on the atmosphere of their shows to set the tone). Regardless, I was hooked instantly. When they performed a familiar tune (The Beatles “Here’s Comes the Sun,”) that sealed it for me. This band knew how to win over a crowd in record time.
With their latest release—2018’s Prequelle—Ghost have brought yet another evolution in sight and sound. For the first time, vocalist Tobias Forge has emerged as Cardinal Copia, leaving the previous iterations of Papa Emeritus behind (for now?). The band has continued to bring a bigger and more robust stage show every tour and after “The Ultimate Tour Named Death,” it’ll be tough to top!
The show kicked off with an explosive set from Nothing More. With a dark stage, vocalist Jonny Hawkins appeared atop a ladder winding a siren to start things off. They opened up with a trio of songs from The Stories We Tell Ourselves, including “Let ‘em Burn,” “Don’t Stop” and “Go to War” before unloading with “Jenny,” their biggest hit from their self-titled album. The set included an additional mix of songs, mostly from their last two albums, including “Fadein/Fadeout,” their latest single, as well as a cover of Skrillex’s “First of the Year (Equinox).” Heading into the show, I really wasn’t sure how Nothing More’s performance would go over with a crowd that was predominantly there to see Ghost. As it turns out, they pulled off the opening slot every bit as good as they could ever hope to. They provided a solid set of high-energy tunes and unquestionably made some new fans in the process. This tour is all but over at this point, but if you catch them before the last show in Glens Falls, NY tomorrow, get there on time!
After a brief intermission, Ghost finally took the stage, opening the set up with the one-two punch of “Ashes” and “Rats,” just as they appear on their latest album, Prequelle. For me, this set was a non-stop onslaught of killer tracks reaching through every corner of Ghost's catalog. Some early tracks included “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” and “Year Zero” from 2013’s Infestissumam album, as well as “Ritual” from their 2010 debut album, Opus Eponymous. The majority of the selections came from 2015’s Meliora and their current album, Prequelle. For anyone that has seen them on prior legs of this tour, however, there were some great new additions to the show, including “Mary on a Cross” and “Kiss the Go-Goat” from the recently released EP, Seven Inches of Satanic Panic.
Some of the biggest highlights from the show included a darkened stage as several cloaked plague doctors began walking across the stage leading into “Miasma,” one of my absolute favorite instruments. Later, during the same song, Papa Nihil (an elderly iteration of Papa) appears atop the stage and rips through the saxophone bit at the end of the song. Moments later, Cardinal Copia entered the stage on a giant tricycle, as he toyed with the crowed before leading into “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen.”
Rounding out the set, was a four-song barrage that left the arena completely satisfied. They began the home stretch with “Mummy Dust,” their heaviest song, according to Cardinal Copia. As the song concluded, steamers and Ghost money rained from the ceiling as fans clamored to grab a piece as their own souvenir from the show. They followed with “Kiss the Go-Goat” from the newly released EP Seven Inches of Satanic Panic, which features a fun 1960’s vibe to it. The backstory is that the EP is a “reissue” of some tunes that Papa Nihil put out back in the ’60s. Maybe a little corny, but people eat up these little narratives, and the creativity goes a long way! The set was finished off with “Dance Macabre” and “Square Hammer,” from 2016’s Popestar EP.
I’ve caught Ghost in a few opening slots and performing at some festivals over the last few years, but this is the first headlining show I’ve seen in three years. It’s been an exciting ride so far, and this band continues to impress with how innovative they are both in performance as well as in their music. It sounds like 2020 may shape up to be a quiet year in terms of tour dates, but you just never know with this band. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too long!
- Mary on a Cross
- Devil Church (with extended jam)
- Ghuleh/Zombie Queen
- Helvetesfönster (partial)
- From the Pinnacle to the Pit
- Satan Prayer
- Year Zero
- He Is
- Mummy Dust
- Kiss the Go-Goat
- Dance Macabre
- Square Hammer