Ghost | 04.20.14

ghost sqNo one walked out of The Pageant killing anyone, sacrificing goats, or selling their souls to any needy demons.


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The Pageant, St. Louis

Easter Sunday. It means so many things to so many people, doesn’t it? For some of us, it means celebrating the miraculous resurrection of Jesus. For others, it means a fresh Honey-Baked ham or enjoying the creamy deliciousness of a Cadbury egg. For those dark souls who shuffled though the doors of The Pageant, however, it meant celebrating the dark forces of Ghost, a band that uses its nefarious, devil-given powers to rock their children senseless. Did I mention the date of the concert was 4/20? It totally was. How metal can you get?

Ever since Screamin’ Jay Hawkins crawled out of his onstage coffin to sing “I Put a Spell on You” back in the ’50s, every generation has had its own de facto shock rocker to add a little danger to their rock ’n’ roll. Historically, the best shockers couple their theatrical flair with a delicate dose of winking and nodding. Like Alice Cooper, it also doesn’t hurt to have a tight band and a collection of well-arranged songs. These crazy Swedes have all of the above, and seeing their show was like hanging out in a haunted castle with a banging sound system.

Papa Emeritus, the band’s vocalist and front man, stalked the stage in a long, ornately decorated chasuble, with a skull mask and pope hat. He was backed by two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, and a keyboardist. You probably noticed I didn’t mention the names of these musicians, right? Well, the other guys in this satanic band of brothers are anonymous, dressed in long, black, hooded robes like ghouls, and thus obviously refer to themselves as “nameless ghouls.”  Barring the fact that this prohibits them from ever signing autographs that mean anything, it was a great effect onstage.

Musically, the band has been described using such labels as “doom metal” and “progressive metal.” At the end of the day—or in this case, a dark stormy night—they’re a straight-ahead metal band, albeit a very good one. What makes them stand a little above the black-mass pack is the intricate arrangements, successfully showcasing each ghoul’s finely honed musicianship. Kudos to the groovy ghouls for being able to perform this style of rock wearing hoods and masks. That cannot be easy, even with the power of Mephistopheles acting as your power supply.

Opening with “Infestissumam,” the band established a consistently intense set early on, with the crowd eating up tracks such as “Per Aspera ad Inferi” and “Ritual,” which has a riff that, if it were Godzilla, would be stomping the ever-living hell out of Tokyo. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was their version of The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” which seemed to come out of nowhere, and at first seemed like an odd choice. They made it their own, though, doing a version faithful enough to the original while taking it up a few notches on the metal spook-o-meter. Papa’s vocal on this was outstanding, as it was on what might be the band’s most popular song, “If You Have Ghosts,” perhaps the best song Peter Murphy never wrote.

Whether Papa glowered at the crowd while swinging a smoking incense thurible, or wished his “children” a happy Easter, he had both tattooed youths and pot-bellied middle aged folks eating out of his leather-gloved hand. To everyone’s credit, no one walked out of The Pageant killing anyone, sacrificing goats, or selling their souls to any needy demons. Just a fun night of rock ’n ’ roll, as fun and harmless as an American International Vincent Price flick.

Opening the show, a thankless job in this case, was King Dude. Their Southern gothic sound, a not unpleasant mash-up of Danzig, Man in Black–era Johnny Cash, and Type O Negative, set the stage perfectly for the antics to come. | Jim Ousley

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