Music News & Reviews

Swedish metal band Ghost leads a fun, pop-metal black mass

The Swedish metal band Ghost.
The Swedish metal band Ghost.

Back in simple times, a rock band could cause a full-on media panic just for hinting at the Satanic. Remember KISS as the “Knights in Service of Satan” or AC/DC as “Anti-Christ/Devil’s Children?”

The Swedish metal band Ghost plays into that same dark arena, with a back story and aesthetic that would have once landed them front and center on the nightly news.

This is a band of identical ghoul-masked musicians fronted by Papa Emeritus III, an evil Pope-styled figure who played the first half of last night’s show at the Rainbow Ballroom in layered robes emblazoned with dark iconography (so, lots of upside-down crosses). He later stripped down to a white-vested Victorian cut suit, white gloves and spats.

For all pageantry, the show (one of just 13 headlining gigs the band is doing while on tour with Iron Maiden) was no sacrificial black mass. Aesthetic undertones and calls to Lucifer aside, much of the what the Grammy-winning band does comes off as a bit of vaudeville – the backing band in matching tailored suits, Papa Emeritus moving about the stage, throwing kisses to the crowd like a mime.

It’s all meant as energetic pop-metal fun – complete with confetti raining down over the crowd and an encore ode to the female orgasm. It’s an obvious schtick, done well.


@thebandghost is pretty much what you would expect. In the best possible way. @numbskullshows #popestar

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Stray observations:

▪ While Ghost came off as super slick and produced on stage, Los Angeles’ Repulsion went the other way with things, opening the night with a set of blaringly loud bursts of grindcore. They played 16 songs, maybe more, in a 30-minute set that ended with bassist Scott Carlson joking to the crowd: “I hope you walk away with a better appreciation of shitty music.”

▪ Also from Carlson: “We’ll talk Satan in a few minutes. It’s on the agenda. Right now we’re gonna talk about cannibals. Walking dead cannibals.”

▪ This was probably not the show for anyone with maskaphobia.

▪  It must have been hot as hell (total pun intended) under all those robes.

▪ I have now seen someone do pushups in the pit while the band is playing.

▪ Keytar solo for the win.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee