Ghost B.C. seem to have risen from the ashes of all the so called “Satan” worshiping metal bands that have come before them only to phoenix above to huge sales and fandom. One may question how a band dressed as ghouls reminiscent of ancient monks with a leader mocking the Pope as a skeleton, complete with pointy mitre and all, have accomplished such feats. Maybe it was the star studded endorsements by the likes of James Hetfield and Phil Anselmo. Possibly it was the great opening spots on tours with the likes of In Flames and Mastodon. Or maybe its the anonymity of Papa Emeritus II and his Ghouls and their selective press that just leave us wanting more. But, beyond the brilliance of the gimmickry of it all, the music still has to hold weight; and the tunes hold tons.
Their newest effort, Infestissumam, is rife stock with the anti-religious anthems and ‘Satan worshiping’ calls just like their first CD (Opus Eponymous). But when one is at their show, arms raised and singing along to songs such as “Year Zero” (‘Hell Satan, Archangelo Hell Satan, Welcome year zero’), it could easily be misinterpreted that one has stumbled into a black coven ready to slay some goats and sacrifice some kids. But what really is going on (at least I think so) is some great tongue in cheek humor about the whole thing- religion, hell, heaven, Satan, metal, worship, fanaticism, God, mysticism, whatever. The performance is not unlike a Faustian play or a Poe recital. It’s macabre and ghastly, but by no means is it serious Satanism.
The musicianship of each of the nameless (but marked by a symbol) ghouls is very evident. Impossibly difficult to really pinpoint into a genre, the music is not quite metal, not quite synth-rock, not exactly the descriptions of Blue Oyster Cult/Mercyful Fate/Black Sabbath that they have been labeled by rock critics; these showman put on a production without having the budget of KISS, nor do they need it. It seemed like every person in the 750 plus sold out crowd at Mr. Smalls knew every word as they sang along, shouting “PAPA” at the top their lungs, as he shook hands, spoke in a fake Italian accent, and even curtailed some of his language due to some very, very young audience members brought to witness the spectacle by their parents.
The vast improvements with their costumes from the last time we witnessed these Swedish spectres stateside (Stage AE in Pittsburgh) is amazing and money well spent (and the prompting for Papa Emeritus to don the II in his moniker). While I really did miss the fake stained glass windows with church like atmosphere (though we did not quite need it in Pittsburgh since Mr. Smalls used to be a church!) and the burning of the incense in their routine from last time, the overall act was masterful and left much of us wanting for more. That is the key ingredient that Ghost B.C. has found that many performers miss; give us a little mystery, a little coquettish toying and we will clamor for more. Unfortunately for those that missed the performance, by the time you will have read this, Ghost B.C. will have given their last stateside performance at Rock on the Range in Columbus and then head out to Italy to start a European tour. Although they take their name from an apparition, this is a band that begs to be seen and heard, don’t miss them again, if you do, it may haunt you forever.
Highlights: “Year Zero”, “Secular Haze”, “Ritual”
All photos ©2013 AWeldingphoto and Pittsburgh Music Magazine