Whether you’re a Christian, Satanist, Pagan, or devote your life to any spiritual realm, it has always been clear to me the Ghost has always reached diverse audiences around the world. The satanic aesthetic created by Papa Emeritus IV and his cult of Nameless Ghouls has always drawn my wandering eyes to fix on them, whilst also seducing my ears to their incredible sound. Seeing this group live amongst the face-painted and costume clad fans was a sight to worship.
After a slightly delayed wait with a holy voices of a cathedral choir echoing from behind the white drapes that concealed the stage, the opening acoustic licks of Imperium were almost drowned out by the screaming of the packed John Cain Arena, all before the silhouette of a certain axe-shredding ghoul appeared colossal on the white curtain as he jammed the upbeat opening riff to Kaisarion. The curtains dropped whilst the ghouls brought on an anthem for Papa himself to grace the stage, blessing us with iconic vocals that you could identify in a second.
A quintessential Ghost performance is always nothing short of a jaw-dropping spectacle, from the set design of a cathedral depicting at first holy imagery on stained class to later depict hellish imagery towards the climax of the show, all the way down to the light-work that perfectly complimented the backdrop of each individual track, an example being the appropriate deep red as the opening of Year One chanted the many names of our favourite horned red man:
“BELIAL. BEHEMOTH. BEELZEBUB. ASMODEUS. SATANAS. LUCIFER”
But despite each nameless ghoul getting moments to shine throughout the show, it’s obvious who the prominent character was, as Papa Emeritus had all of our eyes completely glued to him from start to finish. As highlighted previously, his vocal style and genius lyricism has cultivated its own powerful authenticity and has been become iconic within the music community let alone the rock/metal genres, reaching its height especially in the slower yet still hard tracks like Cirice and Call Me Little Sunshine. His swift costume changes were also a sight to behold, as each short interval between each track had him emerging with something new, including a steampunk top-hat, shadow-casting bat wings, his of course iconic elegant and gothic Pope outfit, all the way down to his shining red and blue “after show jackets”.
The humour and banter between the band members never failed to make me chuckle, from Papa’s charismatic humour between songs or the playful scolding of either of the soloing guitarists. We even received a cameo from a longtime Ghost character, Papa Nihil, emerging disorderly from a glass box to performing an earth shattering saxophone solo during Miasma, right before Papa uses this to segway into the next track in which “Nihil sings”, this track being the iconic Mary On A Cross, and it matters not whether you were a ghost fan before this track circled the world, or became a fresh listener of the band after the track’s popularity across TikTok, there’s no doubt every soul in the arena belted every single lyric, myself included.
As the climax approached, Papa gave a little speech in appreciation of the community and support all before announcing the final song for the night, Respite on the Spitefields, before Ghost departed the stage….all for a short while before Papa re-emerged in response to the call-out of the audience, bantering over being told about us “expecting a classic rock show with an encore”. The charismatic frontman agreed to the crowd’s demand for three more songs (not too fond of a front row “crazy lady’s” suggestion of five songs), before the lights revealed the remaining ghouls in the darkness kicking off the encore with the ever risqué Kiss the Go-Goat. The remaining two songs required our strengthened necks for head banging and dancing shoes, for the lights radiated and glimmered with a colourful disco palate for the upbeat Dance Macabre, transitioning ever so smoothly alongside a final thanks from Papa Emeritus into the enigmatic yet powerful Square Hammer, in which the volume of the opening riff had to compete with the screams of the crowd one final time.
As Ghost finally departed from the stage and instructing us to “fuck off” as well, I was positively buzzing for the rest of the night, as I had been apart of a mass ritual that I will not forget anytime soon, a ritual which should be experienced at least once in a lifetime…