TVD Live: Ghost B.C.
at the 9:30 Club, 5/13

Their live shows are referred to as “rituals.” They wear masks and robes and remain anonymous. Nearly every song is a celebration of Satan. The mystery that is Ghost B.C. continues to grow every day.

The Swedish metal band burst onto the scene  in 2010 with their debut album, Opus Eponymous. Soon they were all the buzz, with people talking about the retro-metal sound, or about their image and keeping their identities hidden. 2013 saw the release of Infestissumam, with the band experimenting with different styles rather than sticking to the same game plan. On Monday, the ritual at the 9:30 Club was a sight and sound to behold.

Opening the evening was Ides of Gemini, a seeming witches’ coven of a trio from Los Angeles, CA. The slow, heavy dirge of the first song began, and haunting vocals of vocalist/bassist Sera Timms oozed from the speakers, resembling a gothic Marianne Faithfull. The songs were dark, yet full of low tone, the music kept as simplistic as their all-black garb. The music edged into doom-metal territory at times, swooning and atmospheric at others. Between songs, there wasn’t much banter from the stage, just eerie rumblings and ambient noises from the speakers until the next song began.

The biggest disappointment about Ides of Gemini became apparent as the set went on. Almost every song had the same slow, droning tempo, rarely changing. You got the feeling that you were hearing alternate versions of the same song, and the repetitiveness continued throughout their set.

Odd music filled the space between the bands, and as it neared the nine o’clock hour, the house music got louder and resembled something out of an old Hammer horror film. Smoke filled the stage, and the chilling song “Masked Ball” (from the movie Eyes Wide Shut)  filled the hall. A few moments later, the band, known simply as “Nameless Ghouls” stepped out on stage and stood solemnly. The Ghouls were clad in Black masks and black robes, each one bearing the alchemical symbols of the elements. Suddenly, like the boom of a cannon, the band broke into the instrumental intro, “Infestissumam.” Perfectly on cue, as the song drew to an end, they went right into “Per Aspera Ad Inferi,” and the crowd roared as vocalist Papa Emeritus II took center stage.

Making a grand entrance with hands and scepter held high, he wore skull makeup, robes, and a mitre on his head. Brandishing their “G” and inverted cross logo, Papa Emeritus was truly the vision of an evil cardinal greeting his loyal followers and delivering the Satanic musical sermon. As they went into songs from Opus Eponymous like “Con Clavi Con Dio” and “Prime Mover,” Papa’s voice was smooth and flowing, a perfect contrast to the heavy music of the Ghouls.

Up next was “Elizabeth,” a loving ode to Elizabeth Bathory, aka The Blood Countess. As they switched from song to song, the color scheme of the lights changed, bathing the stage in a beautiful glows of blues, reds, yellows, and greens, all reflecting the tone of the song they were playing. The Ghoul playing the organ began playing “Secular Haze,” a song with almost a dark circus vibe to it, but played live, the power of the song vastly increased.When Papa instructed the crowd to “start clapping those hands,” the whole crowd responded in turn as they began “Stand By Him.” Ghost B.C.’s performance only got better as the set went on.

The Nameless Ghouls were a model of precision, every riff and drum beat perfectly placed. Part of the charm of their music is the subtle simplicity of it. No high-speed guitar solos, no ridiculous, unnecessary drum fills, just straightforward doomy metal, held together by the menacingly beautiful vocals of Papa Emeritus. The organ in their songs is the all-important ingredient to their musical recipe, made even more appropriate by the massive cathedral backdrop.

When they reached the chorus of “Satan Prayer,” the hand-clapping resumed, and the repeated chorus of the song had the whole crowd singing along to “Hear our Satan Prayer / Our anti-Nicene Creed / Hear our Satan Prayer / For the cumming of seed.” After a stunningly mighty version of their latest single from Infestissumam, “Year Zero,” Papa Emeritus, in his part-Dracula, part-Pope voice, sadly announced, “You have been so devout, but we must conclude this,” which was met with many disappointed cries, until he said “Join us…for our last…RITUAL!

The crowd exploded as they played the hit from their debut album. Their set was satisfying, yet not as long as many hoped, as the band only has two full albums of material.

Minutes later, Ghost B.C. returned to the stage, and began the slow, creepy “Guleh,” a recent addition to their set. (This was only the second time they had played this song live.) “Guleh” led right into “Zombie Queen,” a more upbeat song with a campy surf/Munsters-theme-song vibe to it, that broke the crowd out of its trance and got it moving again.

Papa Emeritus thanked the crowd again and introduced the final song. “This song is about getting together and doing the naughty. I give you the ‘Monstrance Clock.'” It was an unusual choice for a closing song, but it worked perfectly and was played beautifully. The song ended, and as Ghost B.C. left the stage in a wash of red light, a recording of haunting organ played the line from the chorus, sung majestically by a male chorus, repeating “Come together, together as one / Come together, for Lucifer’s son.”

The song ended, the lights came up, and the ritual was over. Seeing faces and overhearing passersby, everyone was in agreement on the excellence of the show. Behind it all, the masks, the anonymity, the Satanic subject matter, Ghost B.C. is good on their albums but is a great live band, unafraid to take chances and not just play the safer, heavier songs from their albums.

Photos: Dave Barnhouser

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