TVD Live Shots: Ghost at Wembley Arena, 11/22

The theatrics, the costumes, the grandiose stage and fire, but most importantly, the songs. Swedish metal band Ghost has it all. The stars, or maybe the burning fires of hell, have aligned perfectly over the past decade to propel Ghost as one of the most important bands in metal today.

Tobias Forge, also known as Papa Emeritus I, II, III, and his latest evolution as Cardinal Copia, is the mastermind behind all things Ghost. Backed by a group of nameless ghouls (literally, as listed in Wikipedia) he’s taken metal to an entirely new level and delivered two remarkable albums while bringing back the evil nature of the genre in the spirit of early Black Sabbath, but with the vocal stylings of ’70s prog rock.

What you get is a sound that has evolved over the years into something that is still as evil as ever in spirit, but surprisingly accessible. It’s metal for everyone essentially, and that statement was solidified further when the band won the much-coveted Grammy Awards for Best Metal Performance and Best Metal Album. Not that the Grammys matter anyway these days, but it does feel good when they get it right one out of ten times.

This would be my second time seeing Ghost in London, and the show is bigger and much more refined. Upgrading from the legendary O2 Forum to Wembley Arena makes perfect sense when you see the new design and production. It’s truly over the top and rivals any rock tour that’s hit the arena circuit this year.

The setlist pulled from the band’s entire catalogue but rightfully focused on the last two records with Meliora edging the latest Prequelle by one song. Highlights for me were “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” and “Circle” as these two come across much harder in a live setting, and Meliora is, in my opinion, their most substantial work. “Rats” was another standout live, and it brought back memories of seeing Ozzy Osbourne on the “Bark at the Moon” tour with axeman Jake E. Lee. It’s a fun song to see live, and it makes a statement as the second song properly launching a twenty song setlist.

The biggest surprise, though, had to be when the newest member of the band, Papa Nihil, appeared on stage tearing it up on a saxophone (yes, it’s possible to rip and tear on a sax). At first glance, I think everyone in the audience had the same reaction—what the fuck is that? But it worked, and even though it was over in just a couple of minutes, it added to the band’s unpredictable nature.

What’s next for Ghost? Who the hell knows after seeing this gig. In a recent interview with Kerrang, Forge was quoted as saying “There will be a Papa Emeritus IV. But who that is we don’t know yet…” Add to this that they seem to be on tour forever, and a new limited edition box set version of the Prequelle record has just arrived—it should be a very interesting 2020 for the band.

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