It’s a risky move for a band that sings a whole lot about the devil to step foot in the Bible Belt but that’s exactly what Swedish export Ghost did on May 23, 2018 when they brought their Rats! on the Road Tour to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville.
The gothic metal band are no stranger to Mid-Tenn, either, having recorded much of their sophomore record Infestissumam at the legendary Blackbird Studios here in town. However, they had to finish that recording elsewhere because they couldn’t find a choir to sing the lyrics that boldly gloried Satan. So, they turned to Anton LaVey’s stomping grounds to get the job done in Hotel California where all their subsequent albums have since been created – including the highly anticipated new Prequelle – that is coming on June 01, 2018.
“There were a few things that I wanted to get in Prequelle that I don’t think had been fleshed out yet, and had very little to do with what came before,” Forge remarked about the dark tone that colors the band’s fourth full length as he described the new album that is also a tribute to rock music and directly inspired by the passing of Motorhead icon Lemmy, David Bowie and Prince. “This is a record themed with death and the impending end – even if it might just be our own – and in recent years we have seen the passing of many of our elder idols.”
Years back there was a terrifying documentary that chronicled the most extreme Scandinavian bands who proclaimed their diabolical service to the demonic dark lord. Many of those groups made acts like Slayer, AC/DC and Judas Priest look like child’s play. With Ghost, it’s not entirely clear whether their dedication to the devil is fact, farce or fiction. But, they do have some damned catchy songs that will have you singing about Satan if you’re not careful.
For two and a half hours in the Capitol District Ghost put those songs on display over two acts that prominently featured Tobias as the Cardinal and his seven nameless Ghouls. Well, they did have names. During band introductions every player was introduced in nearly the same manner, as in, “Give it up for Ghoul.”
Even darker perhaps is the fact that Tobias and Ghost recently endured a lawsuit over the group’s identity and ownership. This moment of refinement found Forge having to temporarily change the name of his band and to ultimately find all new Ghouls who were spirited enough to play their role in the Ghost road show.
In the group’s early years they became synonymous with the creepy and devilish anti-pope figure named Papa Emeritus (I, II and III). Ghost was best viewed through the perverse P.O.V. of this unholy lead singer – who, in actuality – was really a character played by Tobias Forge. On this night Papa was being played by someone else and his evil eminence graced us with a quick intoxicating sax solo near the close of act one. For all the songs about sex, blood, gore and Lucifer the most shocking fact about the night was the fact that Papa Emeritus was mostly otherwise absent.
The mandatory encore satiated the standing fandom in the confines of the TPAC that doubled as purgatory for this night. Tobias said “Monstrance Clock” was about female orgasm and his pre song instructions and advice had the couple in the row in front of us coupling their pre-teens daughter’s ears for several minutes. It was a catchy track underscoring the one thing this band does well. But it was anti-climactic. What we really wanted was a second coming of Papa Emeritus. But, he was nowhere to be found. I guess he was dead to us.
Despite all the facts and frightening drama that accompanies Ghost’s existence, or maybe even because of them – the congregation continues to grow as the eight-piece purveyor of the Satanic doctrine is set to bring their depraved message to arenas for the first time with headlining concerts scheduled for Los Angeles (The Forum) and New York (Barclays Center) later in the year. In Nashville, Tobias left his frightening flock with a blessing and thanksgiving as the show closed.
“Thank you for believing!”
Ghost Setlist: Act I: | Ashes | Rats | Absolution | Ritual | Con Clavi Con Dio | Per Aspera ad Inferi | Devil Church | Cirice | Stand by Him | Miasma | Jigolo Har Megiddo (Acoustic) | Pro Memoria | Deus in Absentia | Act II | Masked Ball (Jocelyn Pook song) | Spirit | From the Pinnacle to the Pit | Faith | Year Zero | Spöksonat | He Is | Prime Mover | Mummy Dust | If You Have Ghosts (Roky Erickson cover) | Dance Macabre | Square Hammer | Encore | Monstrance Clock