Download Festival 2023 / Ghost Make A Triumphant And Electrifying Return To Castle Donington

Download Festival 2023 – Sunday. And lo, despite the sun burning down with a heat not known before, they came in their thousands to worship at the altar of Papa Emeritus IV, and it was good. The much-anticipated return of Ghost to Download has come after a skyrocketing popularity that’s seen the band sell out arenas across the world. With Slipknot dominating things at the Apex stage, a headline slot on Opus was the only natural alternative.

Ghost - Download Festival 2023
Ghost – Download Festival 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

They may have had to cut down the size of their lavish stage set, but there was nothing scaled down about the performances themselves, Tobias Forge and his Nameless Ghouls delivering the goods as only they know how.

Ghost - Download Festival 2023
Ghost – Download Festival 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

With the gloriously rolling riff of Kaisarion announcing their arrival, it was time for their utterly addictive Black Sabbath meets Metallica meets ABBA mayhem. Forge certainly knows how to write hooks, and with their carefully curated image, the whole of Ghost pulls off a show that’s as visually compelling as it is musically.

Ghost - Download Festival 2023
Ghost – Download Festival 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

The following number, Rats, is a prime example as the masked Ghouls ripped out what’s become one of the most loved tracks in their canon. There’s a rich treasure trove here, and the deliriously received Spillways, grinding riffs of Faith and a joyfully tongue-in-cheek cover of the Genesis ecumenical hit Jesus He Knows Me all show muscle flexes that many would shy away from.

Ghost - Download Festival 2023
Ghost – Download Festival 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

Forge and the band have received sneering remarks from some quarters of the Metal community in the past, their evolution musically and visually seen as straying too far from expected paths.

With their roadwork opening for bands like Opeth and Metallica, they’ve more than proved their place on the scene. The voices of those packed into huge halls and festivals grow more than the drowning out of any dissenters. Given that the frontman wanted to stick to playing guitar and get a singer in, you have to wonder what Ghost would have sounded like then. Certainly, Forge’s distinctive voice and stage presence is a huge chunk of the appeal.

Ghost - Download Festival 2023
Ghost – Download Festival 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

As flames shot up for the apocalyptic Year Zero and the singalong Mary On A Cross, there was no escaping the feeling that, given time and the ever-increasing wealth of great material they have to choose from, Ghost will one day be rounding off nights in a blaze of colourful stained glass windows and multi-layered stage sets on the Apex stage.

Ghost - Download Festival 2023
Ghost – Download Festival 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

With the triumphant closing hat trick of Kiss The Go-Goat, Dance Macabre and Square Hammer, it was game set and match for the night, the sea of believers going off to seek absolution or make confessions.

For many, this was the highlight of Download 2023, and verily, many more were added to this flock of black sheep. Triumphant.

Ghost - Download Festival 2023
Ghost – Download Festival 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk
Ghost - Download Festival 2023
Ghost – Download Festival 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

Take Part: Are you at Download this year? Who are you looking forward to see? Want to get in touch and tell us how it’s going? Email MetalTalk Editor Steve Ritchie to tell us how it’s going for you. Download@MetalTalk.net.

Download Festival 2023

MetalTalk Download 2023 coverage can be found at MetalTalk.net/tag/download-2023

Download 2023 will see the festival celebrate its 20th anniversary with an additional day, meaning four days of live music in total. Download Festival 2023 was a record breaking year.

This year’s MetalTalk team is:

Monty Sewell

Paul Monkhouse

Photography:

John Hayhurst – SnapAGig

Andy Shaw

For Download 2022, visit MetalTalk.net/tag/download-2022

Ghost – Setlist

Kaisarion

Rats

Faith

Spillways

Cirice

Jesus He Knows Me

Watcher in the Sky

Year Zero

Mary on a Cross

Mummy Dust

Kiss the Go-Goat

Dance Macabre

Square Hammer

Sleeve Notes

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