The faithful came in their thousands to worship at the sonic temple that is the cavernous O2 Arena, Papa Emeritus IV leading his flock in a night of eardrum-shattering and eye-popping ritual.
Ghost, O2 Arena, London
Imperatour, Europe 2022 – 11 April 2022
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Robert Sutton
Having sold out Wembley Arena on their last tour, this necessary move up to the famously domed venue was a good indicator that Ghost are rapidly ascending the ladder, all buoyed by the universal acclaim awarded latest opus Impera. Two hours later, even the casually curious were converted to the cause. At the centre of this maelstrom, Tobias Forge stands tall and proud, his alter ego commanding attention, the man behind the mask and Papal garb.
Spot-lit behind the huge white curtain that covered the front of the stage, a lone Nameless Ghoul played the opening guitar pattern to Kaisarion. The curtain dropped, and all hell broke loose.
Lights blazed, the multi-layered ecumenical stage set with a huge stained glass backdrop burst into technicolour life as two more Ghouls rushed to the front to join their compatriot and join in the riff, others standing on their various platforms. The sight of all eight with their new black suits matched with gas masks-cum-helmets gave them the appearance of some monstrous Post-Apocalyptic stormtroopers. The striking image was an effective one, but when Papa Emeritus ran on stage, ascending the huge drum riser, things really went into overdrive.
Given their increasingly polished stylings, the juxtaposition of their Hammer Horror meets KISS image, and the material that is equal parts Black Sabbath doom, Metallica punch and ABBA’s pop hooks has made the band a unique draw that crosses not just genres but generations.
The opener itself sounds like a souped-up show tune, the perfect high octane party starter, and if that wasn’t enough, Rats followed this up with almost twenty thousand voices joining in its singalong chorus. Bass playing Ghoul then took the spotlight for a heated run-through of the percussive From The Pinnacle To The Pit, its funky yet psychedelic rhythms leading to the swirling guitars and keys of Mary On A Cross.
As a nod to the city, a snatch of London’s Calling cropped up in the deft but tongue in cheek guitar duel before the start of Cirice. The song is much heavier live and features Metallica scale riffing and Forge in a bat-winged suit. Whilst the singer certainly holds the lion’s share of the attention, the Ghouls are an ever-entertaining selection, be it as they prowl the stage, running from side to side or in their interactions with each other.
Given the size and scope of the ensemble, the layers of sound this creates are often quite jaw-dropping. The crushing heaviness of numbers like Faith, the massive hooks of Hunters Moon and Little Miss Sunshine or the audio kaleidoscope of recent album highlight Spillways all sound immense.
Bathed in red light and several columns of scorching flames that were felt almost to the end of the arena, Helvetesfönster is a Gothic terror delight. He Is sets a sea of mobile phone lights ablaze as it weaves its grand balladry amongst the harpsichords and soaring guitars.
The scuzz of Mummy Dust and ’60s wigout Kiss The Go-Goat tap deeply into the unhinged aspect of the creation, and the triple prong encore of their take on Enter Sandman, disco thumper Danse Macabre and a communal Square Hammer end the night in a blizzard of confetti and wild celebration.
A hugely ambitious and spectacular show, truth be told, even with the size of the O2, the Swedish giants effortlessly filled every space, and the next stop is looking like stadiums.
Who would have thought that the next global straddling musical giants from that beautiful country would emerge from the dark, twisted nightmares of a fevered mind, screaming into gloriously unsettling life.
Ridiculously hook-filled and addictive, Ghost have the world at their feet right now.
Ghost – Intro
Klara stjärnor (Jan Johansson)
Miserere mei, Deus (Gregorio Allegri)
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Mary on a Cross
Call Me Little Sunshine
Spöksonat (From tape)
Kiss the Go-Goat
Sorrow in the Wind – (outro, from tape)