Opus Eponymous


Band: Ghost
Album: Opus Eponymous
Best song: “Ritual” is the best song, hands down.
Worst song: “Stand by Him” isn’t amazing.

I’ve mentioned recently that I’d seen Mastodon and Opeth on the Heritage Hunter tour here in the DC area. Mastodon was pretty good, Opeth was similarly good, but the highlight of the show was the opening band, Ghost.

As I age, going to a show gets tougher and tougher. Outside of the money — and some shows I’ve recently attended have been really expensive — it’s really difficult to get out to a show and get out of one’s nightly routine. As each year passes, fewer friends want to go to shows and more friends need to be at work early the next morning. Plus, not having a car makes me rely on public transit or the kindness of friends to get me home. It’s an ordeal.

It’s sad, in a way. Thanks to the radio station, the vast majority of my social life in college was based on going to shows (outside of the normal dorm/video game crap that all 18-year-old men do). When I got out here, I went to tons of shows and bonded with friends and ladyfriends through live music.

Now, I go about once every six weeks, if that. It’s sad. I don’t do it enough.

There are many types of shows to see; local showcases, bands with people you know, bands you sorta like, only seeing the opening band, etc. There are two that stand out, as they are the two most exhilarating experiences.

The first is the show of a band one absolutely adores. A favorite band. In college, I’d seen Sunny Day Real Estate and sat on the stage at a smallish club where I went to college. I knew every single song and was excited for each one. Similarly, I went to see Radiohead at Verizon Center. It’s a different experience in a huge arena, but similarly perfect. Each song brings a realization and each realization had me singing along with the band.

The other type of exhilarating show experience is the band that puts on a show. This is a touchy situation, as a lot of those bands totally suck (they’re all show and no good music). Secondarily, a lot of the music I enjoy consists of bands not interested in image, necessarily. At best, these bands will put up a screen behind them and play a movie (Calexico does this, Isis did this, Mastodon does this, etc.)..

I’ve always claimed the best two shows I’ve ever seen (in this category) are the Flaming Lips and Iron Maiden. Maiden was a show here in the DC area at an outdoor arena. Outdoor shows are inherently flawed because the shitty acoustics and the sky and people smoking and whatever makes the audience inherently distracted.

Maiden, though, does not have a lot of distracted audience members. Those dudes put on a show. The band’s backdrop was a cartoonish recreation of King Tut’s tomb, with faux hieroglyphs and sand-colored backdrops. At different points, the band had a mummy, zombie and devil come out in some form (figures above the stage, a seven-foot zombie robot, etc.). More important, Bruce Dickinson was like Madonna or Lady Gaga during the show (though, with running in lieu of dancing). He was posing and addressed the crowd and wailed and changed costumes. At one point — during “The Trooper,” of course — he was dressed like a British soldier, carrying around the Union Jack.

The other great show was the Flaming Lips on the early bits of the Soft Bulletin tour. Before the band added the arena rock aspects of the show, Wayne & Co. simply had a screen, some costumes and a load of props. Wayne Coyne had just started wearing the all-white suit and had only recently brought the fake blood and props into it. The bass player wore a skeleton costume.

The first highlight of that show was when the Lips played “Slow Nerve Action.” A song with an echoing “When the Levee Breaks”-type beat, the band put a looped video of a beating heart on the big screen, synced up perfectly. It was both mesmerizing and a little gross. The second highlight was the song every person in the audience knew: “She Don’t Use Jelly.” To introduce it, the band put the famous misspoken Jon Stewart intro on the screen. Then, with the song’s opening crescendos, a person in a bunny mascot costume came into the crowd and threw confetti. It was the most festive I’ve ever seen the Blue Note (one of the the local clubs in Columbia, Mo.). It was also more fun than I’ve ever had at a show.

Neither of those shows necessarily featured songs I knew by heart; at the time, I knew only a few songs from each artist. But, the actual concert was so entertaining that I’ll never forget either.

Ghosts all-too-short opening set on the Heritage Hunter tour was one of these shows. To understand it, though, you have to get an idea of Ghost’s presentation. I’ll just grab the description of the band from our friend Wikipedia:

Ghost are easily recognizable due to their eccentric on-stage presence (five of the group’s six members wear dark hooded robes, while the vocalist appears in a skull mask and a cardinal outfit), heavily satanic-based lyrics, and highly secretive nature of their identities, with the members being referred to as “Nameless Ghouls”.

Here, for example, is a YouTube video of the band playing last year:

As you can see in the video, these guys aren’t fucking around. They are dressed as monks of some sort, save for the main pope guy (Papa Emeritus). Papa Emeritus is fully poped-out. He has the hat, the robes and even comes out with the swingy incense thing.

The thing is, though, the band is really good. They’re accessible, not too doom-y and don’t use and cookie monster vocals. They sound like Master of Reality-era Sabbath, honestly. This is a band that could be huge. In fact, I said to my friend afterward, “How is Ghost not the most popular band in the world? They do an interesting show and are a really good band. Their lead singer dresses like an evil pope.”

Of course, it’s that last bit that gets them. Satanists don’t really end up being super popular in a world populated by Christians. Even if you’re not Catholic, mocking the Vatican so openly is probably not a good marketing move.

It also brings up the question of seriousness: Are Ghost really this insane? Do they want to praise Satan, hope for human sacrifice (as the song “Ritual” suggests) on an altar and speak to the joys of hell? Or are they just serious critics of Christianity (not unlike fellow countrymen Opeth and many others)? I’m guessing it’s the latter, but youneverknow.

I do know that Opus Eponymous is a shockingly good record. It’s more hard rock than metal. It lacks any hard growling vocals and echoes Opeth’s more recent stuff without the progressive wanking. Again, it’s something like a Blue Oyster Cult record that doesn’t blow ass.

And, holy shit, they put on a show.

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  • By Sorrow and Extinction | Albums That I Own on October 11, 2012 at 11:32 am

    […] on it. It’s not interesting. If I cared about the weird Satan-y or death fetishization, I’d go for Ghost. Those motherfuckers know what’s […]

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