There’s something deliciously perverse about watching Ghost play live on a sunny Sabbath. Never has a band fused Satanic glorification and ABBA influences with such catchy aplomb. The gathered congregation is sizeable and in good (beer-fuelled) humour.
A lot has happened in the last year for the Swedish rockers. A second album and a burgeoning fan base has seen them move from the Pepsi Max tent to a prime late afternoon slot on the Zippo Encore stage. During the choral intro to the latest opus’s eponymous track, “Infestissumam”, the anti-hero of the hour glides surreptitiously, as if his white cassock obfuscates a pair of infernal roller skates, to his position at the mic. The lack of theatricality is itself pure drama. Papa Emeritus II begins his sermon.
‘Per Aspera ad Inferni (Through Hardship To Hell)’ should not create this much joy as thousands join in its Latin refrain and that of ‘Con Clavi Con Dio’. The thing about Ghost is that, for all their depictions of sacrifice and celebration of the imminent arrival of the Antichrist, they know how to write a bloody good song. They walk the line of self-parody with cloven-hooved dexterity. Papa Emeritus‘ between-song banter is pitched perfectly. In self-effacing tone he asks the assembled “Did you like that one?” to a mixed response of cheers and laughter. We are laughing with him. He is the least frightening emissary of Lucifer I have ever seen.
A fan-pleasing range of songs spanning both albums keeps the festival spirits high. ‘Ritual’ gives us all a chance to sing its diabolic refrain. There’s something odd yet very right about singing of the smell of human sacrifice after a few pints with happy metalheads. Similarly out of place, ‘Stand By Him’s chorus (”Tis the night of the witch tonight’) is bellowed back to our unholy Master of Unceremonies with exultation. Ghost are about as sinister as the campest of Hammer Horror films.
‘Year Zero’ and ‘Prime Mover’ are further crowd-pleasers in a set which showcases melody and hooks. Sadly, this means there is no ‘Ghuleh/Zombie Queen’, a highlight of “Infestissumam”. The closing ‘Monstrance Clock’ sees Papa Smurfitus indulge us in a spot of audience participation and too soon we are left serenading an empty stage with the words ‘Come together as one/Come together for Lucifer’s son’. We did come together – the jubilant atmosphere and shared laughs are a highlight of the weekend. Next time this band needs a further prime move, to the main stage.
Photo Credit: Giles Smith Photography