Ghost B.C. Is a Mystery, But It's a Goddamn Entertaining One
Ed Steele Papa Emeritus II
With King Dude
House of Blues, Dallas
Saturday, May 3, 2014
What do you get if you combine Scandinavian metal, Satanic chanting, 1970s shock-rock pageantry and exhibitionism, the best parts of an American classic rock radio station, and some of the tightest funk-rock licks to emerge from a non-American band? You have something that's far more entertaining than it has any right to be, given those constituent elements. You have the mystery that is Ghost B.C.
I can honestly say to you I have no damn idea what this band's deal is. Not a single clue. They're from Sweden, and that's about all I've got. The cynical side of me says it's a ploy to grab the hearts and minds of America's metal fans, who would obviously love a combination of anonymous Satan-worshiping demons and double pedals. But if that's the case, why does it sound like a minor-key Beach Boys sometimes? Why is the singer so darn tuneful? Why does it sound nothing like Satanic metal?
Undeniably, there's just something about the whole setup that works. It's kind of difficult to explain, but it's at turns cartoonish and serious. Sometimes it's generic metal and sometimes they take Satanic chanting and put an honest-to-God four-to-the-floor funk beat underneath it. Surely no one can take "Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer," sung by an invisible choir, and with an entirely straight face put a drumbeat beneath the chant that wouldn't sound out of place in the latest stab by the Killers at becoming an electro-funk band.
Quite aside from all this hand-wringing about artistic merits and what in the hell is actually going on in front of you, Ghost B.C. (it's just Ghost everywhere outside the U.S.) puts on a show that's so very entertaining that you forget all about the questions for an hour and a half. "Ritual" is a slice of 1970s retro-metal that wouldn't sound out of place in the Blue Oyster Cult back catalog (apart from the amazing couplet "Invoking our master/to procreate the unholy bastard"). It's so inhumanly catchy that you'll forget that when you're bellowing out the chorus along with ol' Papa Emeritus II (yes, that's the name of the singer), you're exhorting Satan to have a baby outside of wedlock.
The double-punch of "Con Clavi Con Dio" and "Elizabeth" from Ghost's debut (the wonderfully named Opus Eponymous) would be good enough to grace the middle of any other concert, but wouldn't sound at home in any concert apart from this one. It's at turns danceable, riff-laden, silly, singalong, funky, and full-throated metal.
The apex of this ridiculousness comes in the form of the first tune of the encore, a song called "Ghuleh/Zombie Queen." I swear to God (or possibly Lucifer) that it contains an actual surf guitar over a tremolo that would get any other metal band laughed out of the building -- which itself comes after three minutes of slow-building piano and organ. 3:04 of the linked YouTube video there was my biggest musical WTF moment of last year. Oh, and this comes in the set after a cover of the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun." Of course it does.
Rounding off with a "Hey Jude"-esque singalong that goes "Come together/together as one/come together/for Lucifer's son" under the all-time great song title of "Monstrance Clock," Ghost B.C. is one of the most riotously entertaining bands you'll see all year. Take it all away -- all the costumes, the anonymity, the tounge-in-cheek Satanism, everything apart from the music itself -- and they're still a great band. They're not leaning on that gimmick at all. These are tunes that do more than stand up by themselves.
Put it all back in, with the silly gimmick and the pretty impressive stage presence, and the band are almost comedically fun. You will be, like my group was, giggling across the whole concert -- not ironically, but amazed at what a good time you're having.
If you like classic rock, and you think the idea of worshiping Satan would be pretty hilarious, this is the band you've been waiting for. Really. Just don't try to think too hard about what the hell is actually going on.