Copenhell - 2013

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Ghost is band that splits the waters. On one hand you have the fans that seem to praise anything they do to the skies (or the fires of hell if you wish), and on the other you have the unbelievers who seem to think that they are a hyped up act who’s only real merit is that they have put on costumes.
Seeing and hearing them for the first time this day, I was finally ready to make up my mind as to which side I belong...

Personally, I have nothing against a band getting dressed up for shows. It can help build an atmosphere to further the experience, but it has to build on a solid structure of good songs without which the effect will be lost and costumes or whatever effects used will purely lock silly and the only experience gained will be one of laughter.
However, the chanted intro known as Infestissumam proved to be a good mood-setter, and when the band members, or Nameless Ghouls as they are referred to, entered one by one in the accompanying Per Aspera Ad Inferi I was surprised to see how lively they were, contrary to their stage personas.
Last in was of course Papa Emeritus II (which I’m guessing is the same guy as Papa Emeritus I on the last album), clad in full-on satanic papal uniform and bearing a near regal stance. And when he opened his mouth, I’m assuming at least, a voice came out but it was really hard to see from where with all that make-up, the real surprise came to me – he had such a light and delicate voice! This was far from what I had expected I must say; from reading in general terms what type of thing they were playing (i.e. doom), and from looking at their imagery (that lovely Salem’s Lot rip-off of a cover for their debut album) I had expected something far deeper and darker, a Peter Steele clone at the very least, maybe even moving over to something funeral doom like, but instead I got this retro 70ies Black Sabbath, Bigelf and the like sounding band with lively musicians who for all their costumes for once had a right to stand perfectly still and hypnotize their toes, and a frontman with the most soft and soothing voice telling us how we were all going to end up in hell and we’d better damn like it! If this wasn’t demonically compelling, I don’t know what was.

Well, that’s not entirely true.
For one thing, the sound image that Ghost had been handed for sure wasn’t compelling in any way you slice it. For starters, the guitars were completely missing where I was standing, and as that was on the second row just out from a speaker, that wasn’t a good sign. On the other hands, I was surprised to hear the keyboards play even with the keyboard player afk, as it’s called in computer slang.
This really bad sound continued for quite a while, and even though it picked up slightly around the middle and onwards towards the end it never got near good. This was a common problem for Copenhell this year, but Ghost got it bad, no doubt about it.
Something else that was missing was a conversation, or even little comments, between songs; the band just played on, and even though breaks were held between some songs, no addresses to the fans were made at any point, and stage persona or no stage persona, that’s not quite good enough in my book! Ok, it’s not entirely true, after Year Zero, one of the last songs, Papa Emeritus II said, in Danish no less, “Tusind, tusind tak!” (transl. Thank you, thank you very much), but even though that was good, it was also too little and too late to make any real impact.

Ghost had managed to pull a reasonably large crowd to the Hades stage on which they were playing, and even though it clearly felt that they were among friends this was still one of the calmest audiences I saw all weekend.
Of course, that’s what the music invites to as well so there was nothing odd about it. I could clearly see several heads gently bobbing along to the rhythm of the music, and there was no shortage of appreciative cheers between songs, filling out those blank spaces that the band left open, so even though there were no mosh- or circle pits to be seen, I was not in doubt that the band was among friends here.

Ghost is a band hat split the waters. On one hand you have Lunah Lauridsen who simply couldn’t stand them and felt there was no connection whatsoever, and on the other hand you have me, who liked the gentle pleasantness, the playful performance and the break the offered from the so far death metal heavy program of the festival.
Seeing and hearing them for the first time in broad daylight, I made up my mind that this may not have been the optimal setting for this band, but I’m not averse to giving them a second chance if the possibility should arrive.

Setlist (incomplete):

Per Aspera Ad Inferi
Secular Haze
Year Zero

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