When: January 28, 2012
Where: Marquis Theater, Denver, CO
With: Blood Ceremony, Ancient VVisdom
By Andy O'Connor (Denver)
Ghost were prepared to make waves in the States as support for Enslaved last year, but even a fervor for the Dark Lord can't make visa problems instantly go away. You mean to tell me that he can make me kill my parents, but can't cross the ocean? Some days, you have to put logic behind you and acknowledge that a good show is a good show. And Ghost definitely showed Denver that they're more than hype.
Dedicated readers know I have a problem with Austin's Ancient VVisdom. For those new to the site, they sound like a diet Death in June -- acoustic guitars, horns and skulls as stage props, dark vibes, but no real cohesion or depth. I was somewhat willing to give them the benefit of the doubt the first time around because they had formed not too long ago. Now, I can't say I'm as nice. Granted, they are a fit on the tour package: like Ghost, they play "accessible" music with an occult message. Their main problem still persists -- they took an idea that sounds good on paper (or, as Erick put it, a blow-fueled conversation at 5 a.m.) and haven't done much with it. Also, those lyrics. Metal isn't always home to poet laureates, but without distortion to cover your ass, you gotta try harder. Reform Iron Age now!
Toronto's Blood Ceremony followed, and had they done an out-of-tune rendition of "The Litanies of Satan" for the entirety of their set, they would have automatically been better than Ancient VVisdom. Thankfully, they have higher standards. Imagine Cathedral had they emphasized both their later groovy direction and the folk touches found on Forest of Equilibrium, and you've got a good idea of what they're going for. People eat up the flute, but it's definitely not a gimmick -- Alia O'Brien's lines are complimentary, not show-offy. They do what Coven couldn't -- be heavy and delicate without half-assing either. And while I realize we should move beyond discussing metal womens' looks, I can't help but notice O'Brien bears a resemblance to Lea Michele of "Glee" fame. Twins separated in a ritual? We know who's on the righteous path.
Denver, clearly, was there to praise Ghost. Not to say that the crowd was stillborn during the past two bands, but I think I heard a more raucous response to the lights dimming for Ghost's arrival than I did during either preceding bands' sets. This was none more evident than when a sect of the crowd tore into a Bible during "Elizabeth," but unlike Black Witchery, Ghost aren't really suited towards shredding a bible. Their tunes are more for burning the bible slowly as incense while you consummate a Satanic marriage. Besides, these amateurs took way too long to desecrate the Bible - the hordes under Impurath's command at Rites of Darkness had that sucker clean in half the time!
Even if part of the audience was misdirected, they had good reason to be - Ghost are a more complete band in a live setting. Initially, I was worried that the Marquis Theater, a rather small place for the bands they tend to book, would cramp Ghost. Ancient VVisdom's bassist Trans Am -- we recognized each other because he worked at the Jackalope, a bar I frequented in my Austin days -- told me that Denver was their most intimate show thus far. Were Papa Emeritus I and His Nameless Ghouls forced to reveal themselves because of the small stage? Such a fate wasn't to bear fruit, and praise Satan for it! Ghost's "Melissa, I'm burnin' for you" sound comes off heavier and sexier with bigger, punchier guitars. Hearing Emeritus' voice and seeing pictures of the band is one thing, but to have both synched is startling. He's got the Evil Pope gig down - he looks menacing and sings about forbidden concepts, but his smooth voice convinces you that he's preaching the Good Word. Ghost's set was rather short, clocking in under an hour. There was no encore, just a ripping rendition of the band's best song, "Ritual," to close the night. They've got what it takes to be a great live band - they just need to record another album.
Missed Ghost this time around? They'll serve as support for Opeth and Mastodon's upcoming national tour! Check the dates at Mastodon's site.