Ghost – Valby-Hallen, Copenhagen (26th April 2017)

As the crowd gathered in Copenhagen’s sports centre, Valby-Hallen, last night there was a definite air of apprehension. Ghost have courted controversy recently due to a string of alleged pay disputes that shocked the metal world. Fortunately for those of us gathered for the night’s ‘ritual’ (to use Ghost’s terminology), any fears that the show would be lacklustre thanks to Papa Emeritus III’s legal issues were soon put aside.

The Copenhagen gig marked the start of the Scandinavian leg of the band’s ‘Popestar Tour’, bringing with it two new support acts – up-and-coming prog metallers The Great Discord and the ever-impressive Norwegian madmen Kvelertak. Amping up the crowd with a collection of incredibly heavy tracks, the contrast between Kvelertak’s brand of ‘death ‘n’ roll’ and Ghost’s 60s-inspired occult rock couldn’t be more pronounced. Somehow though, it worked.

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Kvelertak left the stage and Ghost’s unique road crew, all dressed in black shirts and trousers began to prepare the stage for the Swedish rockers. The atmosphere before a Ghost performance is like nothing else. With the air thick with frankincense and the arena’s speakers pumping out Gregorian chanting, it’s clear that Ghost’s live performances really embody the satanic inverted Catholic imagery so prevalent in their lyrics.

Touring off the back of the band’s latest EP ‘Popestar’, it was only fitting that they opened the show with a stunning rendition of the EP’s only original track ‘Square Hammer’, an epic sing-along that set the tone for the entire night. Following that, the audience were treated to two hours of some of the most fun, disturbing and downright blasphemous music in metal today. With a set-list covering all three of the band’s LPs, fan favourite after fan favourite blasted its way through the stadium. It was an absolute onslaught, from ‘Cirice’ to ‘Year Zero’ to ‘He Is’, the crowd knew every lyric and sang them with a distinctly Danish kind of Viking energy.

By the time the show came to a climax and the band broke out ‘Monstrance Clock’, Ghost’s signature encore and finale, everyone in the crowd still wanted more. They could have stayed at that show for hours, and it’s all thanks to the way that Ghost effortlessly work the stage and the crowd, ensuring that everybody has one hell of a fun night.

There one criticism, however. Despite touring for the ‘Popestar’ EP, the band only played one song from the record – not even the band’s haunting cover of Echo & The Bunnymen’s ‘Nocturnal Me’. But alas, the audience were instead given songs from the whole range of Ghost’s discography (aside from any of the covers from the 2013 EP ‘If You Have Ghost’). But honestly, that’s nothing that should really be complained about.

With Ghost the occult, satanic nature of the music is incredibly tongue-in-cheek. They’re clearly in love with the business, and at times when Papa spoke with the audience, it felt more like a top-tier comedy show than a metal concert. The absolute showmanship of Ghost can’t be understated; their shows are up there with the very best in modern day metal theatre. there is no doubt that they have the ability to rival the likes of Rammstein once the tour budget goes up. From the devilishly provocative Catholic Church-inspired stage dressing, to the backing band of Nameless Ghouls clearly enjoying every minute of the show, with intermittent guitar – and even one or two keytar – solos the show Ghost provided was utterly incredible.

This wasn’t the Ghost of two years ago when this writer last saw them; they’re now multi-platinum, Grammy-winning international superstars and the show really showed off that fact. Costume changes, pyrotechnics and confetti cannons raining down shiny gold and silver paper that made you feel like a Crystal Maze finalist all worked to herald in the new era of superstardom that Ghost are doubtlessly heading towards.