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Mace & Crown | September 26, 2017

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Ghost B.C. Haunt The NorVa Stage

Adam Flores | Senior Writer

Sweden may be best known for its continued generous offering of metal mayhem in music with stigmatizing acts such as Opeth, Arch Enemy, Meshuggah and even the ‘90s all-female alternative metal outfit, Drain STH (STH for Stockholm). The Scandinavian breeding ground for some of the finest heavy metal music makers in the world continues its indelible crusade with Linköping-based, breakout doom metal masters, Ghost B.C.

8:58 p.m. – The NorVa is sustaining a near-capacity crowd of all ages. Brief sonic teasers come from the stage, as instruments are being soundchecked one last time. A disconcerting piano piece in its classically minor temperament briefly serenades metal-possessed followers that have come to witness what they hope the evening service will hold: Ghost B.C.’s sermon.

9:17 p.m. – As the houselights dim and darkness sets in with ominous prelude music slowly infiltrating the atmosphere, translucent red seethes throughout the concert hall projected by strategically placed stage lighting. The crowd is absorbed drawing in for the ensuing alter call.

9:19 p.m. – The processional begins with Ghost B.C.’s five Nameless Ghouls entering the sanctuary greeting worshipers with “Square Hammer.” The congregation sings along to the clandestine ritual’s opening hymn led by anti-Pope choirmaster and high priest, Papa Emeritus III. The chorus exclaims, “Are you on the square? / Are you on the level? / Are you ready to swear right here, right now / Before the devil.”

Welcome to the nightmare.

Dubbed as “The Popestar Tour,” Ghost B.C. began their U.S. quest back on Sept. 16 in Rochester, New York, the same day they officially released their current EP, “Popestar.” Embarked on an 110-show tour schedule with a projected end date of Aug. 12, their NorVa revival proves they still have plenty of spiritual power and energy to burn on this crusade.

Five tracks embody “Popestar.” As “Square Hammer” appeared to be the EP’s only live offering of the evening (an original track with its arpeggiated melodic motifs and Alice Cooper-induced rock snarl), the other four tracks are covers reflecting an alternate influence and interpretation of their musical soul: Nocturnal Me (Echo & the Bunnymen); I Believe (Simian Mobile Disco); Missionary Man (Eurythmics); and Bible (Imperiet).

Midway through the performance, the haunting clamor of “Cirice” (Old English for “Church”) graced the concert hall, immediately received by the group’s followers reciting its main theme, “I can feel the thunder that’s breaking in your heart / I can see through the scars inside you.” The song garnered Ghost B.C. a 2016 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. Derived from their last full-length studio effort, 2015’s Meliora (Latin for “Church”), the track’s message may bring comfort to those who feel they don’t belong or are accepted. A message not from a heavenly source but rather, from Satan.

Ghost B.C. make themselves recognizable and memorable to audiences through their eccentric on and offstage presence, similar to early Kiss ideology. They rely solely on theatrical themes throughout their entire show with costumes and masks–concealing their true, mortal identities–which have proven their current success in commercial and visual appeal to a rapidly growing fan base.

Onstage, Papa Emeritus III transcendently appeared as the canonical deliverer of the word, occasionally pausing to converse with The NorVa crowd between songs in a dignified, yet inviting manner. His stage presence, often motioning like a marionette puppet sans strings, exulted the phantom ‘siamo con il nostro dio scuro’ opus of the evening. The guitar playing Nameless Ghouls, always amused and animated, periodically wandered around their savior onstage, much like the flying monkeys around the Wicked Witch of the West. Papa Emeritus III constantly encouraged his misfit children with a “Play, my pretties, play!” submission to all his glory.

Despite what could be a detriment in wearing masks and costumes while performing on their respective instruments, the Nameless Ghouls musically delivered sounding true to their studio counterpart. Ghost B.C.’s music conflates classic and contemporary rock and metal elements ranging from Alice Cooper’s melodramatic soundscape to the progressive onslaught of Metallica. This foundation serves underneath the auspices of Prince of Darkness Ozzy Osbourne-esque menacing lyrical outcries.

From the bloody, bone-crunching, freight train uproar of “Year Zero” into the prophetic, ethereal vocation of “He Is,” Ghost B.C.’s dynamic contrast and control during the body of their live set further elevates their deitic prowess they consecrate at the table.

A testament to their growing nocturnal power and popularity, Ghost B.C.’s 80-minute live ministry encased a mesmerizing spirit among The NorVa venue and devoted clergy. The overall success the band has established to this point in their eternal mission can only make us wonder with great anticipation, when and how their next apparition will appear.

And, what will it reveal?