The last 2 years have been a roller coaster for Swedish metal band Ghost. Between constantly touring to multiple lineup changes, and even snagging their very first GRAMMY, the band has captured the attention of many within a very short time frame. After their highly successful Popestar Tour which sold out multiple dates across North America and Europe, the band surprised fans as they announced that they were about to do one more tour opening for Iron Maiden before hitting the studio late this Summer.
For those of you not familiar with the band, Papa Emeritus gets replaced after every album cycle and the Ghouls get a complete makeover. The band so far, has held a changing of the Papa’s show in Sweden at the beginning of the new album cycle to introduce fans to the new Papa and officially kick off the new era. Almost every Ghost fan has a favourite Papa/Era that sticks out to them the most, and for me that happens to be Papa Emeritus III and the Meliora Era.
Over the last 2 years, I’ve travelled to see Ghost perform headlining Rituals for a total of 11 times just to try and soak up as much of Papa III and the Meliora era Ghouls as possible. It was a no-brainer that when they announced they were going on tour with Iron Maiden, I just had to try and get myself to a few of the tour dates. Having seen Ghost so many times in a short span headlining their own shows + Lollapalooza in Chicago, I honestly didn’t know what to expect when seeing them open up for Maiden at the Prudential Center. I knew their set would be significantly shorter than I was used to and wasn’t sure how their rituals would translate when the venue became massive while their set list got shortened.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Ghost Rituals still feel pretty extravagant when you toss them into an arena. They might not have had the grand production that they did on their Popestar Tour with checkered flooring, confetti cannons filled with Papa bucks, or any pyro – but Papa Emeritus and his Ghouls definitely know how to work the crowd and captivated the audience in the Prudential Center. Opening with their latest hit ‘Square Hammer’, the Ghouls filed out on stage one by one as their part of the song kicked in, leaving everyone anxiously awaiting the arrival of Papa. Ghost’s 8 song set list flew by as they performed song such as ‘From The Pinnacle To The Pit’, ‘Ritual’, and ‘Year Zero’.
It is also to note that Ghost went through an overhaul with their lineup since they were last in North America. I was a little hesitant to see what they were like, since all I have known was the previous lineup. All of the old Ghouls had a lot of chemistry and a big stage presence that they built together over time, which left me wondering if that would still be a thing with a whole new lineup. Rest assured, the new lineup was just as fun to watch as the old one. The new Ghouls are a lot more interactive with the crowd and are very animated in their own ways. Aether, the rhythm guitarist, seemed very fond of jumping off the risers on stage – something none of the old Ghouls used to do, while Fire was seen really getting into the music and occasionally doing the windmill. Like the previous Ghouls, the new ones have great chemistry amongst themselves and with Papa. The only thing about Ghost’s set that I really didn’t care for was the new ‘Mummy Dust’ keytar solo. It sounds really high pitched/off compared to the album and how it used to be played live. It’s going to take a little bit longer to get that one to stick with me, but it was nice to see that the new keyboardist was given the freedom to add his own spin on the solo.
When their set came to a close, the band ended with ‘Monstrance Clock’. Based off the roars of approval that met the band as they exited the stage, you could tell they left New Jersey itching for some more as the 8 songs just wasn’t enough. It was great to see that even from standing at the back of the general admission pit, Ghost was able to captivate the masses. If this is what Ghost Rituals are like when they are opening for an arena tour, I can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like when they start headlining arenas on their own with their full production.