You know, there was a time when everyone was just so fucking ready to be the rock star next door. There were hordes of would-be Cobains bleeding in metaphors on stage, clothed in a tattered cardigans and bits of angst.
But as the trends of the '90s continue to creep back into the stylistic and musical vernaculars of today's youth like gum stuck to the bottom of a Doc Marten on hot summer's day, the time is truly ripe for some God-damned theatrics in rock 'n' roll.
Enter Ghost B.C. -- Sweden's gift to the droves of heathen metal fans currently fed-the-fuck-up with the daily force feedings of Christian dogma we endure in everything from big government to bumper stickers.
The mysterious Swedes that comprise the group brought an astounding amount of grace to Ghost B.C.'s brand of blasphemous satire, captivating audiences the world over since 2006 while simultaneously gaining the ire of Christian and conservative groups in equally staggering numbers. Hell, it even earned itself a notch on Dave Grohl's endless bedpost of collaborative conquests (Does he do it just to kiss and tell at this point?).
The band comprised of "Nameless Ghouls," led by the enigmatic Papa Emeritus II, finally called upon South Florida's devoted followers last night in an absolutely incredible satanic mass at Fort Lauderdale's Revolution Live. It epitomized a theatrical rock show. It was a tongue-in-cheek social commentary wrapped in the guise of expertly written melodic metal, and a signed and sealed delivery of Ghost B.C.'s highly regarded live reputation.
Neo-folk and Morriconne worshipper, King Dude -- known to some as T.J. Cowgill, owner and designer of the Actual Pain clothing line -- opened the show for Ghost B.C. and, to our astonishment, succeeded in quelling the noise of South Florida's ever-boisterous early crowd with his performance.
Cowgill was backed by drummer Joey D'Auria and guitarist/keyboardist David Nelson. He crushed the audience with a deep, dramatic bellow somewhere between Nick Cave and Death in June's Douglas P. Dynamic. King Dude brought enchanting cowboy folk with lyrics centered around Satan and the occult (that were the order of the night). Cowgill's persona between songs betrayed the starkly dark lyrics and spaghetti Western sonic dramatics. A seemingly affable character, he made sure it was alright to smoke in the venue before lighting up a cigarette and crooning through "Jesus in the Courtyard."
During the song, a young man in a black bathrobe and combat boots -- no-doubt a poor man's homage to the garb of Ghost's Nameless Ghouls -- sidled up with beer in hand and nodded approvingly to Cowgill's songs. Cowgill's lush vocals and charismatic performance earned him the reward of a call-and-response session during the end of "Lucifer's the Light of the World."
Ghost B.C. took plenty of time building the tension before making its stage break. The setup appeared to be a Satanic cathedral, complete with stone walls and stained glass depicting skulls and various angels of death. The audience, fatigued by false alarms and predicted starts, began chanting "Satan" until the house music changed from the baroque piano concertos piped into Fresh Market to sullen Latin hymnals. The lights went out, and to the delight of the ravenous horde, five Nameless Ghouls slowly took their places on stage. Like cloaked soldiers awaiting orders, the band stood patiently for the chorale introduction of "Infestissumam" to finish shaking the halls, at which point the crunch of guitars and the crack of drums finally signaled the start of the ritual in earnest.
Papa Emeritus II appeared to a massive eruption of fanfare from the already ecstatic crowd. The perpetually poised dark pope greeted his flock with a delicate nod, a gentle raise of a glove'd hand, and a gentle croon that wafted over the epic melange of metallic guitars and a choir of voices. The entrance alone was worth the price of admission and totally set the bar high for the night's theatrics.
The band broke into fan favorite "Ritual" for its third song and the energy was simply electric. Papa Emeritus II appeared to literally float across the stage as the Ghouls writhed around him, shrouded in cloaks and hidden by matching black sculpted masks. The chugging riff of the song crashed through the hall like a ton of bricks baked in the kilns of hell itself. The lights of the stage played off of the curved skull visage that is Papa E's face and the audience screamed back lyrics maniacally at the mysterious leader.
The string of songs beginning with "Ritual" and ending with "Body and Blood" were enough to sell the night as one of the most exciting sets enjoyed locally in quite some time, and made for an absolutely ideal first experience with Sweden's favorite Satanic sect.
However, the band's eerie cover of the Beatles "Here Comes the Sun" (introduced by the caterwaul of a child) and Roky Erickson's "If You Have Ghosts" also made for high points that showed the bands knack for blasphemy outside of the theological. In fact, turning what might be the most positive song in the entire Beatles catalog into a minor key dirge actually worked really well -- particularly when bolstered by Ghost B.C.'s muscular stage sound, which was far heavier than the albums would lead one to expect.
Throughout the performance, Papa II reached out to touch the hands of fans, reached for the very souls of constituents hanging from the balconies, and provided a controlled display of megalomania that was virtually impossible not to be taken by. The songs, expertly crafted with a distinctly Swedish flair for melody, took on new life live, as did our obsession with Ghost B.C.
"Per Aspera ad Inferi"
"Jigolo Har Megiddo"
"Con Clavi Con Dio"
"Body and Blood"
"Here Comes the Sun" (Beatles cover)
"Depth of Satan's Eyes"
"Stand by Him"
"If You Have Ghosts" (Roky Erickson cover)
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