Their Satanic Majesties Request
(that you enjoy the female orgasm)
So they hit the stage with a thunder of bass that rumbled across the floor like an earthquake. And then the guitars kicked in and “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” roared from the speakers. The band looked magnificent in their sharp black clothing and their shiny, demonic masks. As usual, you couldn’t tell a thing about any of the Nameless Ghouls; they were completely anonymous, the only thing distinguishing them was the instruments they played. But this worked, and as the show continued, little hints and bits about their personalities came out, with the way they played their guitars, or the keyboards, or the drums.
And then Papa emerged.
He was in full Black Pope regalia. The crowd screamed and he walked to the front of the stage not like a rock star, but like something regal, a religious figure leading his flock into a proper ecstatic fervor. But he wasn’t just presiding; there was a playful glint in his eyes, one that became magnified the more he addressed the crowd as the show continued.
What can be said about Ghost as a live band? They are exceptional. Their show is flawless, choreographed to a certain degree, and the lighting cues are perfect. The music rips from the stage, at once powerful and pure in its rock intensity, and then soft and delightful for the slower songs. Their mix is melodic metal, with the crunch biting your face off and the melodies tickling your ears and heart. They play their instruments good, too.
They blasted through an hour and a half set last night in Louisville and the crowd was treated to a spectacular feast of audio might and visual splendor. There was talk of Satan, and an occult vibe hung over the proceedings. Certain moments felt ritualistic but then they would slide right into a Van Halen guitar squeal and you would remember that you were being treated to something special.
Papa changed his outfit a few songs in, losing his headdress and robes, wearing instead a suit that was equal parts Edwardian and upper crust England, without any of the flowery flourishes. There was no puffy shirt. He looked like a dark member of a secret society that practiced magic rituals in giant mansions under the glare of the full moon. And indeed he led the crowd as such a religious leader would, wooing us with declarations, waving his hands about as if conducting an orchestra, pleading softly for us to sing along. And all the while, through the midst of the fun of the evening, in the back of your mind, you had to wonder, just how serious were they about this Satan thing?
There is no other band like Ghost. They take the theatrics of Alice Cooper and class them up. This isn’t some brutal Herschel Gordon Lewis gore flick, it’s more like the Hammer Films of the late sixties, early seventies. There is the gothic element, but the breasts are more exposed, the blood is brighter, and the sinister edge sharper. And the Devil dances on the fringes, promising joy and delight and a taste of the sinister darkness.
Who else but Ghost could seriously get a crowd of Kentuckians to sing this chorus as loud as they could, with as much passion as they could muster?
“This chapel of ritual
Smells of dead human sacrifices
From the altar bed
On this night of ritual
Invoking our master
To procreate the unholy bastard”
And sing it with glee.
And then moments later, whip out a Keytar and give us a grand solo.
Who else could pull that off with a devilish wink and a knowing nod, and yet still have it all be treated with the seriousness of a Baptist church service?
What about that whole female orgasm, thing, then?
In a playful moment introducing their final song, Papa went to great lengths to explain how wonderful female orgasms were, and how incredible it was for a couple to orgasm together. He likened the last song of the evening to a mutual orgasm, a release. And he invited us to sing along.
“Come together, together as one! Come together, for Lucifer’s Son!” we all sang (Monstrance Clock was the song).
And here was the bit where I began to wonder if they weren’t actually serious about Old Scratch. A guy jumped up and tried to crowd surf as Papa led the parishioners in the rousing chorus up above. When he laid eyes on this scoundrel, he turned his wrath upon the poor, stupid fellow. He belted him with curses (not into the microphone) and bade the security to get rid of him. The guitarist Ghouls joined Papa, exalting the man to get back on the ground or get out. Security grabbed him and hauled him away and the band finished out the night with a couple more choruses. But the look on Papa’s face when the interruption occurred was one of intense anger. Was it because a perfect show-stopping moment had been disturbed, or was it something else?
Hail Satan, indeed.