Ghost is quickly becoming an overnight sensation… twelve years in the making. The Swedish metal band has been growing in popularity but with a surprise boost from TikTok, they have moved from clubs to stadiums, and their popularity is only growing. Forbes Magazine even has them listed as the next great Arena Metal Band. What’s key is that a Ghost show is as much about the visuals as the music. It’s a pageant with elaborate costume changes, bold characters with a stunning look. Front-man Tobias Forge has styled his band’s growth after Metallica and Iron Maiden, who grew their fanbase through relentless touring, not just of big cities, but the rural areas where other bigger bands dare not tread. They have also focused a huge amount of energy on their merchandise, which was paying off in dividends as the line wrapped around the Coca-Cola Coliseum as fans clambered to grab some of the new gothic inspired T-Shirts. The line did not dwindle till the show was well over. The doors opened for the Saturday Night September 17th 2022 show at 6:30pm for a 7:00pm show so it was a mad dash to fill the seats.
Spirtbox hit the stage right at 7:00pm while people were still flowing in. The lack of a packed house didn’t deter them from launching into an impressive set. Their recent release Eternal Blue has put them on the map and made them a hot band to check out. Lead singer Courtney LaPlante has a great stage presence as she prowled the stage in her thigh-high boots with a vivacious voice that was matched by the riffs of guitarist Mike Stringer. The rhythm section kept the throttling beat going behind the drumming of Zev Rose and Bassist Josh Gilbert who joined the band back in May. Their 6-song set was solid and left me wanting to add this band to my list. With them being based in Vancouver, I hope they become a regular in the Toronto Area.
Courtney LaPlante – Vocals
Mike Stringer – Guitar
Josh Gilbert – Bass
Zev Rose – Drums
1. Circle With Me
2. Hurt You
4. Holy Roller
Next out of the gate was Mastodon from Atlanta, Georgia. I became a huge fan of their music videos back in 2010 when I was directing a music video for German Metal Legends, Accept, and I was bingeing everything that was being made at the time. Mastodon really goes hard into their videos making each one a little visual story which is so rare these days. I was captivated by the creativity of the “Divinations” and “Oblivion” videos.
The lineup of Troy Sanders, Brent Hinds, Bill Kelliher, and Brann Dailor, has survived for two decades and has continued to crank out one amazing album after another, with their latest being Hushed and Grim. The bands steady performance has garnered them 6 Grammy nominations including their win in 2017 for Best Metal Performance for “Sultan’s Curse,” which sadly wasn’t featured in their set that leaned heavily on their new release with over half of the songs coming off their most recent album. I wasn’t sure if they hated getting their photos taken or it was part of their performance, but the first three songs had the band nearly in the dark. The video wall projected some unique abstract art but the band hovered towards the back of the stage with drummer Brann Dailor leading vocals on the first track, “Pain With an Anchor”. Lead Guitarist Brent Hinds lingered towards the back of the stage, his white mane flowing and thrashing with each song. Bill Kelliher roamed the stage, silhouetted against the video display. As soon as the photographers left, the lights kicked on, and the band’s performance with it. Their progressive rock roots were on display and their powerful guitar riffs and solid hooks thrilled the audience and set up the final act.
Troy Sanders – Bass Guitar
Brent Hinds – Lead Guitar
Bill Kelliher – Guitar
Brann Dailor – Drums
Joao Nogueira– Keyboards
1. Pain With an Anchor
2. Crystal Skull
4. The Crux
7. Black Tongue
8. The Czar
9. Pushing the Tides
10. More Than I Could Chew
11. Mother Puncher
Ghost calls their fans “The Congregation” and they were in wrapped attention waiting for the arrival of “The Clergy”. One of the things I appreciate about Ghost, is their dedication to their worldbuilding mythology. Back in 2010, when the band was in their Opus Eponymous cycle, front-man Tobias Forge created his alter ego in the guise of Papa Emeritus, or later to be known as Papa Emeritus I. In that first era, his costume was a red and black chasuble with upside down crosses and a miter with the black grucifix. The costumes and the masks have evolved from era to era as the band went from clubs to stadiums adding more theatrics to their show. The ritualistic killing off of Papa has become part of the band’s growing mythology, as it adds to the entire scope of the performance. Working as a great piece of symbolism that benefits the hired-gun needs of creating an ongoing mythology, the band behind Papa Emeritus IV are simply known as the Nameless Ghouls. In this iteration, they all wear incredible steampunk themed helmets and black gothic outfits. Far from background performers, they are as much a part of the show as Papa Emeritus. Working as comic relief with their pantomime bits of satire, their mythology goes even further as each character has a “symbol” and an entire background story. The current band includes Aether, Fire, Rain, Mountain, Swiss, Cirrus, Cumulus, and Sunshine. If you are like me, just dipping my toe into the backstory, it’s quite impressive to see the lengths that they have gone to.
With the arena filled, minus the throngs of people still waiting in line to buy merchandise, the chords of “Miserere Mei, Deus”, filled the air as the lights dimmed and the audience rose awaiting the arrival of the Clergy. The crowd hanging in hushed anticipation as the white kabuki drape dropped with a concussive explosion, the Nameless Ghouls came out with three guitars taking point at the end of the stage apron that juts into the audience. They launch into “Kaisarion” and Papa Emeritus IV made his dramatic appearance in the first of many costumes. The Victorian Military style jacket is less of a play on the religious designs of the past and clearly more of an effort to allow Forge in this form fitting design to move freer on the multi-level stage which features 6 ft tall platforms on either side of the stage and a massive drum riser. The details are fantastic, right down to the masks and contact lenses. They take the presentation seriously, which makes the mythology that much more powerful.
The audience barely has a moment of pause before they attack “Rats” off their 2018 album Prequelle. Their massive 20 song set covers all eras of the band’s rise and is a solid introduction to anyone who has never heard them before. Their most recent Album Impera has been getting steady radio play on SiriusXM :Octane with the hits “Call Me Little Sunshine” and “Spillways” in heavy rotation. Oddly it is the 2019 song “Mary On A Cross” that has them at #47 on Spotify’s Top 50 Most Played Tracks, thanks to a Tik Tok user who slowed the track down, adding reverb and put it to a video about the TV Show “Rein”. The clip went viral with millions of views and millions more sharing the song and adding their own video. Tobias Forge, not missing a beat, re-mixed the tune matching what had been done online and re-released it.
As the band moves into “Cirice,” Papa Emeritus takes the stage in bat wings and playfully taunts the audience. The Nameless Ghouls are such a treat to watch as they romp around the stage playing off one another. As they take center stage it gives time for more wardrobe changes and for “Call Me Little Sunshine,” where we are treated to a full satanic cardinal. For those keeping score at home, this is Cardinal Copia. He is the first Papa to not be a part of the Emeritus bloodline, though it is heavily implied he is the bastard son of Papa Nihil and Sister Imperator. Seriously, there needs to be a graphic novel about this. The more pop tones of the tune don’t require a ton of thrashing about so the wardrobe works perfectly and the giant stained-glass windows illuminates the setting perfectly.
In total I think there were about 9 costume changes throughout the full set. The highlight being when the body of Papa Nihil is brought out in a glass casket onto stage… shocked with paddles and revived suddenly and produces a saxophone out of nowhere to jam with the ending of the song “Miasma”. When I say it’s a show… it’s a show. For their big new/old song “Mary On The Cross,” Papa dons a blue sequined jacket and leans into the vintage vibe of the tune. The third to the last song of the main set, “Mummy Dust,” is capped with a deluge of confetti that sets up “Dance Macabre” and their massive hit, “Square Hammer” bringing the evening to a close. It’s one of the few shows I have seen in a while that I wanted to immediately see again. Luckily Tobias Forge has said he already has his new album planned and hopefully they will be back on the road again soon.
Tobias Forge – Papa Emeritus IV – Vocals
Fire (formerly also known as Alpha or Dewdrop and now more known as Stompy and /or Sodo) – Lead guitarist
Water (Now known as Rain) – Bassist
Air (Now known as Cumulus) – Keyboardist and backing vocals
Earth (Now known as Mountain) – Drummer
Aether (formerly as Omega or Quintessence) – Rhythm guitarist and backing vocals
Multi-ghoul, Shadow, and/or Swiss – guitarist, tambourine, backing vocals, saxophonist (as Papa Nihil )
Cirrus – keyboardist, tambourine, backing vocals, MASSIVE keytar
Infinity, Sunshine, Stratus and/or Victory – Tambourine, keyboards, backing vocals.
Klara stjärnor (Jan Johansson song)
Miserere Mei, Deus (Gregorio Allegri song)
5. Devil Church
8. Hunter’s Moon
10. Call Me Little Sunshine
11. Con Clavi Con Dio
12. Prime Mover
13. Watcher in the Sky
14. Year Zero
15. He Is
17. Mary on a Cross
18. Mummy Dust
19. Dance Macabre
20. Square Hammer
Follow Ghost Online
(AND check out the 770.50 Million people using the song on TikTok)
Follow Mastadon Online
Follow Spiritbox Online