The Studio at Webster Hall
Wednesday, June 1
Better than: Ping-pong and Hawaiian Punch at youth group.
So who the fuck are these guys?
I mean, that’s what we’re supposed to be asking, right? The six members of Swedish bubblegum-metal séance Ghost go through great pains to shield their identity. It’s not because of all the spooky Satanic ritual shit they ramble about in their interviews; it’s because their members are moonlighting from some Swedish extreme metal band, and they don’t want to be spotted playing this gloriously campy stuff. Ghost’s sound is like heavy metal trapped in a state of suspended animation since 1973—think Blue Öyster Cult, the tape deck of the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine, the cuddle-goth of the film Spider Baby—shot through with a Satanic streak that would send Polanski running to confession.
The real truth is pretty obviously the boring answer “some guys”—or worse, “the members of some band you never heard of.” And when the truth comes out (hell, it might have already; they’re impossible to Google), it will be as dull as eyeing unmasked pictures of Buckethead. But still, watching Ghost parade out on stage at the intimate Studio at Webster Hall makes it impossible not to play along, to spend their brief set looking for clues.
They were so thorough that I was reeling with conspiracy theories. Are these guys actually profitable enough to afford roadies, or are the members just savvy enough to wear FENDER and MANNY’S MUSIC t-shirts when they sound check? Those leather elbow-to-wrist sheaths imply some of them have tattoo sleeves, right? I was ready to go off on some MF Doom-themed rant about how the lead singer was just masking his identity because he’s not traditionally handsome or young–his black-metal makeup did its best to hide a Jimmy Durante beak, an endlessly stoic scowl and some flabby old-man jowls. And then about two songs in I realized he was wearing a rubber mask.
Might as well obsess about their identity since their live show itself wasn’t much to look at–a lot of lurching and menacing and slowly emoting in big robes. Plus all the harmonies (their best feature) were provided via computer assistance. They played the entirety of their debut album, Opus Eponymous, with a taut precision, but the most uplifting part was a sludgy, beaming, krauty cover of the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun,” which needs to be appended to the American version of the album as soon as humanly possible.
Critical bias: I always thought it was totally dick when CMJ outed the anonymous members of Music Go Music.
Overheard: “We know it’s you!”
Random notebook dump: Never thought I would see a kid stagedive onto two lit pieces of incense, but here we are.
Con Clavi Con Dio
Stand By Him
Here Comes The Sun