When a CD starts with “Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer … Hail Satan, Archangelo,” and features the song titles “Per Aspera ad Inferi” (From Hardship to Hell) and “Depth of Satan’s Eyes,” it begs the question: “Is your band promoting Satanism?”
Said query was directed at a “Nameless Ghoul,” one of two anonymous guitarists in Swedish metallers Ghost BC. His response? “From a Biblical [sic] belt point of view, yes we are. Because if you’re talking to someone who is a very God-fearing devout Christian with all that comes with it, obviously that person would deem us being complete blasphemy and an abomination to everything they considered dear and holy.”
In June 2011, the band’s first NYC gig was at the Studio at Webster Hall. “We didn’t even know we had fans here; it sold out, was like 100 over capacity. It was a defining moment for the band,” remembers Ghoul.
In some ways, Ghost B.C. is very much like KISS–scary-ish costumes, catchy tunes that lean more pop than metal despite the mass perception, and their “Gene Simmons” in the person of the creepy, papally-garbed frontman Papa Emeritus II (the successor to the group’s first singer, Papa Emeritus, though it’s believed it’s the same Papa donning a “new” character.) In fact, explains Ghoul, in his thoughtful, articulate manner and in excellent English, the band reveals so little about themselves they don’t even sign autographs: “We have stamps with our signs.” (Alchemical symbols in the vein of Jimmy Page’s “Zoso” mark). They also try to enforce a “no pictures” policy when the band is in street garb. “Our mission is to become bigger, so it’s a paradox,” acknowledges Ghoul. “For every expansion you do, you automatically increase your risk of being exposed.”
So far, fans are happy to play along, the faithful packing theaters to genuflect before their newly anointed musical heroes, with everyone in on and digging the joke.
So, how do they explain the success? Magickal? Are they followers of Aleister Crowley or proponents of Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Bible? No. But that’s not to say rituals aren’t crucial to Ghost B.C.’s success, notes Ghoul. “We’re not practicing any magic based on anything that’s written. However, what we’re doing as a group, and what we’re doing onstage, has close resemblance to any sort of divine moment, the divinity that they traditionally always wanted to make appear in Mass [or is that en mass?] and in the church environment, or any sort of religion where people gather in a group to achieve a feeling of spirituality together. That’s what we’re trying to do aesthetically,” Ghoul explains. “We’re playing with the whole idea of a religious gathering, so yes, we are partaking in rituals all the time.”
While schtick it may be–and a strict schtick–Ghoul affirms: “We can play around a lot with our Papa, with us changing him every time. There’s a flexibility in all that anal-ness,” he laughs. And it’s fully realized, entertaining as, er, hell. Plus, they have the songs to back it up. If it wasn’t for lyrics like “Receive, consume … digest, defecate” in “Body and Blood,” the tune could be a pop hit. Or, as Ghoul concludes, “as our label says, ‘if it wasn’t for those Satanic lyrics…” Yes, and if wishes were horses…
Ghost B.C. play Sunday, July 28, at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.