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Cardinal Copia and his crew reach crit­i­cal mass in west Lon­don


Sun­day ser­vice. and on this, the Sab­bath day, a wicked force is de­liv­er­ing a ser­mon of Satanic de­lights and oc­cult fiendish­ness. the streets of west lon­don are lit­tered with his fol­low­ers, adults and chil­dren dressed in full re­galia, plas­tered in ghoul­ish face­paint and robes, all ready to sub­mit to the higher power of the in­fal­li­ble, in­cred­i­ble, Ghost.

hav­ing sold out in record time, the Royal al­bert hall is buzzing with an­tic­i­pa­tion. Ghost haven’t played the UK since their Blood­stock head­line show last sum­mer and in that time they’ve dropped one of the al­bums of the year. the venue’s iconic grand or­gan is hid­den be­hind a mam­moth church-like back­drop of Papa Ni­hil sur­rounded by naked bod­ies writhing around on the floor – be­cause why not?

the vi­su­als are as much a part of the Ghost ex­pe­ri­ence as the mu­sic. Not just the loom­ing Ni­hil sim­u­lacra but the stage set of stone steps with tiled floor and front­man to­bias Forge’s cos­tume changes add much more grav­i­tas to tonight’s malev­o­lent mass. It’s a per­for­mance split into two acts, pick­ing a whop­ping 24 songs from the band’s cat­a­logue, with great at­ten­tion paid to lat­ter two al­bums Me­liora and mod­ern­clas­sic Pre­quelle.

they open on Rats as the walls of the Vic­to­rian build­ing shake with the choral chant­ing of the cho­rus from 3,000 be­liev­ers, arms raised to the heav­ens in cel­e­bra­tion, fix­ated on the ar­rest­ing pres­ence of ‘new’ vo­cal­ist Cardinal Copia. While he looks phys­i­cally dif­fer­ent to pre­vi­ous ring­leader Papa Emer­i­tus III, his per­son­al­ity re­mains the same. Part vaudevilli­an, part co­me­dian, part sex addict, much at­ten­tion has been paid to the Cardinal’s man­ner­isms, from the way he skips across the stage, smacks his be­hind or slowly raises his fin­ger to the crowd. You can imag­ine to­bias stand­ing in front of his mir­ror for hours per­fect­ing this, like Robert De Niro in a Spit­ting Im­age mask.

and that’s the real change here from Ghost’s pre­vi­ous mis­sions to the UK; the fun fac­tor has been in­ten­si­fied. Papa III was never a stony­faced dullard, but the Ghouls and Ghoulettes are get­ting in on the act now, with the anony­mous gui­tarists of­ten try­ing to out-do each other to im­press the girls on the front row – you can prac­ti­cally see their smiles through the chrome masks. of course, that pales in com­par­i­son to the pièce de ré­sis­tance of Mi­asma. the Hitch­hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy-es­que in­stru­men­tal builds and fills the au­di­to­rium un­til Papa Ni­hil him­self en­ters the stage for that sax solo. In full char­ac­ter through­out, the de­crepit Papa stag­gers and stum­bles his way on­stage even when hid­den from view, only to spring into life and burst away from his han­dlers, jazz­ing it up all over the stage. It’s lu­di­crous and bor­der­line pan­tomime, but it sends the hall into rap­tures of laugh­ter and ap­plause, wor­ship­ping the sheer pre­pos­ter­ous­ness of these Satanic Swedes.

al­though, it might just be that to­bias him­self is the only Swedish res­i­dent left. When in­tro­duc­ing the band he notes that his newly as­sem­bled band of merry men and women are from all over the world, yet still re­main­ing hid­den. Ghost play as a seven-piece tonight – eight if you in­clude

Papa Ni­hil – which al­most puts them on par with Slipknot in terms of all-out power at their dis­posal. they’ve cer­tainly come a long way from the Pa­pal weirdos at the Un­der­world.


into two parts, the sec­ond half is ba­si­cally a vic­tory lap. Cardinal Copia de­scribes Mummy Dust as a “rock song that will tickle your taint” and “make your asses wob­ble”. he takes his pi­ous perversion a step fur­ther, in­form­ing us all that he would like to line up the au­di­ence one by one and fuck all of us in the park. It’s taken in jest, of course, but you can’t help but feel that if an­other band said those words it would be a dif­fer­ent story. But he doesn’t just use his pres­ence to flirt with the congregati­on; Cardinal Copia gives a mov­ing speech about how it’s im­por­tant to fight through life’s tough times be­cause “things al­ways change.” his words res­onate, his fol­low­ers cheer­ing to­bias’ abil­ity to ar­tic­u­late these feel­ings in such a way. and he is loved tonight. Dur­ing If You Have Ghosts a girl on the front row passes him a white rose and the feel­ing of ado­ra­tion from fans to band is pal­pa­ble. there’s more than a con­nec­tion through mu­sic – Ghost’s dis­ci­ples are fully in­vested in ev­ery as­pect of the band, repli­cat­ing their vari­ant on the hand of bene­dic­tion in­stead of throw­ing horns. there’s a shared feel­ing echo­ing through­out the hall af­ter closer Mon­strance Clock. a feel­ing that Ghost are now that band, ca­pa­ble of putting gen­uine, in­ter­est­ing rock mu­sic back on the map. their songs will be­come hymns, their like­ness will be­come sa­cred, and they could be big­ger than Satan.



Cardinal Copia wants you…

Ghost un­leash two acts of back-to-back cork­ersan­other night, an­other toi­let venue… poor bug­gers

We are in safehands with the Cardinal

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