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Thursday 21 November 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Ghost (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Ghost, All Them Witches & Tribulation, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff

Now it's no secret that we try to avoid Cardiff's Motorpoint Arena by choice, it's an absolute of a shed of a venue, poorly maintained, expensive beer and constantly middy sound no matter what band are playing there. However every now and again we are drawn back in on the strength of a line up and in this case it's a band who have become probably the next arena headliner in the rock genre. Touted by Metallica and all manner of major acts they have rapidly risen up the bill to their own arena shows, now this has happened to a number of bands in the past and not worked out as a lot of the venues are half full at best. This was not the case here but I'll go into that later.

The stage dressed in black with Celtic crosses everywhere the band themselves are mostly in shadow but that's pretty much what you'd expect from the Goth N Metal of Tribulation (8). A band who owe as much to Danzig as they do The Cult, using thrashy adrenaline charged riffs with doomy sections, harsh vocals and soaring clean guitar solos the band never seemed to stand still for the entirety of their 40 minute set with only a short time to impress they picked songs mainly from their two most recent records with Nightbound and Motherhood Of God impressing most. Due to the headliners eclectic appeal it would be safe to say that most of the crowd probably didn't know who they were but as the number increased and the set wore on Tribulation were met with applause that turned into cheers by the final song. As this was a Sunday sermon the visuals resonated and happily so did the music so these Swedes had done an ideal job of whipping up the crowd.

Next were a band out of place on this bill, no occult sorcery here just three Americans, three instruments and lots of lovely noise. Nashville trio All Them Witches (9) blend reverb drenched fuzz, with wide expressive drumming and some tasty blues licks. They were so unlike anything on the night that you couldn't help be mesmerized though a lot of the audience were bewildered as they waited for the headliners. Again they relied heavily on their most recent material and with the stripped back set there was nowhere to hide as the vocals wailed over the wall of noise they created. For me they were brilliant for many others they were met with indifference, however this may be due to their lost as being so radically musically distant to both other bands. Still they left to a warm applause but we were gearing up to the moment everyone had been waiting for.

As the curtain was put up while the changeover took place so as not to ruin any mystique, choral music came over the PA to heighten the mood, then after 30 minutes the lights went dark Ashes played over and we were off with drop of the curtain and a punch of the opening riff to Rats the sheer majesty of a headline Ghost (10) performance was realised, a Gothic, all white, church stage set up with numerous staircases, housed an expansive drum kit, keyboard set up and also some tasteful foliage. What was immediately evident was that the number of Nameless Ghouls had increased, there were now two Female ghouls on keys, one also taking the gospel backing vocals and percussion. Along with the three guitarists (1x bass & 2x six) there was now an additional Ghoul on acoustic guitar, percussion and backing vocals. The majority of the audience though had their attention firmly on vocalist Cardinal Copia, resplendent in his red outfit who belted out Rats with gusto as they moved through Absolution and Faith, extending the songs so members could switch and costumes could be changed. What was noticeable was that the Ghouls were more animated than I've ever seen them interacting with each other and the Cardinal throughout the night.

Though not as much as on Devil Church a solo guitar duel between the two guitarists which saw them egging each other on as the one who belittles his opponent was finally dragged to the front of the stage and forced to show his skills. With baited breath and a wee bit of impatience that the black guitar toting guitarist pumped out the opening riff from Motorcycle Emptiness by The Manics to illicit a loud but very cheap pop from the crowd. Cirice came next with the Cardinal now in his ceremonial robes leading another mass sing along, before instrumental Miasma had the crowd jumping up and down and featured Papa Nil on Sax as it segued into the always dramatic Ghuleh/Zombie Queen as Cardinal Copia decked himself out as a vampire. This middle part of the set featured numerous changes of pace and instrumentals which meant that Copia (Tobias Forge) could save his voice for the big final part of the show.

As Helvetesfönster brought this part of the evening to a close, it was full on rock mode with Spirit, From The Pinnacle To The Pit, Ritual, Satan Prayer and Year Zero all got the audience bouncing and shouting back to the band, it was truly religious experience of He Is that brought the Welsh to full voice. In between a few of the songs Copia spoke to the audience largely to whip up them up, albeit with limited success. He promised to wiggle are asses and tickle our taints (ooer missus) on their heaviest song Mummy Dust, everyone was thoroughly tickled though it was the more recent Kiss The Go-Goat, Dance Macabre and their breakthrough Square Hammer that closed the set and brought the house down.

Ghost were at the most regal and majestic I've ever seen them and it was a fitting way to see them move into a bonafide arena headliner from a band who I've been following since their debut UK show, they are definitely ready to take on festivals bigger than Bloodstock now, they have the scope, the staging and most importantly the songs to almost sell out venues such as Motorpoint in Cardiff. If this was an experiment, in the bands appeal then consider it a success, this is one Ghost that does not need busting.

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