As a child, we frequently sat in the basement of my grandparent’s house and watched slide shows. My father and my grandparents would tell me stories about random vacations, funny anectdotes, etc. In those slides, my father would show his slides of concerts he went to. Alice Cooper’s ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ tour and KISS and things like that. I was immediately intrigued by the theatrics and the gimmick.
A few years ago, while flipping through J’s Terrorizer magazine, I see this piece about a band from Sweden. There stood a man with a ghastly face, dressed as a black pope, surrounded by five hooded figures. “Who the fuck is this band?” I asked.
“That’s Ghost,” I am told. “I hear good things, but I haven’t actually listened yet. They’re totally on the list.”
A week later, we lose power in the middle of cooking dinner. So we venture outward. On the radio, some lady interviews ‘A Nameless Ghoul’ and then ‘Year Zero’ comes on. Instant cartoon hearts. A male chorus kicks in with “Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub / Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer…” a pause and then boom! It was dramatic. It was dark and yet not what I was expecting. Not in the least.
I was excited about music for the first time in a very long time. There were bands that I had discovered and enjoyed thoroughly and it kills me to say this, truly, but they didn’t have the same effect on me that Ghost did. It’s kind of like when you fall in love: your heart beats a little faster when you see that person, your stomach prepares for Olympic Gymnastic tryouts, everything feels electric, your knees turn to pudding and you melt into a pile of goop.
I was in love with Ghost.
I loved what Ghost represented. There was mystery. There was a solid concept. There was a demonstration of thought and care that had gone into the formation, which isn’t really seen that much these days. When I saw Ghost for the first time, I pondered what it was like for my dad to see KISS or Alice Cooper for the first time. Though he’s been gone for (holy fuck!) almost six years, I felt connected to him again. Would I have been able to, despite the imagery and lyrics, sway him over to Ghost? I really wish I had had the chance. The man did love rock ‘n’ roll.
We saw them live. It was October 2015. We saw them at the Roseland Theater. Between watching each Ghoul play, each with his own mannerisms, body language and flourishes and watching Papa Emeritus captivate an entire audience was somehow otherworldly. Their performance was tight. It was flawless.
We traveled to Vegas (in which I learned that there is a clinic in the McCarran airport if you need antibiotics and shit, which is very, very helpful. Also, don’t go to Vegas if you have Bronchitis. I digress.)
What was most amazing, though, about this band was how wonderful their fans were. In L.A., I was shocked at how kind their fans were. People saved our spot when we had to step away. We returned the favor. I’ve met some amazing people in the Ghost fan groups and am very thankful for the friendships/acquaintances that I’ve met.
In recent months, there have been rumors that Papa Emeritus (I,II,III) had fired the Nameless Ghouls and replaced them with other musicians. As fans, we agonized over whether or not the rumors were true. Sure, the ghouls were ‘nameless’ but had been given names (Alpha, Omega, Air, Earth, Water, Aether). Beneath their masks and costumes, we connected with them. We adored them. As it turns out, the rumors were true.
Most can go on loving the band without issue.
“I’m with papa!”
“I’ll support papa!”
I am..heartbroken. I am conflicted.
As a person who doesn’t see things in black and white, as a person with enough empathy for everyone, I’m struggling with this. I still love the music. But humans are fallible and let things like greed and egos get in the way of truly being great.
My opinion means precisely jack and shit, I recognize. I wanted Ghost to be better, above the petty drama and the bullshit. It was, to me, something else entirely. The way Bowie was. The way Trent Reznor was to me. Ghost was, as ridiculous as it may sound, a tiny spot of light in a very dark world. I desperately hoped they wouldn’t follow the likes of KISS, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Van Halen, Queensryche, and so on and so forth (there are countless examples out there). Here we are, though.
Not being involved, I’m not sure who is right or wrong or if both sides are wrong. What I do know is that the mystique is gone. I don’t really care about the identities. We all knew there were people under the masks and they, in reality, had names beyond ‘Nameless Ghoul’ or their designated element. These are human beings, of course. For me, the heartbreak comes with the idea that these individuals have a personal and professional relationship and that this bond is so easily discarded. If this was truly a partnership, the band’s direction should have been discussed openly.
Look, I’m not in a band, nor will I ever be. But I’ve dealt with a lot of people in my lifetime. Not always a pleasant experience, but you do what you can. It’s not always rainbows and kittens. Sometimes it’s a motherfucker of a shit sandwich that you have to smother in ranch dressing just to make it edible. Sometimes you have to put your ego aside. Sometimes you have to be willing to be flexible and willing to compromise. But fuck, what do I know? Social interactions are weird for me.
I suspect that all parties will end up having regrets one day. Papa will maybe regret how things were handled and alienating his band. Perhaps the ghouls will also regret how things were handled. I am saddened at the possibility that there was some sort of disrespect or lack of consideration for this group of men with this personal/professional relationship.
On a bright note, though, there are new music projects to listen to. Priest and Magna Carta Cartel are very promising. There are other side projects. New music. I’m a sucker for new music.
While I still love Ghost’s music, even with the best possible outcome of this drama, I will never view them the same. Dammit.