Ghost Is in Miami and Satan Has Never Sounded So Good

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You just have to love the Swedish heavy-metal outfit known as Ghost. You have to love it about as much as its members profess to love the devil in all his forms and under all his names, be they Beezlebub or Lucifer.

Led by their “anti-pope,” Papa Emeritus III (seemingly reincarnated from previous frontmen who went under the numerals I and II), Ghost features five instrumentalists, the Nameless Ghouls, representing all the elements: Air, Aether, Earth, Fire, and Water.

The Nameless Ghouls are perpetually shrouded in black cloaks and silver demon masks while the true identity of Papa Emeritus III is hidden behind skull makeup and a nightmarish version of a Catholic Pope’s mitre, the traditional headgear also worn by abbots and bishops. All members of the band wear upside down crosses and serenade audiences with lyrics about the anti-Christ and Hell. It's enough to make your local Church lady faint onto a pile of cats.

If this all seems like blatant, offensive blasphemy — good. It’s meant to be. What’s more, after only one listen, rock fans of all ages will fucking love it.

In the 1995 film The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey’s character, Verbal, tells us, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist,” a rephrasing of a quote by French poet Charles Baudelaire. Ghost’s greatest trick is crafting melodic hard rock in the tradition of some of the genre’s greatest Alices – Alice Cooper and Alice in Chains – and combining it with dramatic, visceral guitar riffs that would satiate any Marilyn Manson or Metallica fan.

Upon first listen, it’s immediately apparent that the six-piece has studied pop music at large and knows all the right ingredients for a good hook.

For example, on “Year Zero,” the group chants, “Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub/Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer,” in a tone that just begs for them to spit out at least one quick “notorious” à la the 1986 Duran Duran song later sampled, to great effect, by Biggie.

Their latest single, “Square Hammer,” is a catchy, almost honeyed combo of grand harmonies and crashing grandiosity — and all while Papa Emeritus III sings about “sacred coffins” and asks the listener if he's ready to swear before the devil. It’s sublime subversion.

For a short time, the band went by Ghost B.C. in the United States for legal reasons. Because there had been other groups named Ghost, the band's umbrella label feared possible lawsuits and took the precaution of having them add the B.C. (or “Because of Copyright,” according to a Nameless Ghoul in an interview with Loudwire).

Luckily, Ghost is no longer obligated to keep the B.C., and as the band continues to get attention from the mainstream media, there will soon be no mistaking just who and what it is. Thanks to a big win at the 58th Grammy Awards this past February in the Best Metal Performance category for the single “Cirice” off of last year’s breakthrough LP, Meliora, Ghost seems to be on its way to general acceptance, even if it still has trouble finding church choirs to sing its wonderfully sacrilegious, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

Global warming, Isis, Trump – if the end is nigh, then Ghost is the party band to hire on the eve of the apocalypse. And tonight, when the curtains close at the Fillmore, just might be the end of it all.

Ghost. 8 p.m. Thursday, November 3, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; fillmoremb.com. Tickets cost $25 to $45 via livenation.com.

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