It took me a very long time to get into Ghost, I was really late to the party. For me, I couldn’t get over my expectations, I saw pictures of them and expected to hear something extreme like Darkthrone or something. Then I saw them being lauded as the next big thing and expected them to be catchy and industrial-lite like Rammstein or Marilyn Manson, and I heard them get called Doom Metal and expected them to sound, well, anything at all like Doom Metal. Also, for a band so heavily featured in the Metal press, you’d expect them to be generally heavier and more guitar driven.
Instead of hearing Ghost for what they were, with all the classic Prog leanings and Gothic theatrics, I was just hearing all these expectations, and the dissonance between what I got and thought I’d get was off putting. One day I just took a punt on them, and bought Meliora on a whim with no planning. The guy at the counter even tried to talk me out of it and said he didn’t like Ghost and couldn’t get into them and tried to get me to buy Iron Maiden’s newest live album instead. Needless to say, if I’m writing this review I obviously went with Ghost.
Over the past year, I’ve been getting more and more into the band, checking out all the different albums and EPs, hearing their evolution from quite straight-forward, to more diverse, to their newer more commercial direction, Everything they’ve put out so far has been worth hearing.
In 2017 it was time for a live album, and Ceremony & Devotion was released, with recording from the USA that year. At first I thought it was odd that this was audio only and not video, but actually it is quite clever as releasing a live album this damn good just goes to prove that although the band have a very visual nature, they are excellent musicians and songwriters and not just a gimmick band.
The live album features material from all their first three albums and the Popestar EP and kicks off with their skyscraper of a single, ‘Square Hammer.’ There is a nice range of tracks, from the harder stuff like ‘Con Clavi Con Dio’ and ‘From The Pinnacle To The Pit’ to the more diverse and interesting material from when they were temporarily Ghost BC, like ‘Ghuleh / Zombie Queen’ and ‘Year Zero’ and even the gorgeous Trick Of The Tail era Genesis sounding ballad ‘He Is,’ and the brief instrumental ‘Devil Church’ which sounds like it came right off one of the first two King Crimson albums.
Tobias is a pretty entertaining front man, with unique stage patter (‘do you like drinking blooood?’ ) and the track-listing is great, but the best thing about this album is the sound. The recording quality and mix are brilliant. Talk about crystal clear. Everything sounds amazing. The crowd are enthusiastic and the band are firing on all cylinders, and you can hear every cymbal, every riff, every bass line. You can hear those Camel-sounding lines, you can hear the creepy pervy vocals, which hold up really well live.
This album reminds me a bit of Kiss’ Alive album. It shows off a very visual band’s great live audio, it has serves as a best-of of the band’s first three albums, some of the live versions outshine their studio counterparts and its full of memorable on stage banter. This is a live album you can really get in to. Its a live album you can swear by (right here, right now, before the devil!). If you like the band this is a damn fine addition to your collection. If you are new to Ghost, this is absolutely the first album you should pick up. It is the band at their absolute best and there is nothing skip-able here at all.