You don’t have to love metal to love Swedish band Ghost. The six-piece band made up of the demon mask-wearing Nameless Ghouls and band leader, a skull-faced sacrilegious pope, Papa Emeritus III, combine theatrics and melodic arena-rock anthems to summon one hell of a metal show. And both the music and theatrics were on perfect display at T-Mobile Arena on July 3 before Iron Maiden took the stage.
Ghost opened with “Square Hammer”, a crowd favorite from 2016’s Popestar EP. The band’s pop-driven heavy metal sound makes Ghost approachable to those who might be intimidated by lyrics such as “This chapel of ritual, smells of dead human sacrifices”, upside down crosses and devil worship.
Satan aside, the band’s intrigue comes from its hidden identities, appearances, Papa Emeritus’ dark charisma and the vaudeville-esque theatrics.
But Ghost’s clean sound will convert anyone who isn’t a fan of gimmicks. Despite the fact that Papa Emiterus was backed by an all new band of Nameless Ghouls (Tobias Forge, the man behind the skull face, is currently in the midst of a lawsuit with former bandmates), Ghost’s performance was like clockwork. So clean, in fact, the only explanation being they sold their souls to Satan.
The audience’s ears took a pummeling when Iron Maiden took the stage with two songs off their latest release, The Book of Souls, and lead singer Bruce Dickinson can still belt.
Much of the set was dedicated to newer material, but the classics received the most energy from the crowd. Before “Children of the Damned,” Dickinson pointed out that many of the people in the audience were born after the ’82 release of The Number of the Beast, and were possibly even conceived while their parents were listening to that song.
Although it’s hard to beat Maiden classics, the The Book of Souls hits deliver with the band’s signature three-metal guitar harmonies and agile bass. And while it was a little goofy when Dickinson wore a monkey mask and a stuffed monkey around his neck for “Death or Glory,” he made up for it in the end by ripping band mascot Eddie’s heart out of his chest.