The children of Newark, New Jersey, aka Brick City, were visited by Ghost and Volbeat, as their co-headlining tour is in full swing. Newark is not normally a city known for its heavy metal scene, but on this night, the black masses arrived in force for Ghost and their beloved cult leader Papa Emeritus IV.
Volbeat were up before Ghost on this night and from the start; they were a well-oiled machine. Each note was played with precision and purpose. They took the fans in attendance through parts of almost their catalog from “Sad Man’s Tongue” to “Lolo.” The new material also produced a lively reaction from the crowd who were engaged and energized for the entire set.
Frontman Michael Poulsen or as he at one point addressed himself as Father Michael from Denmark pandered to the Ghost fans in attendance. You can see early on how both bands compliment each other on a tour of this magnitude, and that even after 20 years and counting, Volbeat remain one of the most consistent acts around.
As the Danish rock band finished to make way for their partners from Sweden the lights dimmed and the arena filled with the smell of incense. Eerie church music played as a small army of stagehands rushed to assemble the cathedral setting for Ghost. The already crowded arena filled in even more. As the lights went black signifying the arrival of Ghost, fans rushed down to their seats, spilling their 12-dollar beers in fear of missing a single second. Tonight’s spectacle was about to begin.
Appearing behind the white curtain was a silhouette of one of the Nameless Ghouls as they began to play the opening of “Kaisarion” which will be on the forthcoming Ghost album titled Impera. The curtain would drop and fireworks would shoot from behind the stage. We were off to the races now. Quickly during the first song, you could see how in sync the Ghouls were but they were also obedient to their leader, Papa Emeritus IV or otherwise known as simply, Papa.
Papa refused to let anyone have the spotlight other than himself, not even the fans. In between songs he would interact but only on his terms as he controlled the volume of their cheers and even questioned their alcohol intake or other substances. At one point, when he got the response that he felt was satisfactory, he responded with a “true that” to his followers. During these interactions, it’s easy to see why his popularity keeps growing as well as the intensity of the stage shows. The stained glass windows were the backdrop to the church-like setting that Papa IV so casually meandered around as he casually changed outfits multiple times.
As the lights went dark before “Year Zero” he would emerge dressed in a satanic, pope-like attire as flames shot up from the stage. The look of shock and awe on the faces of some fans that were experiencing the spectacle for the first time was astonishing. Unsure of what they were witnessing he guided everyone with ease through that song and into “Ritual,” after which, the two guitar-playing ghouls battled with one another until their master came back only now donning a shiny, shimmering, teal jacket.
Papa announced that they were about to embark on a three-song journey as their time was almost up. He thanked the fans and all the workers who helped make the spectacle possible and announced this was “one for the kids,” and a piano began to play what would be the intro to one of the better covers of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. This had the crowd in a frenzy, but there was still a very serious atmosphere in the air.
All that would change as “Dance Macabre” seamlessly played next. Asking if the crowd had their dancing shoes was appropriate as the satanic vibes had subsided and now it felt like a backyard kegger. The lighting went from dark colors to a rainbow scheme and matching confetti rained down on the crowd, some of which were dancing in the aisles. The party was on until the last song of the night began. “Square Hammer” while still having that feel-good dance vibe, the lyrics were no longer about being out in the moonlight but instead asking if you were ready to swear right here, right now, to the devil. I, like so many others, was more than happy to oblige.
See you in the pit.
Words by Juice Menendez. Photos by Alyson Coletta.