Ghost + Gojira + The Defiled + Revoker @ Bristol Academy – 20th March 2013

Ghost @ Bristol Academy
Papa does preach

Jägermeister have a lot to answer for. From bad heads and sticky fingers to gaping holes in bank balances, one thing the liquor legends can’t be accused of is not giving us value for money. Following hot on the heels of last year’s incredible Skndred, Therapy?, Black Spiders and Turbowolf show at the Bristol Academy, the shot-bombers have done it again, pulling together another fascinating bill for the measly sum of one solitary fiver. And this time it’s going dark…

Kicking off the four-band show, Revoker have some great riffs, some decent songs and a pleasing to see kick-ass attitude when it comes to giving the crowd a good time. Their debut record, Revenge For The Ruthless has thrashy riffs and huge choruses in abundance and it’s pleasing to see a decent size crowd in attendance for an early start from the South Wales crew.

Next up, The Defiled put on a professional enough show but something is definitely lost in translation with their metalcore electronica. Despite throwing themselves around the stage, the band seem to take an age to chug through overlong songs, many of which you’ll probably hear done far better by other groups. The decent audience reaction implies the band are doing something right for the younger folk in attendance, but The Defiled surely have to break the mould if they’re truly going to stand out.

Gojira on the other hand seem to have destroyed the mould with Semtex before gathering up the pieces and firing them out of a nuclear sub, aiming squarely for Mosh City. The band are brutally tight, and bodies go thrashing around like shallow water sharks as the French mob slay the Academy. Their records, especially the recent L’enfant Sauvage, can leave you battered and bruised so its no surprise that in a live setting they grab you by the throat and toss you around like a rag doll until they’re done.

And then came the Ghouls. Creeping from the woodwork, Ghost‘s musicians take to the stage first, assuming their imposing positions as the ominous rumble of Jocelyn Pook’s Masked Ball reverberated throughout the venue. As the Ghouls struck up into Infestissumam, it was only a matter of time before his Unholy Cardinalship, Papa Emeritus emerged. Robe-clad and crook-wielding, Papa wastes no time in encouraging a roar from his black sheep as the band launch into a hypnotically pounding Per Aspera ad Inferi. Although the two openers are new songs from an as-yet unreleased album, both are still well received by the horde.

Up next, Con Clavi Con Dio from the band’s debut, Opus Eponymous, begins to make things a little more familiar, with the unmistakeable groove thrusting itself out over the throng. Wasting no time, Prime Mover hits next, beginning to stir the crowd into more than just a nod, whilst the already-a-classic Elizabeth gets the congregation singing along like a malevolent choir.

Another new track, albeit the one with the most pre-gig airplay thanks to its brilliant retro-fitted video, Secular Haze brings a carnival air to proceedings, with the Hammond-esque organ drilling thoughts of evil clowns and the darkest of magiks into your skull as Papa puts in a morose and terrifying performance.

The triumvirate of Stand By Him, Death Knell and Satan Prayer all sound incredible live, mixing pulsating riffs and smoky, hazy rhythm with hypnotic stage presence. The band combine brilliantly to provide amazingly accurae translations of the band’s 70s-influenced recorded output.

Closing couplet Year Zero and Ritual are equally enthralling, before a single encore of Monstrance Clock completes the unholy blessing, but you can’t help but think that something is missing…and it appears to be a crowd reaction.

Ghost @ Bristol Academy
The sinister sermon in full flow.

Presumably a combination of Gojira tearing the place apart mere minutes before, as well as the welcomingly cheap ticket price encouraging new, curious fans, the general mood appears to be one of wonder rather than windmilling. On the plus side, the lack of crowd energy does at times lend an additional sense of wonder to the occasion as many simply stand open mouthed at Papa and his Ghouls as they groove through an incredible set, but you can’t help but think the band deserve more.

There are a hell of a lot of people in the Academy, and numerous Ghost tees are dotted about the place, but something just doesn’t seem to click with the majority of fans. Initially encouraged by the sheer spectacle, quite a few in attendance do seem to drift off mid-set in mind if not in body.

Maybe this is the reaction that Ghost expect. After all, what they provide is a show in the purest sense, encouraging people to pay attention and admire the theatrics as well as the musicianship. You may also argue that the tunes they play could adequately be described as the Devil’s Disco; this is dancing music to all extents and purposes, being too groove-laden at times to be balls-out mosh material.

Either way, there seems to be some nervousness from Ghost about playing their own full headline tour on these shores, and that would be understandable if you took tonight in isolation; but this night was a showcase with no real main-eventer. With a decent supporting bill and carefully selected venues, Ghost are more than capable of laying down a papal pulverising to cities across the land, I just hope they realise there are enough of us worshipers out there to justify it.