Concert Review + Photos: Ghost & Skeletonwitch at the Webster Theater in Hartford, CT
Ghost and Skeletonwitch couldn’t sound more different, but metalheads far and wide love them both in spite of (or perhaps because of) their differences. As such, that made them a perfect pairing for a short but sweet US tour.
On opening night, Skeletonwitch hit the stage like blunt force trauma to the head. None of that slow warmup for the audience crap; these guys exemplify the extreme metal archetype, and consistently put on one of the best performances you’ll see in heavy metal. With a solid block of albums under their belt, Skeletonwitch mined their impressive catalog to shred out tracks like “Cleaver of Souls,” “Sink Beneath Insanity,” and the anthem “Beyond the Permafrost.” To spice things up, Skeletonwitch also treated fans to a new song, “Burned from Bone.” Their next album Serpents Unleashed is due out in October, and it’s going to be an agonizing wait. The shrieking crowd certainly agrees.
In stark contrast to Skeletonwitch’s firebreathing metal, Ghost are a very different animal. 1960s psychedelic pop fused with a bit of first-wave black metal and a helping of a Blue Öyster Cult are the most common comparisons, but fans and detractors alike have been arguing about this since the band’s first record came out a few years back. At the end of the day, it’s largely irrelevant, as Ghost’s performance speaks for itself.
Before a massive stained glass window backdrop, the Nameless Ghouls took to the stage, clad in cassocks and plague masks. As the creepy musicians churned out the title track and intro to their recent record Infestissumam, Papa Emeritus II appeared in order to begin the rites proper with “Per Aspera Ad Inferi.” The skullfaced frontman, finely dressed in grim papal regalia complete with staff and miter, sang his way through tales of evil, Satan, and more, offering up some dry wit between songs. For their set, Ghost alternated between Infestissumam material and cuts from their first record Opus Eponymous. Just about every fan-favorite was performed, including “Clavi Con Dio,” “Year Zero,” and “Elizabeth.” They even played the instrumental “Genesis” while Papa took a brief break. (I don’t blame him; it was rather warm at the venue, and performing under hot stage lights in those heavy costumes must have been brutal.) Ghost knocked out a few more before returning for a stirring encore comprised of “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” (which fans had been chanting for all night) and the melancholy “Monstrance Clock.”
Ghost offer a performance that simply has to be seen to be believed. With the rising force in metal known as Skeletonwitch in tow, this is a random matchup of bands that actually works out flawlessly.
Photos of Ghost and Skeletonwitch at the Webster Theater: