Ghost and Skeletonwitch made a stop at Rams Head Live on July 29 during a five city mini tour that grew out of the fact that the bands would cross paths on their ways to other places. Skeletonwitch are wrapping up a headlining tour across North America on their way back home to Ohio. Ghost, who hail from Sweden (by way of Hell), are making a few stops on their way to Chicago to play Lollapalooza. These two sharing a stage seemed like strange bedfellows musically, and I kind of didn’t want to miss it. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to go to every show that catches my eye, but thanks to the kind gentlemen in Skeletonwitch (specifically their official band spokesman Scott Hedrick) and the gracious folks at Prosthetic Records, I was able to go to the show and get a photo pit pass.
Everyone I know who is into metal seems to have an opinion about Ghost, and I am no exception. Ghost erupted onto the scene in late 2010 with their debut EP Opus Eponymous. These musicians didn’t come from nothing and no where, however. Ghost is reportedly composed of members of the two Swedish bands: synthrockers Magna Carta Cartel and death metallers Repugnant. They hide their identities. That’s part of their schtick. I get it. I’m willing to go along with the joke. (Hey, I love Dragged Into Sunlight, and I have no problem with them downplaying their identities.)
Ghost seems to engender a lot of strong reaction from listeners. Some hate them and say they are false, posers, manufactured etc. Some love them to the point of near fanaticism, as was evidenced by the handful of Nameless Ghoul wannabes who attended Monday’s show in costume. Me, I just fail to succumb to the hype and certainly never thought of Ghost as metal, but I gave them a listen anyway.
Admittedly, Ghost’s tunes are catchy, easy to sing along with and danceable. Papa Emeritus’ vocals are sweet and almost soothing. Overall, it’s similar to a lot of popular rock. Muse or The Postal Service come to mind except with heavier guitars and more minor chords and more Satan. I have settled on the humorous faux subgenre of Satanic yachtrock to describe them.
But I kept hearing that Ghost’s live show was really great and that I should not write them off without seeing them in person. My stance in situations like this is simple: I like what I like, and I don’t have to give everything that seems almost universally accepted “a chance” just because people think I am somehow defective for not liking what they like. I reserve the right to reject a band without seeing their live show. But here I was, getting ready to see Ghost live.
Now, let me say something about Skeletonwitch, who have spent the last 10+ years building their fan base, slogging around in stinky vans, playing little clubs for whoever would listen. A strong constituency at Rams Head Monday night was primarily there to see Skeletonwitch, which made me happy.
I have seen Skeletonwitch three times now, and each time I like them more. My favorite show was a headlining performance at The Ottobar, because I think they relate well to a smaller crowds. Their guitarists shred, their rhythm section crushes, and Chance Garnette has one of the most evil sounding voices I’ve ever heard. He provides a black metal style of vocal that slices like a razor though a sweet double layer cake of death metal and thrash.
Skeletonwitch worked the larger room well and got the crowd whipped up enough to have some respectable crowd surfing going on. Since the upper levels of Rams Head were blocked off, the 600 or so attendees were forced into the smaller floor area in front of the stage. lending a more intimate feeling to the setting. They cruised through 11 songs, something from each of their four recordings and one new song from their forthcoming album, Serpents Unleashed, that was called “Burned From Bone.” The new album drops in October.
Skeletonwitch played for only 35 minutes, which was not long enough in my opinion. This show was going to get me home early!
I don’t know what I was expecting when Ghost finally took the stage. Smoke, fire? I don’t know. The last show I shot at Rams Head was Behemoth, Watain, The Devil’s Blood and In Solitude. I am not sure anything could have prepared me for Watain live. There’s nothing to compare it to. Nergal and Behemoth command the stage masterfully. Even TDB is compelling live and, of course, blood soaked.
But the Nameless Ghouls just quietly strolled onto the stage and waited for their leader to arrive. You can’t see their faces so you don’t know if they are happy or sad or indifferent about being there. After some build-up, Papa Emeritus II took the stage with little pomp, though the crowd provided enough enthusiasm to make his entrance significant.
When I look at Ghost, mostly what I see is something kind of Halloween-ish. Something like the band that would play in a live-action Scooby Doo movie and turn out to be the bad guy gardener and his tricky henchmen. To me it is costume-shop theatrics framing well executed. but not very exciting, music. For comparison, KISS uses theatrics and costumes, but I am willing to listen to KISS without having to look at them. That is not the case with Ghost, at least not for me. The show’s the thing.
You see, there is something captivating about watching a grown man in an elaborate Pope/Skeletor outfit leading the audience in a Latin sing-a-long. And, I did find my self head-bobbing along with their now familiar songs. After my three songs for shooting in the photo pit ended, I joined friends at the bar and watched the rest of the Ghost show near the Skeletonwitch merch table. At one point during the song “Year Zero”, I ended up doing a kind of hilariously fun Pulp Fiction-esque dance routine with a high schooler. But then again, I will dance to Carpathian Forest and Arckanum, and I don’t care who is watching (and laughing at me). I wished I could have understood some of Papa E.’s stage banter, but from where I was the sound was not clear and people were talking. A few folks were inspired to crowd surf, but that seemed rather unnecessary. And the shouts of “Hail Satan” from the audience were pretty funny. I am sure the members of Ghost are also chuckling to themselves about that, all the way to the bank.
The bottom line about the evening is that I was highly entertained by both groups for completely different reasons. Skeletonwitch always puts forth 10,000 percent and delivered a satisfying performance for the headbangers with such musical integrity that you could feel it in your gut. And Ghost delivered a satisfyingly lighthearted performance that was fun and surprisingly warm, despite the Luciferian overtones. I can’t deny that I was touched by the fact that Papa E. reached out and took a fan by the hand. I am sure that person felt extremely blessed. In summary, I didn’t hate Ghost, but I spent my merch dollars at the Skeletonwitch table. To each, her own I suppose.
Here are some of my best shots and a couple of videos. Enjoy.
Most kids balk at their parents’ musical tastes. But the members of the Maryland group Bad Seed Rising have not only embraced their elders’ love for old school heavy metal, rock and glam, they are writing songs of their own. These young musicians, aged 11-15, will take the stage at 6 p.m., May 3 at the hair metal extravaganza, the M3 Rock Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Bad Seed Rising is Francheska, 15, on vocals and guitar, Mason, 13, on guitar, “Iron” Aiden, 11, on drums and Louey, 14, on bass. They list Guns and Roses, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Foo Fighters, Lamb of God and others among their influences.
“All our parents listened to rock music,” said Louey. “My dad and Aiden’s dad were in a band together. We got introduced to this music that way.” Added Francheska, they love it “because it is loud and aggressive and cool.”
The members met through the Let There Be Rock music schools and very soon started working on songs together. Scott Marceron, Aiden’s father, has a long history in the music industry, both as a musician and as a talent scout and manager for major record labels. His connections led to the group being able to record their EP at the Foo Fighter’s studio in California and eventually to a contract with Roadrunner Records.
Now Chris Shiflett (guitarist of the Foo Fighters) and John 5 (main guitarist and songwriter for Rob Zombie and formerly of Marilyn Manson and David Lee Roth) fly out to meet with Bad Seed Rising to write songs together. They also have professional management and have shared the stage with the likes of Everclear, Kix, Night Ranger, Motley Crue, Johnny Rzeznik, and Molly Hatchet. Not too shabby for a group of kids mostly still in middle school.
As for school, they still attend regularly. Francheska and Aiden are from Frederick County, Mason in Carroll County and Louey in Howard County. They all their friends are supportive of their musical endeavors.
The band has performed for large crowds before, but they have a special love for the music represented at the M3 Rock Festival. Mason and the rest are excited to return to the Columbia stage this year (yes, they have done this before) “just to be able to be on stage with Kix and W.A.S.P.,” Mason said. “We are glad that they wanted us back.”
Look for Bad Seed Rising at Baltimore Soundstage with Airbourne on May 12; House of Rock with LA Gunns on May 27; and at Ride Across America on June 1 at Max Blob’s Park in Hanover. This summer they will support Daughtry, 3 Doors Down and Halestorm on an east coast tour in July.
Check out the video below. For fun, close your eyes, and enjoy the musicianship and the catchy tune. Then open your eyes again to remind yourself that the members of Bad Seed Rising have many years ahead of them to develop their clearly evident talent. Plus, Francheska’s braces make the video extra precious!
How do you come up with songs?
Jason: Kinda depends on the mood of the kids, which, oddly enough, seem to coincide with the time of day. The earlier in the day the more energetic the song, the later in the day will be a mellow song…. most times. As far as the theme of the songs we are on a rotation. One week will be Izzy’s idea, then Aaralyn then me. Once a month or so we’ll do a cover, and more recently we have been doing fan dedication songs.
How do you work the band around school and social life?
Who are your guest musicians?
What are your favorite bands?
What are your favorite bands?
Aaralyn: I want to be a scientist because I want to make a lot of potions for making people smarter and to help them with math.