The story I’m about to tell you is rather long, but fairly entertaining and ironic, so I beg you to please hang in there.
As you might expect from a ~20 something~ woman, I am an avid tumblr user. Tumblr is a weird microcosm of millennial culture, ranging in everything from shitpost memes to fandom communities to open discussions about crippling mental health issues. For me, Tumblr is a way for me to post things on social media that I’m not comfortable sharing with my friends and family, but somehow have no qualms about sharing it with 1,800 strangers, I mean, “followers”. Millennials make no sense, right?
Several months ago , I’m browsing through Tumblr one night, as per usual, when I come across a picture of Ghost, the first time I had ever heard or seen them. I distinctly remember instantly being freaked out, not understanding who they were, what their image meant, and why it even showed up on my dashboard. I went through the comments, expecting to hear sentiments similar to mine, but alas I saw an abundance of compliments. Best band ever. Their music is fucking sick. Papa is my hero.
So not only did people like their music, but no one else seemed to be freaked out by their image. Let’s set the record straight here. I do not frighten easily. In fact, I’ve been watching horror movies from a shockingly young age and I don’t recall ever feeling afraid or having a nightmare from them. I clear memories of watching Child’s Play, It, and Scream at very young ages, maybe four or five years. My parents always prefaced these movies with a conversation about how the movie is fake and that nothing bad actually happened to the actors. To most people, this is probably jarring, but knowing from a young age that horror movies were as fake as any other movie made my tolerance for fear very high. But what made me so afraid of Ghost’s image off the bat was the assumption that it was real. Only later would I find out that their shtick was more so a horror movie than reality.
Feeling like I was unknowingly in an episode of the Twilight Zone, I quickly googled them to figure out what they were about. A Google image search didn’t help my cause, as I was bombarded with hundreds of pictures of masked figures and a skull-faced Pope. I admittingly only briefly skimmed their Wikipedia article and saw buzzwords like “Antichrist”, and “blatantly Satanic”, but decided, based on my five minutes of research that Ghost was not my cup of tea. And that was that.
A few months later, a video popped up in my Youtube Recommendations. I follow Anthony Vincent on Youtube, who’s famous for doing ten second song covers in the style of different artists, and I’ve pretty much seen every video he’s put out. In March, he put out a Chop Suey cover in the style of Ghost.
Ghost? Why did they sound familiar? Ah yes, this was the band that scared the living daylights out of me a few months ago. But funny enough, I really liked this interpretation of Chop Suey, and I thought, “Well, if this is their style, I’d probably like their music then”. I typed Ghost into the search bar and clicked on Square Hammer, which was the first result. I definitely liked the sound and their popularity began to make sense to me. But still, operating under the assumption of reality, I could not get past their image. Maybe it’s just the remnants of growing up in a religious household and being a pastor’s daughter after all. I don’t identify as religious at all, but growing up in such an extreme evangelical household, there’s a lot of things that stick, subconsciously, and only disintegrate if I actively try to unlearn them. So again, I dismiss them, this time a bit more reluctantly since I did like their sound. But still, at the time their image was something I was not able to look beyond. Out of sight, out of mind.
Fast forward to this past summer. My fiance, Josh, is a die-hard Iron Maiden fan. If I’m not mistaken, I believe he’s seen them at least seven times in concert. This past summer they came to Bristow, VA and he asked me a few months before the concert if I wanted to go. I have unpopular Maiden opinions, as I prefer the Paul era to the Bruce era, so I had no interest in attending. He asked me multiple times and each time I laughed and said no. He ends up going with his friends and sends me videos of the concert. I have no interest in seeing Iron Maiden, so at first I was unsure of why he was sending me all these videos.
When he comes home, I ask him how the concert was. He said Iron Maiden was great as always, but that he was really impressed by their opening act. I asked him who opened for Maiden and he tells me it’s this band Ghost that he’s never heard of. Now keep in mind, this was a band that I had dismissed not once, but twice, but goddamn it when I heard they were the openers, I was kicking myself for passing up on that opportunity. I liked what I heard of them, and I probably would have gone just for the experience even back then if I knew Ghost was Iron Maiden’s opener.
Josh became obsessed with Ghost and started showing me their live footage. A week later, we bought their albums and listened to them nonstop. As I became engrossed in their music and watched dozens of interviews, I then realized that their image was satirical. As a lover of horror, I realized their image was as real as Michael Meyers or Ghostface. I was no longer freaked out by their image; in fact it became very comical in comparison to the soft spoken nature of the band. We became so obsessed that Josh wanted to see them again, and we bought tickets to see them in Brooklyn on July 22nd, the final date of their American tour. As a birthday present for myself, I bought Josh and I meet and greet tickets to meet the one and only Papa Emeritus III.
Here, we have come full circle. The masked figure I once was terrified of, I am now bombarding with hugs and awkward smiles. The experience was one in a million, like an out of body astral-projection experience that was surreal. When we first made eye contact, he instantly tells me that he loves my hair, with a strong intensity and emphasis. I, completely starstruck, am smiling from cheek to cheek to the point where my face is nearly numb. We took a couple of pictures and as I left I told him to have a great show and he thanked me, again in a way that was super sincere, especially as someone who is donning the role of a character.
Their show was amazing, by far the best show that I’ve ever been to. I was screaming and singing and dancing along the entire time. I was definitely judged by some hardcore Maiden fans, but I didn’t care because I was there to have a good time and support an awesome band who is often so misunderstood. They always end with Monstrance Clock and while it is one of my favorite songs, it’s a bit melancholic because it symbolizes the end. But before they close out, Papa goes into a spiel about the demonization of female sexuality and female pleasure. Specifically he talks about the importance of a female orgasm and that both parties, not just men, should feel fulfilled. The lyrics, are two-fold. Come together, together as one. Come together for Lucifer’s son. From a literal sense, it is about the procreation of the antichrist. From a metaphorical sense, it is about a female orgasm. Maybe it’s because I’m a Cancer, but hearing them perform it live, knowing this was the end of this magical night, made me feel a bit sad.
My Ghost obsession still lives on and in a lot of ways finding Ghost has been instrumental to reigniting my own musical journey. I touched base about my experiences studying music in a classical, academic setting before, but in essence it was almost traumatic. I went in as a bright-eyed eighteen year old with a strong passion for singing and playing piano, but by the time I graduated college, I felt so beaten down by the criticism and the political games that the students and faculty alike played that I walked out never wanting to pursue music ever again. Going to music school somehow siphoned the love of music out of me for a long time and I didn’t rediscover that passion until I found Ghost. Now I play piano nearly everyday and I’m taking operatic voice lessons again for the hell of it and I’ve experimented with writing my own choral arrangements. I even am learning how to play the bass, which was something I’ve always wanted to learn, but never tried because I felt so afraid of failure. And then, of course, I started this blog to talk about my love of music.
I think the lesson in all of this is that there is much more than what meets the eye and I shouldn’t always take things at face value. Sometimes the most invaluable inspiration comes from an unlikely source.
If you have ghost, you have everything.