Review Summary: Zoinks yo! It’s a G-g-g-Ghost!
Ghost pulls the old “swticheroo” with their nameless Ghouls and (finally) bring their road sermon to the boys and girls of the world at home. The question is, once we pull the proverbial mask off of Tobias Forge (Papa Emeritus III) are we left with the same musical bombast fans of Ghost’s live rituals have come to expect? The short answer is yes. The long answer, you meddling kids, needs a deeper look to be sure.
Ceremony and Devotion, the surprise double live LP recorded during the Popestar Tour (San Francisco if you believe Papa). 15 songs that summarize the average set list the band played during the year-long stint. A mélange primarily concocted of offerings from their latest releases including the extremely effervescent opener; Square Hammer from the Popestar EP. Notably missing are many tracks from the band’s debut Opus Eponymous. While it is a natural progression for an actively touring band to want to play newer material, I really would have liked if Genesis had replaced the sententious Devil Church or the addition of Elizabeth or Prime Mover. Alas, it was not to be; the milieu of Ceremony and Devotion centers around the last two LP’s (the aforementioned Meliora and their sophomore effort Infestissumam. When I think of a double live album done well my mind instantly veers towards Iron Maiden’s Live After Death. Ghost does not approach that lofty spectrum here, though they do flirt within a similar atmosphere.
As someone that has seen Ghost live 14 times I feel I can I can speak freely about the elephant in the room. The new Ghouls do not have as much polish as the originals. They can be as nameless as Papa Forge wants us to believe, however they are not. While I do not want to detract too many points for their playing /showmanship, they are simply not up to par with the original crew. Yes, they are quite animated live, and put on an excellent show but that matters little here, or maybe I should say "hear"? As a fan from their inception, I have always exclaimed that the bombast of a live Ghost show never translates to their studio albums. Missing is the certain aura, a vibe that comes with the bands traveling religious sermon. Some of that flows through on Ceremony and Devotion, but only in fits and spurts. The production is excellent, but almost too much so. There are times I forgot that I was listening to a live recording. This is a case where the production too closely mirrors the bands efforts in the studio. Bright lights do poke through – Cerice is a ghastly and much darker affair here. Body and Blood also shines through as a much better track live than in the studio. Others though sound as if ripped directly from the album. Maybe it is lack of crowd noise or simply too much post editing. Having experienced the band live the banter from Papa, the foibles and little flourishes are what really bring Ghost to life.
Fans anxiously await the band’s fourth LP (due in 2018) and Ceremony and Devotion does an adequate job to fill a void in the bands catalogue. Ghost is an amazing live band, and I have always been vocal that even detractors need to experience them in the flesh at least once. I will still maintain that sentiment, though this is a decent substitute, just not a perfect one. Actual rating would fall around a 3.7.