Words and images by Justin Nuoffer
Almost three years to the day, the Swedish rockers, Ghost brought their spiritual awakening back to the Resch Center in Green Bay, WI., positioned in the shadows of the legendary Lambeau Fields. Green Bay is a city built on football, however over the last few years has continually proved to be a growing mecca of rock and metal shows within the Badger State.
The Imperatour had the streets surrounding the venue littered with Papa Emeritus and other ghoulish cosplayers. If there is anything Wisconsin is known for, it is tailgating and pregaming. The bars next to the arena were filled. The atmosphere was electric well before the show began, a sea of metal heads decked out in all black and a plethora of band shirts.
The deluge of people flooded both entrances to the venue much like the bars next door. Having lines stretched down and around the block, the main lobby turnstiles continuously turned as fans poured in. There was a rush of patrons urgently trying to get in and secure their spots up front, running through the narrow hallways and the dark red curtains onto the arena floor. Meanwhile, it was a scene at merch, where 'Imperatour' shirts proved the hot commodity, all getting snatched up in no time.
A lot of the chatter in the lobby was about the new album, Impera. Fans were anxious to see which songs were performed and how much of a party they were in store for. Fortunately, for everyone attending, there were two incredible bands waiting to warm them up with their own brand of metal.
Ambient noise radiated over a wash of purple light onstage. Kicking off the evening were the industry-buzzing, Spiritbox. Vocalist Courtney LaPlante commanded the audience, stomping and swaying while delivering lyrically heartfelt brutality. Her full range and unique signature style of screaming captivated the rowdy crowd. Perched on the right side of the center runway was fellow co-founder and guitarist Mike Stringer, armed with his Aristides baritone seven-string he delivered layers upon layers of melody-driven riffs, pick scrapes, and harmonics. Back on drums, Zev Rosenberg, smashed his kit while keeping the band on time and in rhythm with touring bassist Josh Gilbert. The submission from Spiritbox had those watching stunned with their brilliance.
Death metal veterans Carcass, proved relentless with their brand of sonic violence. The absolute silence before Carcass hit the stage was eerie. It was matched by the consuming red hue over the stage and throughout the arena. The first notes strummed by guitarist Bill Steer and touring guitarist Nip Blackford opened up a small mosh pit in the middle of the arena floor. Meanwhile, Jeff Walker started delivering scorching vocals while continuously holding out his bass in front of him while playing. The gore-infused lyrical content fits in perfectly with the vibe the crowd came searching for. Armed with bangers like "Heartwork", "Under The Scalpel Blade", and "The Scythe's Remorseless Swing" the band slashed through song after song with no downtime in between. It was a perfect display of strength and stamina.
Approaching staged curtain drop, the Ghost congregation gathered early and had positioned themselves for optimal viewing. You could see the influx of people filling the seats and onto the floor space. The energy in the room became electric once a figure projected itself upon the white curtain. Upfront the security rail was lined with fans dawning Papa IV face paint. Nuns appeared in colorful garb behind the front row. They were covered head to toe and carried plenty of additional religious toys with them. Chants of "Ghost" rang out as the band started and then the concussion blasts rang out.
Opening with the vintage rock anthem "Kaisarion" from Impera, The fan screams were deafening. The backdrop presented three stained glass windows depicting the previous 3 incarnations of Papa Emeritus, the fourth and current Papa also known as Tobias Forge gives you every reason to consider him among the best in rock music's modern frontmen. Every detail, all of the minutiae of his presentation is well planned out. His body movements, character changes, facial expressions, microphone tosses, cadence and delivery are all specific to the Ghost vocalist and creator.
On the evening, "He Is" provided perhaps the largest showing of crowd participation. It was a somber and infectious bellowing of the chorus. Lighters and cell phone lights raised high illuminating the bowl - Truly a majestic segment of the night that carried on with the instrumental "Miasma". The prowess of the devilish band was thrust upon us when they ended the song with a rather funny on-stage resurrection that gave all an epic saxophone solo from a hip sunglasses-wearing mummy. Perhaps the greatest part of the performance is the band's ability to give nearly every Nameless Ghoul their moment up front and center stage. Often they came to display their talents under the center spotlights and ripped solos and then moved to engage the assembly in front of them.
Confetti cannons were fired off during "Mummy Dust" blasting gold across the room right after a keytar solo. Certainly, not a normal occurrence. Forge then yelled, "Are you ready to dance?" With one of the more noticeable guitar opening riffs they went with one of modern rocks largest dance party songs "Dance Macabre". They again fired off more confetti while the Ghost parish danced with arms raised and bodies moving.
As the band stood on the edge of the stage witnessing their handy work, the elation in the arena from what had just transpired was apparent. Ghost provided its devout congregation with a nonstop rock n' roll opera, an immersive 20-song setlist that totaled an hour and a half of hellish delight. Ghost proved transcendent and ensured that everyone's dead hearts walked away a little bit warmer for their finale in Wisconsin.
See the comprehensive photo gallery from the the last night of the Imperatour below. All images by Justin Nuoffer.