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Satanic sermons and sax solos: inside Ghost's first post-Impera headline show

Ghost at the Manchester AO Arena
(Image credit: Getty)

On Saturday night, April 9, Ghost finally returned to the UK after two and a half years  away, officially kicking off the Impera era with a hits-stacked, pyro-filled set at the Manchester AO Arena. Bringing Satanic doo-woppers Twin Temple and fuzzy psych-rockers Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats along for the ride, the Swedes began their European tour with one hell of a bang - and the unlikely return of a familiar face. Here's what went down on a nefariously magical night in the North (and needless to say, if you're trying to avoid setlist spoilers, get the hell out of here!).

You couldn't pick a better support band for Ghost than Twin Temple

Satanic imagery and subversive lyrics dressed up in catchy rock 'n' roll and hip-shakingly camp theatrics? Why does that seem so familiar...anyway, Twin Temple have been one of the funnest and most unexpected things to explode from the metal scene in recent years, their mash-up of doo-wop and Devil-devotion striking a chord with metal fans in a big way. Unsurprisingly, and despite a few minor technical issues at the start, they evidently went over well with the Ghost faithful. Surely big things are in their future?

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And Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats fit the bill pretty well too!

They've been on the scene a good while longer than Twin Temple, but Uncle Acid will still be a new prospect to many of the fans attending these Ghost shows, and their fuzz-driven, psychedelic rock 'n' roll is a fine fit for big venues. Sometimes, you don't need a big, flashy gimmick - big-ass tunes are enough, and the British rockers were welcomed warmly on home soil.

Ghost's stage show is huge

Pyro, confetti and, of course, some classy costume changes from Papa Emeritus IV, making his UK debut. It was all on show in Manchester, playing out across a huge, multi-tiered stage. They may attract their share of haters, but facts are facts: few modern bands in heavy metal know how to put on a massive, arena-worthy show like Ghost.

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There are about 200 Nameless Ghouls now

Alright, maybe we're exaggerating a little, but with each passing chapter of Ghost, more Nameless Ghouls (and Ghoulettes!) seem to join the clergy. Guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, synth players, backing vocalists...Tobias Forge has amassed a small army to fill these stages, and filled the stage they most certainly did in Manchester. Plus, after taking a little getting used to, we are very much onboard with the 'Satanic steampunk' image the Ghouls have adopted for this album cycle. 

Nameless Ghouls 2022

(Image credit: Getty)

Kaisarion is now the official Ghost set opener of choice

After debuting it on their recent US tour with Volbeat, Ghost seem firmly set on having Impera opener Kaisarion be the official party-starter for their live shows. You can understand why: it might just be the most over-the-top, bombastic Ghost song ever. Whether it'll go down as an all-time Ghost classic like Rats and Square Hammer remains to be seen, but for now at least, it seems that Kaisarion is very much here to stay at the top of Ghost's setlists. 

There are three other Impera cuts in the set

Hunter's Moon is another newie that remains in the set from the US dates, while live debuts for both Spillways and Call Me Little Sunshine round out the showings from Impera. Is four songs from the new album a somewhat meagre showing given that the tour is quite literally called 'Imperatour'? Maybe, but that's what happens when you're a band who have amassed so many absolute bangers in such a short space of time. 

This is a 'modern Ghost'-heavy show

With four songs from Impera and five songs from Meliora and Prequelle each, it's clear that Ghost are prioritising their last few albums on this tour. Understandable to some extent, perhaps - as Ghost have evolved, their music has become bigger, catchier and more arena-friendly - but given the bells-and-whistles grandiosity of 2013's Infestissumam in particular, it's a little surprising to see only one song from that era, Year Zero, make the cut (although if you're only going to have one song, what a song to pick!).

Ghost have already amassed one of metal's all-time great party soundtracks

Look, we can nitpick over setlist omissions as much as we want (and on that note, Monstrance Clock is one that really feels like it should be a permanent fixture, but we digress...). The fact is, this is still a set absolutely stacked with songs designed to shake hips and, as Papa Emeritus would put it, tickle taints. Rats, Cirice, Year Zero, He Is, Ritual, Kiss The Go-Goat, Dance Macabre...seriously, we're knackered just thinking about the amounts of shapes getting thrown through all of that. A Ghost show is a party, and it's a party with one hell of a soundtrack

Papa Nihil is alive!

Yes, you read that right. After Papa Nihil was unceremoniously 'killed off' at Ghost's final show of the Prequelle era in Mexico two years ago, it seemed like fan favourite instrumental track Miasma (on which Nihil plays a blinding saxophone solo) may be retired, having made no appearance on the recent US dates. In Manchester, however, the track made a triumphant return, including said sax solo courtesy of a resurrected Nihil, whose body was wheeled out onto the stage and given a few defibrillator shots to bring him shuddering back to life. Could this theoretically mean we might see more previous Papas return to the stage at some point? The plot thickens...

That Enter Sandman cover isn't going anywhere

Look, if you've been a heavy metal fan for more than ten minutes, you've probably already heard Enter Sandman enough times in your life to never need to hear it again, let alone played by a band that aren't Metallica. But with Ghost's cover actually being pretty damn good and, as revealed by Tobias Forge recently, raising money for trans charity organisation Camp Aranu'tiq with each play, it likely isn't going anywhere soon, and that's totally fine with us. It got an airing in Manchester as the first song of a three-track encore.

Tobias Forge may never write a better set-closer than Square Hammer

While it made for a cracking set opener after it was first released, the fact is that Square Hammer has become one of the greatest rock anthems of the modern era, and sometimes you just gotta save the best 'til last. Evidently, Tobias still agrees, and if Manchester was anything to go by, Square Hammer will continue to close out Ghost's sets for the foreseeable. Oh, and it was preceded by Dance Macabre. How's that for a crowd-pleasing one-two to finish a show? One show down. The rest of Europe to go...

Ghost Manchester AO Arena setlist 2022

1. Kaisarion

2. Rats

3. From The Pinnacle To The Pit

4. Spillways

5. Devil Church

6. Call Me Little Sunshine

7. Miasma

8. Cirice

9. Hunter’s Moon

10. Faith

11. Helvetesfönster

12. Year Zero

13. He Is

14. Ritual

15. Mummy Dust

16. Kiss The Go-Goat

ENCORE

17. Enter Sandman

18. Dance Macabre

19. Square Hammer

Ghost European tour 2022

Apr 11: London O2 Arena, UK
Apr 13: Glasgow OVO Arena
Apr 15: Birmingham Resorts World Arena
Apr 17: Rotterdam RTM Stage Ahoy, Holland
Apr 18: Paris Accor Arena, France
Apr 19: Cologne Lanxess Arena, Germany
April 21: Leipzig Quarterback Immobillen Arena, Germany
Apr 22: Frankfurt Festhalle, Germany
Apr 24: Prague Arena, Czech Republic
Apr 27: Tampere Nokia Arena, Finland
Apr 29: Stockholm Avicii Arena, Sweden
Apr 30: Oslo Spektrum, Norway
May 01: Malmo Arena, Sweden
May 03: Brussells Forest, Belgium
May 05: Milan Mediolanum Forum, Italy
May 07: Barcelona Olympic Arena Badalona, Spain
May 08: Madrid Vistalegre Arena, Spain
May 11: Vienna Stadthalle, Austria
May 13: Zurich Hallenstadion, Switzerland
May 15: Hanover Zag Arena, Germany
May 16: Munich Olympiahalle, Germany
May 18: Budapest Arena, Hungary

Merlin stepped into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He is also probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.