Ghost's Download show was fabulous fun - but a headline set would be even better

Many back Ghost to be Download's next breakthrough headliners, and they certainly brought the fun and frolics to this year's festival

Tobias Forge live on stage as Papa Emeritus
(Image: © Getty)

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With the likes of Bring Me The Horizon, Architects and Parkway Drive commanding higher spots than ever at this year's history-making Download festival, the future of the event and its next generation of headliners (and potential headliners) are under more scrutiny than ever. Bring Me passed their test with flying colours on Friday night, and with their status atop the bill now surely secured for good, the gauntlet for other modern rock and metal bands looking to step up is officially thrown down.

One such band are Swedish party spooks Ghost; packing the perfect cocktail of clever gimmickry, a big-ass show, stadium-sized choruses and a charismatic leader in the form of Tobias Forge, they're fiercely backed to be the next band to break into Download headliner status, making today's set, closing out the festival's Opus stage, a crucial litmus test.

Lucky, then, that there just doesn't seem to be any such thing as a bad Ghost show - over the course of an hour, the Swedes delight Download with a non-stop run of devilishly catchy tunes, bolstered by pyro, confetti and fireworks to complete the 'big show' feel. It's telling of just how in the zone Tobias and his gang are right now that irresistible recent Genesis cover Jesus He Knows Me goes over like an old favourite, though Rats, Square Hammer and, yes, Mary On A Cross remain comfortably on the podium when it comes to sparking the biggest singalongs. 

Tobias' Papa Emeritus IV is on typically fun form, promising as ever to "tickle taints" as he regales his audience with cheeky one-liners and funny quips, squeezing in a couple of costume changes for good measure. He also seemingly admits that some kind of technical malfunction has scuppered the band's plans to play beloved instrumental Miasma - not that it matters too much when you also have the likes of Dance Macabre, Kiss The Go-Goat and Year Zero to fall back on.

All in all, then, this feels very much like business as usual for Ghost - the funnest show in town, undoubtedly, but sandwiched between a particularly lairy Parkway Drive set (featuring hundreds of people circle pitting around Winston McCall, no less), and an absolute blinder of a Slipknot headliner, it feels like Ghost haven't quite seized the opportunity to steal the day for themselves.

Nothing to be ashamed of when you're still so clearly delighting your longtime followers while breezily winning over new ones, but should Ghost ever get the call to make the big step up to headline the whole festival, you suspect they'll have even more bells, whistles and wonders to pull out of the tank. 

Ghost Download 2023 setlist

1. Kaisarion
2. Rats
3. Faith
4. Spillways
5. Cirice
6. Jesus He Knows Me
7. Watcher In The Sky
8. Year Zero
9. Mary On A Cross
10. Mummy Dust
11. Kiss The Go-Goat
12. Dance Macabre
13. Square Hammer

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved 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 has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.