Music fans drove through an arctic blast of ice and snow to see the international musical juggernauts Ghost and Volbeat perform in Denver on Ground Hog’s Day. Everyone seemed in a cheerful mood to observe the spectacle. A few misguided parents even brought their toddlers exposing their offspring to material not intended for anyone still attending pre-school.
There was some confusion when Volbeat started because many thought the Danish band were headlining. Any disappoint was erased when the lights shinned on the powerhouse quartet. The band’s setlist was a fusion of rock, heavy metal, and rockabilly. The musicians darted across the stage behind a giant video screen and a spectacular light show.
Lead singer Michael Paulsen’s early musical career was in death-metal. But ever since he formed Volbeat in 2001, he blended numerous styles as the creative force of the band. His vision resulted in critical acclaim and millions of albums sales despite numerous line up changes.
The three other band members are from rock royalty. Rob Caggiano, who previously was in the thrash-metal band Anthrax, stunned the audience with his impressive licks and high speed guitar. Kaspar Boye Larsen formerly played with the death-metal band Withering Surface. His heart stopping bass lines echoed throughout the arena. Ex-Slayer member Jon Dette recently took over drumming duties from Jon Larsen due to his Covid illness. Paulsen stated Dette saved their tour by stepping in last minute and never missed a beat (literally).
The genre changes became fast and furious. Volbeat went from the dark metal themes of Temple of Ekur to the Johnny Cash inspired Sad Man’s Tongue complete with a Ring of Fire intro. But nothing prepared me for a pianist and a saxophone player popping up from the middle of the stage to perform Wait A Minute My Girl. A Jerry Lee Lewis boogie was hammered out on the keys along with a Clarence Clemons like saxophone solo. And then they just disappeared.
Next, Volbeat played Black Rose as their animated video for the song played as a backdrop. It depicted the band, drag racing, and zombies. The mood darkened again when the songs The Devil’s Bleeding Crown, The Devil Rages On, and The Sacred Stones played along with fire and demon images. Just when it was getting almost too gloomy, Volbeat started playing the boogie-woogie tune Die to Live queuing the pianist and saxophone player to spring up again.
Gregorian chants started playing over the house speakers signaling that Ghost was about to take the stage. A large white drape fell revealing a cathedral with stained glass windows surrounded by smoke and fire. The eight ghouls that made up the supporting band were dressed in black with dark steam punk masks. The demonic anti-pope portrayed by Tobias Forge was the ringleader of the musical circus. Despite all the upside-down crosses and dark images, the band wasn’t very menacing. In fact, the performance had more elements of a Las Vegas production than a Satanic Heavy Metal show.
The band formed in Switzerland in 2006 with Forge as the evil genius behind the many masks. The opening tune Kaisarion is from their upcoming fifth studio album Impera. The lyrics describe a historical account of a woman being murdered in ancient Alexandria by Christians. In an interview with Kerrang!, Forge described the horrible event, “She was molested and murdered inside the building, because of her pagan beliefs, because she was a believer in science and real things.”
Other songs such as Mary on the Cross and Devil Church followed. The tune Rats echoed the recent pandemic troubles – “In times of turmoil, in times like these/Beliefs contagious, spreading disease/This wretched mischief is now coursing though your souls/Never to let go, never to let go.” Everyone around me was taking in the spectacle maybe not the lyrics.
Confetti was blasted all over the arena and shined brightly in the lights. As the scraps of paper were landing, Forge addressed the audience in his Swedish accent,“Times are getting better. We are getting to hang out. We have a good hang here. You should be really glad….And now here’s one for the kids.” That’s when the band played Metallica’s Enter Sandman. At the end, the band members showed their love for the audience by making the heart sign with their hands (an unexpected turn of events from a Satanic Heavy Metal concert).
See you at the next show I’ll be the one anticipating a piano and saxophone player to pop up at anytime.