QUESTION OF THE WEEK: THE GHOST WITH THE MOST?
Banner by Cysquatch
That’s right, boys and ghouls! Your weekend is fast approaching or already in progress! Are u high yet? We are, so excuse our giggles as we present the new MetalSucks Question Of The Week, a (sorta) weekly survey of our staff on a recent hot-button issue that’s rocking our metal planet.
Fearless. Controversial. Half-baked. We give it to you straight every Friday afternoon. Okay not that straight. Here’s this week’s topic:
Following the MetalSucks report that hot occult rock band Ghost has signed a rich deal with Seven Four Ent., the new imprint at Universal Republic helmed by former Warner Bros. Records chairman Tom Whalley, we asked our team:
According to your gut, will this deal drive the quintet of costumed Swedish satanists to a bigger profile, a smaller one, or the same?
Wat u think? The MS staff’s expert answers after the jump!
I am no fan of Ghost. I bagged on their debut back in January 2011 and I still despise them. Kudos to them, however, for successfully pulling their hooded robes over the eyes of the guy who signed Michael Bublé, My Chemical Romance, Avenged Sevenfold, Big & Rich, Josh Groban, Linkin Park, Seal, Faith Hill, and Smash Mouth. I’m sure Ghost will make lots of money for Whalley’s label. Of course, those recoupables are going to be a bitch. I’ll simply close with what I wrote about the band’s debut album, Opus Eponymous, more than a year ago: “It’s dull, pretentious, and so far from metal as to be ridiculous. Oh, I get the whole Blue Öyster Cult vibe, but if I wanted BOC, I’d buy a BOC record. But BOC never did it for me, and Ghost definitely will never do it for me. Uh oh, I hope they don’t cast a spell on me!”
I have no idea what Ghost is, but judging from their ‘single cryptic, semi-retro word’ name, I assume they are some variant on NPR metal. That is to say, bland, unbrutal junk for people who don’t actually like metal but for some reason want to convince themselves that they do. Or maybe I am totally wrong and Ghost is great. But I will never know because I will never listen to them. If I’ve learned anything from my 19 years on this planet, it’s that you generally CAN judge a book by its cover and life is too short to take chances on new bands that will probably just end up being disappointing and crappy.
Bigger! I bet Tom Whalley’s expectations for Ghost are based on his experience with Mastodon at Warner Bros. That means he sees an untapped audience awaiting Ghost, one that will find the band’s vibe and jamz as bewitching (lol) as active metal fans and gawking hipsters did in 2010-11. And maybe he liked Ghost’s numbers on the recent MastOpeth tour (lotsa tickets scanned before Ghost’s opening set? Brisk business at unhip Midwest stops? etc.). Also, he may sense in Ghost a super work ethic and concentration; after all, their secrecy thing and stage schtick require sustained vigilance, as does overcoming the willful denseness of metal dudes who make a big show of “not getting” their genius. Still, Whalley’s alleged move might seem brave/foolish cuz Ghost isn’t Avenged Sevenfold (another Warners metal pick-up), i.e. an act that benefits from appealing to silly, spendy youngs and from shelf space at chain stores. But that depends on the deal: In Whalley’s shoes, I’d predict a hearty score on merch and concert DVDs, pack the contract with incentives, get involved with tour plans, and bank on that action in place of big album sales. And once I got in his shoes, I’d also adopt his hairstyle lol.
I already said most of what I have to say, but allow me to crystallize it: This move is bad for Ghost. The big advance will leave them in a hole after this next album, not because they’ll owe money — an advance doesn’t work like that, the band only has to pay back the label through the album sales they generate — but because it doesn’t stand a chance of recouping. That will lead to Ghost being dropped from Seven Four, at which time (at least three years from now) their buzz will be gone and they’ll be a bunch of olds on the decline that metal fans used to care about. And their cred will be gone too. Look, it’s possible that the next Ghost album will win the affection of Pitchfork, Brooklyn Vegan, Stereogum, et al — there’s a good chance of that and those outlets already love the band — but still it will not sell $750,000 worth of copies, a dollar of recoupment at a time. No way.
About the same. Though Ghost is but the latest appendix to the Big Book of Bands That Are Okay But Incredibly Divisive for Some Reason (New York Times bestseller for 46 weeks!), their record deal isn’t about that. Sort of. What Seven Four Ent. is trying to capture, presumably, is the wave of online attention — good and bad — directed toward the band. In theory, this is a solid bet: Ghost is a not-too-abrasive metal band with a ton of name recognition, which is a rarity in the heavy world. In fact, in today’s hyper-saturated music industry, a band with huge buzz like Ghost tends to flop hard after an album or two. So this deal is akin to an eight-figure production deal for The Tron Guy or Tay Zonday: Sure, at one point they got YouTube hits in the millions, but a few weeks later, was anyone interested? Could anyone even remember them? Maybe masses of sweaty kids hunched over laptops will finally discover the existence of Blue Öyster Cult and then Ghost will no longer have a point. Their music aside — again, it’s fine but I don’t see the big fucking deal — the signing seems incredibly short-sighted, since a gimmicky and feverishly acknowledged band like Ghost could be off the radar as the ink dries on their contract. Much like Facebook going public, Ghost has reached their ceiling, and it’s not a terrific idea to expect more from them in terms of popularity.
No big difference. Ghost is already getting so much attention from word of mouth thanks to their … hmm, I don’t want to say “gimmick” but in simple terms, that’s what it is. This new deal will mean more promotion, but for the most part people don’t pay attention to Ghost because of their music. That’s not to say it’s bad music, but this band’s draw is the spectacle.
It can only be good for Ghost’s profile. How could they possibly lose fans by signing to a major label joint venture? Did we listen to Ghost because they upheld the values of underground metal? Hell no. We don’t even know who they are, let alone what they believe. I think they’re kinda passionless and thus kinda limited in their ability to cross over — I would bank on The Devil’s Blood or Blood Ceremony or Royal Thunder, a band with a more populist rock ‘n roll vibe than Ghost. But Ghost could rise to The Sword-levels of success, on opening slots for huge metal bands and charting in the unimpressive regions of Billboard charts. Vince Neilstein is right that there’s a popularity ceiling for Christ-baiting 70’s-influenced rock music, but a smart A&R dude like Tom Whalley would not launch his new venture by signing a band that he didn’t have big plans for. We just don’t know yet what they are.
JUSTIN M. NORTON
Hey Nameless Ghouls: bad idea to jump in bed with major label asswipes.
I’ve loved Ghost since the moment I heard Opus Eponymous. (Here’s proof.) I’m happy to see them succeed and make some cash. But despite the whining that Ghost is a no-talent gimmick and the band of the day (all bullshit), the band will never gain mainstream acceptance: They write about human sacrifice to Satan; their singer dresses like a Satanic pope; they have a song called “Satan Prayer.” Metal fans know it is all tongue-in-cheek, but we’re open-minded and completely numb to things that are found threatening by an average Joe. “Satan” is as common as the word “guitar” in the scene.
Now, do a survey of our culture: An evangelical preacher calls for gays and lesbians to be dropped in pens in some crazed extermination scheme. A presidential candidate and follower of a religion breathtaking in its lack of logic — and whose name sounds like “shit” — seeks the approval of insane right wing douchebags who would happily brainwash or hang MetalSucks readers. A shocking number of Americans don’t believe in evolution, a bedrock of modern science. So could a band like Ghost really get a larger profile in a culture that is so hostile to alternative thinking and scientific truth? Sure, Metallica broke through, but they never did the Satan thing and wrote about death and killing — which somehow is acceptable.
I wonder what this deal means for Ghost’s future, one that seemed pretty limitless to metal fans. Steve Albini wrote in the ’90s that advances wreck bands because none are able to repay that staggering amount they receive up front. To do it, bands have to be milquetoast bullshit like Creed or Blink 182. Is Ghost going to earn enough on tour with Opeth, even in the headlining spot? I doubt it. Ghost should team with a large, reliable metal label (Metal Blade is a perfect match) that would go all the way for them, satisfy their fan base, and ensure their longevity. But this deal could be worse than an actual pact with the devil.
Well that settles it: Ghost’s reported deal will totally benefit/hurt/not affect their fortunes lol. Are we way off? You closely follow the rises and declines of metal bands, so what u think? Comment below then have an awesome wknd!