On Saturday, Dec. 15, the largest religious ceremony in New York City was a Satanic mass. With thousands gathered in attendance, Ghost completed a seven-year journey that took them from the basement of Webster Hall to the arena stage of Barclays Center.

On this night of ritual, Ghost headlined their first arena show in New York City, performing 26 songs in a ceremony lasting nearly three hours. The band’s megachurch setup was nothing less than gorgeous, featuring a stained glass backdrop of all three Papa Emeritus’, a tri-level stage, giant staircase and even flowers adorning the marble-esque architecture.

Ghost’s largest-ever touring lineup of eight musicians took the stage with no opening act, blazing into “Ashes” / “Rats” to begin the night. Much of Ghost’s introductory set focused on the Opus Eponymous and Infestissumam years (including an acoustic rendition of “Jigolo Har Megiddo”) before capping off the show’s first half with the Prequelle trilogy of “Pro Memoria,” “Witch Image” and “Life Eternal.”

Rae Lemeshow-Barooshian

With mastermind Tobias Forge going through more costume changes than a Lady Gaga concert, he brilliantly showcased the development of Ghost’s fourth frontman, Cardinal Copia. Though possessing some of the swagger of Papa III, Copia shares few commonalities with the cult act’s previous leaders. Without donning the skull paint, papal hat or traditional robe, Forge is allowing fans to witness a slow maturation of Copia, rather than presenting a refined rock ’n’ roll specter immediately.

Copia’s got his style on lockdown, displaying confidence beyond his years any time he swayed his way across the stage or serenaded a female audience member. But still, we’re witnessing an incomplete character who shows far more cracks than his predecessors. Copia’s stage banter, though charming and thoroughly entertaining, doesn’t yet reach the charismatic finesse of Papa III or the grimy malice of Papa II… and there lies the point.

When Copia sheepishly asks the crowd if they’re ready to get their “asses wobbled” and “taints tickled,” Forge is leaving just enough slack for Copia to tighten as he continues his journey toward potentially becoming Papa Emeritus IV… or at the very least, Skull-paint Copia.

Rae Lemeshow-Barooshian

After a 15-minute intermission, Ghost re-ignited a rested crowd with “Spirit” and “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” garnering a reaction as if the show had just begun. Pyro, fire and confetti (featuring a few 666 dollar bills hidden in the mix) augmented favorites like “Year Zero” and “Mummy Dust,” while a beautiful speech from Copia surely gave hope to fans struggling with personal demons.

“Things always change. No matter how rotten they are, it has a tendency to develop forward,” Copia preached. “You know how sometimes you can cut your hand and it might be a deep cut? It might be so deep that bone is showing and it might even require stitches and it hurts like hell. It feels like you almost lost your hand and for days you have these stitches and for a long time you can not use your hand because it hurts too much. You can not even think of something else but the pain, but what happens over time is that throbbing pain transforms into more of an itch. Still, your hand may not be usable, but as time goes by, maybe those stitches are gone … there is a scar, however, and around that scar it might be numb and that feeling might never return. That scar may sit there for the rest of your life, but it doesn’t hurt forever.”

One of the night’s highlights (along with Papa Nihil’s saxophone solo in “Miasma”) was the Prequelle power ballad “Dance Macabre,” which elicited one of the biggest reactions from the arena crowd. With the feel-good ‘80s throwback followed by “Square Hammer,” Ghost left the stage only to return for an encore, saying goodbye with the steadfast closer “Monstrance Clock,” allowing the mysterious musicians to disappear as the song’s choir outro lulled fans into a peaceful acceptance that the night had finally concluded.

This final night of Ghost’s A Pale Tour Named Death tour was a monumental one, not just closing out the band’s landmark 2018, but further solidifying their place as the most important metal act of the 2010s. From Ghost performing to just a handful at Webster Hall’s third (and smallest) stage in 2011, to headlining Brooklyn’s premier arena in 2018, fans dating back to the Opus days have witnessed the profound growth of a Swedish occult act whose potential seems to stretch into oblivion.

Check out Loudwire’s exclusive photos from Ghost’s Barclays gig in the gallery below.