@Newcastle O2 Academy, December 16 2015

As Ghost move onwards and upwards as the natural heirs to Rammstein’s theatrical metal throne, the band’s biggest asset remains the most obvious barrier to their dream of achieving mainstream success.

Outlandish masks and make-up have been part of the scene for decades but few bands stand to rise or fall on their fashion choice alone.

The cynics simply refuse to look behind the façade and appreciate the creative talent within. At the same time those with blind faith in Ghost’s all-consuming quasi-religious package are making this bunch of Swedish oddballs a serious commercial proposition. Who knows where the ultimate victory will lie?

But for now the debate surrounding style over substance rages on. And Papa Emeritus III’s bold claim that Ghost can deliver both is gaining credence with every fresh show.

Almost four years to the day since the scarily good Scandinavians last played Newcastle – third band out on the Defenders Of The Faith III tour – their transformation from quirky party starters to key players has been compelling. Confident, assured and backed by three albums’ worth of hauntingly cool material, the most mysterious band in metal are setting the pace after gradually finding their groove.

According to Papa Emeritus III, current long player Meliora represents the true sound of an act rapidly approaching the peak of its musical powers. Unsurprisingly, therefore, almost half of the set drew on the best cuts from Ghost’s latest opus – dazzling opener Spirit, the sublime Circe and Mummy Dust proving to be the pick of the new material live.

With the Nameless Ghouls in sparkling form and their sweaty leader forced to remove his Papal-style hat midway through the set, a committed yet modest Academy crowd rose to the occasion with familiar devotion.

The Roky Erickson cover If You have Ghosts whipped the masses into a fist-pumping frenzy and if Papa Emeritus’s laborious introduction to set closer Monstrance Clock threatened to kill the mood then a triumphant rendition of Ghost’s ‘love song’ ensured a feverish finale.

Fingers crossed it won’t be another four years before the band returns to Tyneside. By then they will be world leaders – or another bizarre footnote in the annals of parody metal.

Support Dead Soul will never divide opinion in the same way as the headline act: their bland blend of industrial and goth is far too dull to spark debate. Where most bands are a more exciting proposition live than on record, this shoe-gazing trio successfully bucked the trend. And then some.

Rarely has a band name better reflected an act’s on-stage persona – soulless programming and robotic guitars adding to a feeling of utter banality. Expectations were high. But disappointing doesn’t do justice to a dire set.