- View history
All of the band members' true identities were kept well-hidden from the general public until 2017, when four former members filed a lawsuit against the lead singer, confirming his true identity.DemiurgicArchangelMichael
- 1.1 Formation and Opus Eponymous era
- 1.2 Infestissumam era
- 1.3 Meliora era
- 1.4 Prequelle era
- 1.5 IMPERA era
- 2.2 Papa Emeritus
- 2.3 Identities
- 4 Controversy
- 5 Awards and nominations
- 6 Tourography
- 8 References
History [ ]
Formation and opus eponymous era [ ].
Ghost on stage in 2011 at FortaRock
A Nameless Ghoul said that Ghost formed in 2006, when the members were in another band together and he played a riff for them that would become "Stand By Him" . He said, "I said that this is probably the most heavy metal riff that has ever existed ... When the chorus came to me, it haunted my dreams. Every time I picked up the guitar, I ended up playing that progression, and when I fit the words in, it seemed to cry out for a Satanically-oriented lyric."
After choosing the name Ghost, the band decided to use their love of horror films and "the traditions of Scandinavian metal" in the band's imagery. A Nameless Ghoul said, "Everything started with a bunch of songs. We knew very early that to make this material work we needed to fulfill our dream of putting a horror show together with music. We knew it would take a while to get things assembled, get the imagery in order. It ended up being two years of planning before we made the announcement that the band was active. That led to a very fast signing with a record label and our first show." In 2010, the band produced a three-track demo and the vinyl-only single " Elizabeth ", before releasing their first studio album, Opus Eponymous , on October 18, 2010. The album was well-received and was nominated for the 2011 Grammis Award for "Best Hard Rock" album.
Ghost supported gothic metal band Paradise Lost on their "Draconian Times MMXI" tour in April 2011. On May 29, Ghost made their United States debut at the Maryland Deathfest. The band played at the annual Download Festival in the United Kingdom on the Pepsi Max Stage on June 11. Following their performance, Phil Anselmo, lead singer of the band Down, performed wearing a Ghost T-shirt and invited three of Ghost's members to join him on the main stage, where they performed Down's hit: "Bury Me In Smoke" together. When Down closed their set, both guitars and drums were played by members of Ghost.
Ghost took part in the "Defenders of the Faith III" tour with Trivium, In Flames, and Rise to Remain for its UK and Europe shows. The band then embarked on their first United States tour, "13 Dates of Doom," beginning in New York on January 18, 2012, and ending on February 2 in Los Angeles. Ghost joined Mastodon and Opeth as the opening act on the Heritage Hunter Tour throughout North America during April and May 2012. In early 2012, a Nameless Ghoul said that the band had completed writing their second album.
Infestissumam era [ ]
Ghost performing at Brooklyn, 28 July 2013
On December 15, 2012, Ghost performed a special show in their hometown, Linköping, where they debuted a new song titled " Secular Haze ", which was released online earlier that day, as well as their cover of ABBA's " I'm a M arionette ". During the same show, they introduced Papa Emeritus II as the successor to the band's frontman Papa Emeritus . On December 20, the band announced that their second album, Infestissumam , would be released in early 2013. It was released in North America by Loma Vista Recordings in partnership with Republic Records—a division of Universal Music Group—marking Ghost's major label debut.
On February 5, 2013, the band announced the adoption of the name " Ghost B.C. " in the United States for legal reasons. A Nameless Ghoul said, "B.C. is obviously a pun on ‘Before Christ’, but it’s just an amendment. In our world, we’re just gonna be called Ghost ... The B.C. is silent, and as soon as we can, it’s gonna be taken away forever." They officially dropped the amendment from their name in 2015.
On March 12, fans could access a new song online titled " Year Zero " if they promoted the band on Facebook by endorsing the election of its frontman as the next Pope of the Catholic Church. Infestissumam was originally scheduled to be released on April 9 in the US, but the band could not find a US company that would manufacture the CD. Four US CD manufacturers rejected the job because the artwork for the deluxe edition of the album was described as "basically a 16th century illustration of an orgy." Rather than delay the album further, the band decided to use the artwork from the regular edition for the US pressings of the deluxe edition and announced the new release date of April 16. All European copies and the US vinyl versions include the controversial artwork. Ghost began their "Haze Over North America" tour on April 12 at the Coachella Festival, which consisted of about twenty dates in the US and Canada, and continued until May 18.
In 2013, Ghost embarked on a massive world tour and performed at several music festivals, including the 2013 Download Festival and Sweden's Metaltown. On July 27, Ghost began a six date tour, which was supported by Skeletonwitch. This tour was titled the "Still Hazing over North America Tour", signifying a continuance of the earlier tour. It ended in Chicago at the Lollapalooza festival. Immediately after, Ghost toured South America supporting Iron Maiden and Slayer; this tour included a performance at Rock in Rio. Ghost opened for Avenged Sevenfold and Deftones on a US tour in October. In November, the band toured the UK with Alice in Chains.
On November 20, 2013, the band released the EP If You Have Ghost , consisting almost entirely of cover songs. It was produced by Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame. In late 2013, Ghost returned to Sweden before embarking on an early 2014 tour of Australia, which was followed by a Scandinavian tour. On January 18, 2014, Ghost won the Grammis Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Album for Infestissumam . They then embarked on the "Tour Zero Year 2014" which lasted from April 17 until May 17 in North America. In July 2014, they performed at the European Sonisphere Festival.
Meliora era [ ]
Ghost performing at Frankfurt, Germany, 17 February 2016
Ghost's third studio album, the follow up to Infestissumam , Meliora was released on August 21, 2015. In an advertisement for the album that aired May 28 on VH1 Classic, it was announced that Papa Emeritus II was "fired" and that his successor Papa Emeritus III is his younger brother by a full three months. The song " Cirice " was released as a free download from the band's official site on May 31, and won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. Papa Emeritus III was officially unveiled with a debut performance in Linköping on June 3, 2015, where the band also performed new songs from the upcoming album.
The album was first promoted in August by a five date acoustic tour named "Unholy/Unplugged" of record shops in the US. Here Papa Emeritus III sported slicked-back jet black hair without his trademark, and performed alongside the two guitarist Nameless Ghouls; accompanying them on the kazoo . A tour of the US titled "Black To The Future" began on September 22 and ran until November 1. This was quickly followed by a European tour of the same name that ran until December 21, including a full UK tour and two other tours in North America that took place in the spring and mid-summer of 2016.
On September 12, 2016, the band released a new track on a radio show titled " Square Hammer " and a new EP, Popestar , was released on September 16, the same day the Popestar Tour began. Following the conclusion of the North American tour that concluded on November 12, was the European tour of the same name which started in late March and finished in late April 2017. They were the opening act for Iron Maiden on their 2017 North America tour from June to July 2017. A Nameless Ghoul stated that after the tour was over, they would be writing and recording the new album which they stated would be much darker than Meliora , with Tobias confirming in a recent interview that the fourth album would be released in 2018.
In early 2017, Tobias Forge was sued by former Ghost members Simon Söderberg, Mauro Rubino, Martin Hjertstedt, and Henrik Palm as part of a royalties dispute. The four, who left Ghost in 2016, filed the suit in the district court of Linköping, Sweden and accused Forge, who was in charge of the band's business affairs, of withholding financial information and payments to the other members. The former members also claimed that "Our vocalist and former friend is now attempting to, in an underhanded and shameless way, transform Ghost from a band into a solo project with hired musicians." Forge claimed that "no legal partnership" ever existed between the other members and himself; they were paid a fixed salary to perform and execute the band's image as he instructed as "musicians for hire." He also stated that he refers to Ghost as a solo project, "Even though I've never wanted it that way, but at the end of the day, that is what it is. I mean, I started it in 2006, and no one that was ever in the band in 2016 was even on the first record. Call it solo, if you want to, but I call it a project."
On August 24, 2017, the band released their final music video from Meliora for their song " He Is ". It premiered at Saint Vitus Bar in New York City the day before. The band released their first live album titled Ceremony and Devotion digitally on December 8, 2017, with a physical release following on January 19, 2018.
Prequelle era [ ]
On April 13, 2018, Ghost released a new single, titled " Rats ", along with an accompanying music video. This marked the first release from the band, with their "new" frontman Cardinal Copia . The band also announced June 1, 2018, as the release date of their fourth studio album, titled Prequelle . Mid way through the Prequelle touring cycle in chapter 8 of the anthology series the band has released on YouTube featuring Papa Nihil & sister emperator. Nihil took a trip down memory lane and gave us a look at a song released by the band back in 1969 song called .Kiss the Go - Goat. The song along with another Mary on a Cross would later be released within the Prequelle Exhaled edition of the record as a bonus LP titled Seven inches of Satanic Panic. With both songs being deemed “rarities from the clergy’s vault” both songs feature Papa Nihil as the vocalist.
On March 3, 2020 in Mexico, the last show of the Prequelle tour took place, appropriately titled “A Final Gig Named Death”. With speculation running wild in the days leading up to the show it was clear something big was going to happen. During the show when it came time to play “ Miasma ” Papa Nihil took the stage with his saxophone as usual until a puff of “miasma” (smoke) blew into his face and seemingly killed him. As Nihil doctors tended to him cardinal copia emerged on his tricycle confused as to what just happened. After realising Nihil was dead it was time for him to “ascend”. A host of corpse-painted nuns surrounded Copia and began undressing him. After a few minutes the nuns separated to reveal Cardinal Copia was no more and that Papa Emeritus IV had arrived. The show would continue on with the return of the devilish classic Con Clavi Con Dio with Papa Emeritus IV leading on vocals for the rest of the night.
IMPERA era [ ]
The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill in the weeks after A Final Gig Named Death, putting a long pause on any hopes of full-scale live touring. Tobias Forge indicated in October 2020 that the next studio album was to be released that winter, however, it was delayed further.
Papa Emeritus IV performed a single song live with The Hellacopters on January 21, 2021 - a cover of the Rolling Stones ' "Sympathy for the Devil". It would be another year before Ghost would return to touring, kicking off the Pre-Imperatour on January 25, 2022 in Reno, Nevada.
IMPERA was released on March 11, 2022 and quickly became the band's most successful effort to date, reaching #1 on album charts in several countries.
Members [ ]
- Papa Emeritus – vocals (2008–2012)
- Papa Emeritus II – vocals (2012–2015)
- Papa Emeritus III – vocals, kazoo (2015–2017)
- Cardinal Copia – vocals (2018–2020)
- Papa Emeritus IV (Formerly Cardinal Copia ) – vocals (2020–present)
- Male Multighoul (Also known as Swiss) – guitarist, tambourine, backing vocals, saxophonist (as Papa Nihil )
- Female Multighoul – keyboardist, tambourine, backing vocal
The six members of Ghost mimic the Roman Catholic Church but have reversed the image to worship Satan instead of the Holy Trinity. The Nameless Ghouls each represent one of the five elements; fire, water, wind, earth, and ether, and wear their respective alchemical symbol on their instruments. With the new Meliora costume changes each Nameless Ghoul has all five elemental symbols embroidered on the right breast of their costumes, and the elemental symbol representing the individual ghoul is highlighted to show the identity of the wearer.
Papa Emeritus [ ]
The group's vocalist portrays the band's mascot character, a Satanic priest known as Papa Emeritus. There have been four different characters taking the name Papa Emeritus. The first welcomed the second Papa Emeritus on December 12, 2012, in Linköping . On June 3, 2015, the second Papa Emeritus welcomed his younger brother as the new Papa Emeritus in Linköping after being "fired" due to not performing his duty in overthrowing governments and churches. Papa Emeritus II and Papa Emeritus III were stated to only have a 3-month difference in age. On September 30, 2017 during a show in Gothenburg, Papa Emeritus III was dragged off stage by two men, who then escorted a new character, Papa Emeritus Zero , to the stage to introduce the band's next chapter. Papa Emeritus Zero is portrayed as being significantly older than the previous Papas, making use of a walker and oxygen tank whilst walking on stage. On January 19, 2018, the band shared a video to their Instagram promoting their live album Ceremony and Devotion. The video features a character, implied to be Papa Emeritus IV, listening to the album on 8-track tape while critiquing Papa Emeritus III's vocal abilities. The character's face is hidden offscreen, but he is shown to wear red vestments similar to a cardinal priest. All versions of Papa Emeritus are actually the same vocalist .
Peter Hällje, a former bandmate of former Ghost member Martin Persner, claimed he designed the Papa Emeritus character in 2005, prior to the formation of Ghost. Hällje never performed as Papa Emeritus and agreed with Persner to let him use the character for his then-new band. His claim was later confirmed by Forge.
In April 2018, it was revealed that the "new leader" of Ghost would be Cardinal Copia , who made his live debut with the group at a private acoustic show on April 6. On March 3rd, 2020, during the last concert of the Pale Tour Named Death tour, Cardinal Copia was crowned Papa Emeritus IV after Papa Emeritus Nihil died onstage.
Identities [ ]
Anonymity is a major characteristic of Ghost; the members have not publicly revealed their names, and the group's five instrumentalists are only referred to as " Nameless Ghouls ". During signings, the Nameless Ghouls sign merchandise by stamping their respective alchemical symbols, while Papa Emeritus signs with his stage name or the letters "P.E."  .
One Ghoul said the idea that the band's members remain anonymous to gain attention is a misconception, and that the idea was to remove their personalities to allow their audiences to focus upon the artwork itself. He also said, "Had not the music been rocking, I don’t think that people would have gone gaga just about our looks". In 2011, a Nameless Ghoul said, "We're often mistaken for roadies, which is helpful. We've almost been thrown out of venues we've played. Forgetting our backstage pass is a big problem." In early 2012, a member of the band said he enjoyed being an individual and that he could easily "step outside the bubble" when he wanted to. In May 2013, a Ghoul disclosed that they had started to reveal their membership in the group to their local friends and family "for house peace."
In an August 2013 interview with Jack Osbourne for Fuse News, a member of the band said that Dave Grohl has dressed up as a Nameless Ghoul and secretly performed with Ghost. In April 2014, a Nameless Ghoul revealed that the group has had several member changes through the years.
The Swedish Performing Rights Society is rumored to have Tobias Forge , vocalist of Swedish bands Subvision and Repugnant and former guitarist for Crashdïet (using the alias Mary Goore in the latter two), credited with songs as " A Ghoul Writer ". All of the band's songs are credited to "A Ghoul Writer", causing people to suspect that Forge is Papa Emeritus. Ghost has stated they will not comment on any rumors of their identities. Following a lawsuit in 2017, Forge's identity as Papa Emeritus was revealed.
In March 2017, Swedish musician Martin Persner of the band Magna Carta Cartel claimed in a short video clip that he was the rhythm guitarist, also known as Omega, from 2009 to July 2016. This marked the first time that someone has publicly identified themselves as a member of Ghost. A few months before Persner's announcement, the band recruited a new female bass player who was suspected to be Lez Zeppelin bassist Megan Thomas, later confirmed by Forge. A lawsuit against Forge in April 2017 on behalf of four past members revealed their names, as well as the names of several more past members. When asked about the complete lineup change at the end of 2016, Forge stated that Ghost "was always sort of… I guess a Bathory sort of band, where there was people playing live, and the people playing live [were] not necessarily the same that played on the records." The reason for this lawsuit was because they found the amount of money they got paid too little. In the contract they signed it was clear they were there to do the live music and got paid for that. The band also is officially of Tobias Forge which means that the players get less paid. This made them lose the lawsuit.
Ghost's music has been categorized in many genres, though critics usually classify them as heavy metal, doom metal, hard rock, and to a lesser extent progressive rock and psychedelic rock. Adrien Begrand of PopMatters stated that Ghost recalls "the early sounds of Black Sabbath , Pentagram , and Judas Priest , as well as the progressive and psychedelic rock of the late '60s." Speaking to Noisey.com, a Nameless Ghoul described Ghost as a black metal band in the traditional sense, but said that they probably do not fit into the norms of the current black metal scene. This Nameless Ghoul described Ghost's music as a mix between pop music and death metal.
In an interview, a Nameless Ghoul said they are influenced by "everything ranging from classic rock to the extreme underground metal bands of the ’80s to film scores to the grandeur of emotional harmonic music." A member of the band said the Swedish and Scandinavian black metal movement of the early '90s plays a major role in their act, and said that each member has come from a metal background. However, the band has stated several times that they do not aim to be a metal band. For their second album , Ghost chose a more diverse songwriting style; a member said, "we tried to deliberately have every song have its own signature." O nly a few members actually write songs. The writers compose an acoustic outline of songs before other instrumentation is added so it sounds like a group, rather than being dominated by guitar. In 2017, Forge claimed that he was the main author of every song except " Year Zero " and " Zenith ", which were Persner's ideas. Asked how he keeps Ghost's sound intact despite large lineup changes, Forge said he has to teach them to play like he does; explaining that while he is a good guitar player, he is only an "okay" drummer, bassist and keyboardist. So it is a matter of getting them to "underperform [laughs] together."
Their lyrics are blatantly Satanic; one Ghoul said, "the first album is about the forthcoming arrival of the Devil, spoken very much in biblical terms, much like the church will say that doomsday is near. Infestissumam is about the presence of the Devil and the presence of the Antichrist." However, the band has said several times their image is all tongue-in-cheek, citing that "We have no militant agenda. We are an entertainment group." Infestissumam also deals with "how people relate to a deity or God, themes like submission and superstition, the horrors of being religious." Additionally, a Nameless Ghoul said the second album is about "how mankind—predominantly men—what they have deemed to be the presence of the Devil, throughout history and even nowadays. And that’s why the record is so fueled with sexual themes and females ... the Inquisition was basically men accusing women of being the Devil just because they had a hard-on for them." The group's theatrics are influenced by Kiss , David Bowie and Alice Cooper , but a member said they are more influenced by Pink Floyd . A Ghoul later cited Death SS as an influence on their "gimmick" but not their music.
Controversy [ ]
Ghost's Satanic theme has proven problematic for the group, especially in the United States. While recording Infestissumam in Nashville, Tennessee, they were unable to find choral singers who would sing their lyrics, forcing them to record the parts in Hollywood. The group was unable to find a record manufacturer in the US to press the album because it featured artwork showing nudity, which resulted in a delay to the album's release. When one interviewer suggested that the band's music had become more "radio-friendly" and that they were being accepted into the US mainstream, a Nameless Ghoul replied that in the US their music was banned from major chain stores, most late-night television shows, and most commercial radio stations. He said, "So, yes, mainstream America is absolutely welcoming us with open legs." During an interview with Loudwire in October 2015, a band member stated that as of 2015, the US had become more accepting of their music and imagery, further evidenced by their appearance as the main musical guests on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on October 30, 2015, during a Halloween-themed episode. This was Ghost's first live television appearance in the United States.
Chicago heavy metal-themed restaurant Kuma's Corner added a hamburger called " The Ghost " to its menu in tribute to Ghost. Its recipe includes goat shoulder, red wine reduction, and a communion wafer. Local Catholic institutions have called the burger "tasteless" and demanded Kuma's Corner to remove it from the menu. The restaurant's owner acknowledged the controversy and stated they respected religion while refusing to remove the burger, citing the First Amendment. To demonstrate his respect for opposing views, he also donated $1,500 to Catholic Charities of the Chicago Archdiocese. .
Awards and nominations [ ]
Grammis Awards 
Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards 
Loudwire Music Awards
P3 Guld Awards
Bandit Rock Awards
Tourography [ ]
For a listing of Ghost's Ritual tours, please see main article: Tourography .
- All incarnations of Papa Emeritus , including Cardinal Copia, have been portrayed by Tobias Forge .
References [ ]
- ↑ Official Ghost Ask Me Anything - Reddit
- ↑ Grammis on Wikipedia
- ↑ Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards on Wikipedia
- ↑ Best Live Act of 2013 – 3rd Annual Loudwire Music Awards
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 " VIDEO: Ghost perform at Sweden’s Bandit Rock Awards ". Hennemusic . February 8, 2016
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 " Alla vinnare i Bandit Rock Awards 2017! " (in Swedish) I Like Radio . January 18, 2017
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 " Bandit Rock Awards 2019 – D-A-D avslutade galan med fullt set i högform " (in Swedish). RockBladet . February 19, 2019
- ↑ 58th Annual Grammy Awards on Wikipedia
- 1 Nameless Ghouls
- 2 Papa Emeritus IV
- 3 Papa Emeritus III
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Are they Nameless Ghouls? Who is the real Papa Emeritus? Ghost are perfect enigmas. Here are ten facts you need to know about Sweden’s heavy metal icons.
Image goes hand in hand with music, whether it’s the skinny black jeans and white hi-tops of thrash metal in the 80s, the flannel and combats of grunge in the 90s, or the comic-book space demons of KISS . Few bands today, however, push the envelope to the point where their theatrics are as important as their music. Ghost is a rare exception. Their very existence comes with a concept, backstory, and elaborate visuals, with these embellishments being as inherent to the band’s performances as guitars or drums. Here, then, are ten facts that uncover the mystery behind the Swedish heavy metal band Ghost.
Listen to the best of Ghost on Apple Music and Spotify .
The Satanic cult
Religious imagery and satanism have forever been intertwined with heavy metal music ; genre pioneers Black Sabbath were masters of marrying the two. But Ghost takes the construct to the next level. Their stage set during live concerts is dressed as a church. The idea is to present music as salvation, with the live show playing the role of a religious service. Then are the musicians: fronted by a satanic priest-like figure in papal regalia who possesses a voice with an unexpectedly enticing charm and vulnerability, backed by a group of cardinals known as the “Nameless Ghouls.”
‘Since You’ve Been Gone’: Graham Bonnet Sings A Rainbow
Ghost tease mysterious concert film, ghost’s frontmen.
Ghost has so far appointed four frontmen. First was Papa Emeritus, who took on vocal duties for their debut album, Opus Eponymous , and its consequent tour. He was replaced in 2012 by Papa Emeritus II, for the Infestissumam cycle; in 2015, his younger brother, Papa Emeritus III, took over for the Meliora run. In September 2017, Papa Emeritus III was publicly ousted while performing in Gothenburg, Sweden, to be replaced by the significantly older Papa Emeritus 0 – later named Papa Nihil, an ancestor to all other Papas. However, Ghost’s new leader was named, in April 2018, as Cardinal Copia, an “apprentice” priest yet to earn his full Ghost regalia.
Since the band’s inception, in 2006, Ghost has maintained a strictly anonymous existence. The various frontmen never gave interviews, instead press duties were handled by the Nameless Ghouls. These are likely to be Ghost mastermind Tobias Forge, who also portrayed each of the Papa characters and is currently serving as Cardinal Copia. Forge was forced to give up his identity in 2017 when former bandmates sued him over royalties. His backing band retain their anonymity and maintain their mystery at record store signings by stamping their ascribed alchemical symbols for fire, water, air, earth, and ether.
Ghost formed around one song
Prior to forming Ghost, Tobias Forge was in the death metal band Repugnant, and sleaze metal band Crashdïet. In 2006 he came up with a riff that he described as “probably the heaviest metal riff that has ever existed.” To accompany it, he penned a chorus that “haunted my dreams.” The song developed into “Stand By Him” from Ghost’s debut album, Opus Eponymous , but Forge knew that he couldn’t carry off such a dark sound with his clean-cut looks. Instead, he created the concept and characters of Ghost as a vehicle for his new musical project.
Forge’s brother died the day Ghost came alive
Further to “Stand By Him,” Forge penned the tracks “Prime Mover” and “Death Knell,” and in 2008 entered a recording studio with former Repugnant bandmate Gustaf Lindström to lay them down. Those songs were later posted onto MySpace on March 12, 2010 and would attract immediate attention from record labels and managers wanting to sign the group. Little did Forge know that, as he uploaded the songs, his brother, Sebastian, would succumb to heart disease later that day. Forge looked up to his brother, who was 13 years older, and introduced him to many of the artists that would later influence Ghost.
What you see is not necessarily what you get, musically speaking. Though Forge’s main influence was the black metal of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, you might be surprised to hear a far more prominent pop and AOR influence in Ghost’s music. Though genres as diverse as doom metal, hard rock, prog rock, arena rock, and psychedelic rock have been used to describe Ghost, their sound is rooted in black metal, with Forge adding that they are influenced by “everything ranging from classic rock to the extreme underground metal bands of the 80s to film scores to the grandeur of emotional harmonic music.”
The live band is not the same as the studio one
When the identity of Ghost’s various frontmen was revealed by way of the 2017 royalties dispute, Forge went on the record to describe exactly how he saw the band. He described Ghost as a solo project that utilized hired musicians to translate his work in the live arena. Forge often records all the instruments himself in the studio, calling in his favorite musicians where he feels they will be of good use. And since all touring members of Ghost have other bands anyway, Forge prefers to give them time off between tours so that they can tend to their other projects and come back fresh.
Dave Grohl was once a Nameless Ghoul
Though the identities of the Nameless Ghouls remain a mystery, members are very approachable to fans who hang around the backstage door after the show. However, those die-hards remain respectful to Ghost’s anonymity and any shameless selfies are kept away from social media, so speculation abounds as to who the other members might be. But it was confirmed in an interview with Jack Osbourne, for Fuse News , in August 2013, that Foo Fighters frontman and one-time Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl once donned the Nameless Ghouls costume to play with them live. He had also produced Ghost’s 2013 EP, If You Have Ghost .
Banned in the USA
Ghost’s controversial image, lyrical themes, and artwork haven’t always worked in their favor. When they required a choir for the Infestissumam album, they were unable to find one in Nashville – where they were holed up in the studio – willing to commit the band’s lyrics to tape. Then, when it came to pressing the album, no US manufacturer was willing to take on the project due to the graphic nature of the artwork. In Ghost’s earlier days, too, no chain stores, TV shows or commercial radio stations would touch their music. Mainstream America seems to have warmed to them over the years: Ghost appeared on a Halloween-themed Late Show with Stephen Colbert in October 2015.
Ghost have won multiple awards
Further to their acceptance into mainstream culture, Ghost has won multiple awards in their Swedish homeland. The Grammis are the Swedish equivalent to the American Recording Academy’s Grammys, and Ghost won the award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Album in three consecutive years, for 2014’s Infestissumam , the following year’s Meliora , and the 2016 EP Popestar . They also won a coveted Grammy for Best Metal Performance, for the Meliora track “Cirice,” in 2016, and earned further nominations for Prequelle as Best Rock Album and “Rats’ as Best Rock Song in 2019.
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Ghost: The True Story of Death, Religion and Rock & Roll Behind Metal's Strangest Band
"I have a hard time explaining what could have been. I just know that I was put in a situation where I felt that it was the time to do this because I have no choice anyway."
Tobias Forge is talking about the fact that he's speaking with Revolver as Tobias Forge. He's sitting in the upstairs lounge at a Los Angeles photography studio. He's wearing jeans and a leather jacket. He's sipping coffee. In the past, this scene would look very different. Forge would only be wearing street clothes if he were being interviewed over the phone. If we were talking in person — as we are now — he'd be wearing the full facemask and tailored tunic of a "Nameless Ghoul," the interchangeable stage moniker he gives to all of the musicians who play with him in Sweden's Grammy-winning occult-rock act Ghost.
Forge doesn't even look like a dude who might be in a band, much less a band like Ghost. He's got short hair. He's clean-shaven. He's well manicured. He's exceedingly polite. He speaks with a Swedish accent and could easily pass for a grad student at UCLA, albeit a particularly pale one. You'd never know that he's secretly into Satan. You'd never know the truth.
As Ghost's vocalist, songwriter and all-around mastermind, Forge dreamed up a successive string of satanic popes — Papa Emeritus I, II and III — one for each of the band's first three albums. The characters appeared onstage in skull makeup and three-cornered papal mitre, singing odes to Lucifer and songs about zombie queens, about imaginary schoolgirls with psychic powers, and about very real Hungarian countesses who bathed in the blood of virgins. But Papa never gave interviews. For press purposes, Forge would pose as a Nameless Ghoul instead. And now, on Ghost's fourth and latest album, Prequelle , a "new" frontman has emerged: Cardinal Copia.
Confused yet? Well, that's because it's supposed to be confusing — or at least misleading. For the first seven years of the band's public existence, Forge did everything in his power to preserve his anonymity. Obfuscation, denial and misdirection were the orders of the day. He was — and is — the rarest of rock stars: Rather than craving the spotlight, he actively avoided it. "It goes against the idea of being a person onstage: wanting not to be seen," he observes. "And that proved to be more or less impossible. So that makes the story a little different because we weren't building our brand on the indulgence of sort of masturbating in the personal cult."
But now some former Nameless Ghouls have filed a lawsuit. They're suing Forge for money they say he owes them. Naturally, his real name appears in the legal documents. As a result, Forge's astonishing run of anonymity has come to a close. His hand has been forced. He's been outed. But the devil, as usual, is in the details. "Once the spotlight is cast on you, you can either step out of it and hope it won't follow you, or you have to speak," Forge acknowledges. "But you have to do something because people are watching. And I definitely know that I'm too far from the shore that I started off from to not realize the severity of the situation. I felt like if this is as good as I think it is and what I've made people believe — and what people in turn have made me believe that it is, it should stand for a little bit of remodeling."
The "it" he refers to is Ghost. And the remodeling is extensive, cosmetically speaking. As of last year, Forge has an entirely new cast of Nameless Ghouls. Papa Emeritus III, singer on 2015's Meliora and 2016's Popestar EP, is no more. Cardinal Copia is the new frontman. Of course, Forge is the Cardinal. And he still writes all of Ghost's songs. But while many fans have suspected this for some time, now they know . "If there is anyone who's sort of questioning the new stance, [ Ghost ] is still based on the same modus operandi," he says. "The only difference is, I've sort of mentioned my name."
In the spirit of full disclosure: I've known Tobias Forge since April of 2013. That was when my band, Ides of Gemini, was the support act on Ghost's second North American tour. In those days, very few people knew the true identities of the group's members. As part of the tour arrangement, my bandmates and I had to sign a contract agreeing not to take photos of any member of Ghost while they were out of costume.
Of course, the band's fans signed no such agreement. Which makes what I witnessed on that tour all the more fascinating. On most nights, fans would wait by Ghost's tour bus after the show to meet the band and shag autographs. Forge and his bandmates would stroll out of the venue in their regular clothes, fully acknowledging that they were the men behind the masks. They'd shake hands, sign records and chitchat. Not once did I see a fan reach for a phone or a camera to snap a photo. Not once in an entire month, in 22 cities across the U.S. and Canada. And yet the social media age was well underway. The general public did not hesitate to post close-ups of the soggy burrito they ate for lunch, much less photos of an encounter with a prominent musician. But the folks who came to those gigs had no desire to expose anyone. They didn't want to demystify the show they had just seen. They wanted to share the fantasy.
Forge has a theory about this phenomenon. While other groups that came up during the early days of social media relied on those platforms not only for promoting the band itself, but for promoting the members individually, Ghost short-circuited this process by not allowing the individual members to publicly acknowledge they were even in the group. "[ Usually ] you have a band and then you have four or five members who are posting photos of everything that they're doing, and that combined creates this public image of the band," he explains. "And since that was obviously an absolute no-no with Ghost — still is — and we were overcompensating with an image, people started focusing on the image [ instead ]. And I guess they were appreciating the fact that we were creating this forum in which they could, in a slightly old-school way, imagine things rather than having it sort of smeared in your face the way that you would if you were a fan of a sentence-for-a-name band where you know everything [ and ] there's no secrets whatsoever."
PAPA COMES ALIVE
Ghost was born in 2006, when Forge wrote a song called "Stand by Him." A chugging, melodic paean to Satan that fused the metallic guitars of Mercyful Fate with the sunny vocal harmonies of Blue Öyster Cult and high liturgical atmosphere, it was unlike anything he'd written in the past. He called his friend Gustaf Lindström to help him record it. The two had played together in the short-lived death-metal outfit Repugnant, which at one point included future members of In Solitude and Tribulation. "Stand by Him" would later appear with English lyrics on Ghost's 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous , but at this early stage its words were in Swedish. "It sounded great, but I didn't really know what it was," Forge recalls. "Occult rock is now obviously a very common term but at that point [ the song ] just felt oddly attractive. I told Gustaf, 'If I can write two more like this, we can definitely call it something and do something with it.'"
In early 2008, the duo hit the studio to record the first three Ghost songs: "Stand by Him," "Prime Mover" and "Death Knell." "I write everything on drums and bass [ as well as guitar ], so I'd already sort of figured the songs out," Forge explains. "We had a drum station, a bass station, a guitar station and a vocal station and just circled around. At the end of that weekend, we had three songs recorded."
Immediately obvious: The material's satanic lyrics and vintage horror-movie vibe were at odds with Forge's choirboy looks. "This definitely does not sound like two dudes that look like you and I," Forge remembers telling Lindström. "With my other projects, I was definitely missing that horror aspect. For me, this needs to be a theater band. And if we're gonna do a theater band, we should be anonymous. It was completely juxtaposed to normal rock showmanship, I guess. It was very clear to me that we cannot just get a band together and rehearse and then go out and play live. We needed to maybe get a whole record recorded and release something and then maybe we could play at Roadburn."
He already had the band name. "We gotta call this Ghost," Forge recalls. "That was more or less simultaneous to the recording."
There was a snag, though: Forge had no desire to be the singer. He wanted to play guitar. "Even when I was a kid, I always sort of identified myself with Keith Richards and Slash more than the singers of the bands," he says. "And even though I absolutely adore Mick Jagger in 1982, the way he looked and the way he performed, I wanted more to be the guitar player who was cool and smoked a cigarette without coughing. And so I was like, 'These are just demos with my vocals.' They were gonna be guide vocals."
Forge's first choice for the vocalist position was Messiah Marcolin, former singer for Swedish doom masters Candlemass. But Marcolin turned him down. Forge then approached Mats Levén, a veteran Swedish vocalist who did a brief stint in guitar wizard Yngwie Malmsteen's band and has since become the latest singer of Candlemass. But Levén passed, as well. So did Christer Göransson of Mindless Sinner, Eighties metal heroes from Forge's hometown of Linköping, Sweden. ("He said, 'I have my own band and this seems a little bit goofy,'" Forge recalls.) So did JB Christoffersson of Grand Magus. Forge became Ghost's singer by default.
At the time, Forge was in his late twenties. He was married, with twin infant daughters. He worked at a call center for a Swedish mobile phone company. Ghost was his sixth band. "You can regard my life and say that not a whole lot happened before that," he says. "I had two kids and a social life and [ getting married ] was a big step in life, but career-wise and [ in terms of ] fulfilling yourself and touring goals, it was definitely 29 years of what felt like non-activity."
Then he posted the Ghost demos on MySpace. "This page we had was all very, very clandestine," he recalls. "I think it said 'Ghost,' but from what I remember, it was a picture of a cathedral in the moonlight and it just said 'satanic doom' or something like that — very, very simple. I really tried to narrow down the demographics so it was people [ who ] were into bands that I sort of figured that we were, in one way or form, similar to. That was anything from Blue Öyster Cult to Pentagram to Saint Vitus and that whole doom scene — Candlemass, obviously — Angel Witch, Demon … You know, anybody that liked dark rock with some sort of melody in it."
Within two days of posting the tracks, Forge was being contacted by record labels and managers from around the globe. "We went from absolutely nothing, a complete unknown — maybe 10 people in the world knew about it before that — and 48 hours later the band was already being approached by all kinds of people," he enthuses. "My career trajectory changed more in those 24 to 48 hours than I had ever experienced in my life."
Ghost premiered on March 12th, 2010. That's when Forge posted the first songs online. It's also the day his brother Sebastian died. "I didn't know at the time, but he had a heart disease that was, there's an elegant word for it that I don't remember, but apparently there's a condition where your [ heart ] muscles basically stiffen up," he explains. "So unfortunately, he passed away literally on the day Ghost went public. That night, my whole life changed."
A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG SATANIST
Tobias Forge is standing in a church. He's six or seven years old. He's with his mom. She works in a gallery. She appreciates art. She wants her son to appreciate art, too. "She was always very keen on taking me to churches," he explains. "She might say now in older age that she's sort of borderline religious, but back then it was just treating churches like museums."
One particular church in Linköping stood out. It was built in the 1500s. It was Catholic. It was creepy. "It had that evil feel, with a lot of old, scary paintings and big stained-glass windows and all that stuff I've sort of carried forth with me," Forge says. "It felt like a magical place. On the other hand, I think it triggered a lot of the opposition that made me, in my adolescence, so unquestionably throw my hands into the hands of Satan."
Of course, there were other triggers, as well — namely a wicked stepmother and an ill-tempered schoolteacher. "I didn't see my stepmother very often, maybe every other weekend," Forge explains. "I understand now that I was the kid that [ my father ] had from a previous relationship and I was an irritation in their new family, but she just happened to be religious, as well. And she was very strict. And sometimes she sort of did that in the name of Christ, which did not paint me a very nice picture of Christian people."
The schoolteacher was even worse. Forge was in her classroom for the first and second grades. She was in her sixties, bordering on retirement, and she regarded the era of corporal punishment in schools as a lost golden age. "She was very sour, very strict, very mean," Forge laments. "Had it not been for the fact that it was illegal, she would have definitely hit us. She was a no-bullshit sort of woman, but completely without humor. There was no charm whatsoever. What I remember is that she imposed a lot of religion classes on us — more than I think was according to the curriculum. She just represented this sanctimonious authority that I hated. And that in combination with the alienation I felt every other weekend going to [ my stepmother's ] home that was also sort of infiltrated by religion definitely made me run headfirst into the arms of the devil."
Luckily, Forge's older brother, Sebastian, was there to provide some rock & roll rebellion. "When I was three or four, my brother gave me a few records that I guess he bought for himself," he explains. "A Siouxsie and the Banshees record, a Kim Wilde record, a Rainbow record and a Kiss record. That was Love Gun and I was like, 'Whoa!' And he just said, 'Uh, you can have it.' Technically it was just staying in my room, you know, so it wasn't going far. He was very cool."
Forge says his childhood revolved around his mother and brother. But Sebastian was 13 years older. When Sebastian moved out at age 19, Forge essentially became an only child. "I've always spent a lot of time in my imaginary world with records and films and in books and papers and magazines," he says. "And maybe it goes without saying, but there was very little censorship in our home. There was a little bit of a guiding hand or someone explaining the horror film I'd seen on TV. It was like an explanation of what we're seeing: 'It's fake. That's not real blood.' So from very early on I had a very deep fascination with cinema."
By now, it's 1987. Forge is just six years old. But the key components of Ghost are already starting to converge. Rock bands wearing makeup? Check. Horror flicks? Check. A fascination with Christian symbols and architecture? Check. An ever-increasing sense of religion as a control mechanism? Double check. But you can thank his big brother for making the final connection between rock music and Satan — with an assist from Nikki Sixx. "Sebastian also gave me Shout at the Devil by Mötley Crüe," Forge explains. "That was a record that actually scared me. I loved it, but I found it very, very terrifying — especially the intro. A little bit later, I also started liking the Rolling Stones a lot, and with their discography you had 'Sympathy for the Devil' and Their Satanic Majesties Request ."
Wide-eyed screenings of a few of the Eighties' most entertaining satanic-panic movies followed, as did trips to the sci-fi bookstore in Stockholm, where Forge purchased a copy of the dubious black-magic grimoire, Necronomicon . By fifth grade, he was drawing upside-down crosses on his notebooks like the card-carrying hesher he had become. But he traces most of it back to Sebastian, who provided him with the building blocks for Ghost at a ridiculously early age. "My brother had an immense impact on me," he concedes. "He had a massive music interest, he always rented films. He had a lot of friends who were also in bands and so there was a great influx of teenage culture in our house. When I was three, he was 16, so I was exposed to a lot of things that you might not normally be exposed to when you're three years old. He was very kind and very caretaking and, I guess because of the vast age difference, he didn't object to me being around."
When Sebastian passed away unexpectedly on the exact day Tobias posted the first Ghost songs online, Forge felt a distinct transference of energy. "Ever since then, it's hard not to feel that there might have been some sort of universal trade-off, like he was just giving me a big push in the back and it hasn't stopped since," he ventures. "To take one loss and then you accumulate the worth of that and sort of bake it into, like, a power bun. You remember in Back to the Future III when he has those logs of wood that he spiked with some sort of shit that makes the locomotive move faster? So far it feels like that's how I've been able to sort of redirect. It's like a mental aikido."
If there's a recurring theme on Ghost's new album, it's rats — of both the long-tailed rodent and human-garbage varieties. Prequelle songs like "See the Light" and, uh, "Rats" feature Forge singing about the toothy little fuckers that carried the Black Plague through Europe during medieval times. But he's also talking about the proverbial rats of the here and now: politicians with the power to kick off the apocalypse, nuclear or otherwise. "I think that there's a similarity between today and what went on in the 1340s and 1350s in the sense that it feels like our world is just about to end," he says. "On a brighter note, that has happened many times. It happens as we speak: I mean, if you ask someone who is from Aleppo, he or she will probably tell you that his or her world just disintegrated. So the end of the world happens every now and then in someplace. But between Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, North Korea, ISIS, the world economy, China and all these things, there's an overall sort of feeling that we don't know what's gonna happen."
That uncertainty is only exacerbated by the widespread regression of human discourse via social media. "For many, many years in modern life we prided ourselves on greater morals and being smarter than we were in the Middle Ages," Forge explains. "But I think that online mannerisms are very close to open-square stonings many hundreds of years ago when people were fucking barbarians."
He points specifically to online bullying. "Twenty years ago, before the internet and before social media, if you were a kid who was bullied, at least you had the luxury of being able to shut the door and leave the bullies outside," he says. "It was something that took place in the confines of school or [ on ] the way home from school. If you were spoken of in negative terms, it might not reach you, whereas now you cannot hide. You're constantly in the spotlight, open to anyone's spite. And I don't think that that's necessarily a good power to hand over to man."
Ultimately, then, the rats are us. "Rats are a disease-spreading enemy in great numbers that come from all over, that surround you," Forge offers. "Rats come from the sewer. They can come up from your toilet. They can come up through your sink. They're in your walls, if you're unlucky."
He's sure it's all leading somewhere, but Forge doesn't claim to have a crystal ball. "We're at a point where something needs to shift, but I don't have the answer," he concludes. "I don't think the world will implode or disintegrate, but I think that it needs to shift somehow. And it will."
There's another aspect to Prequelle that might not be immediately apparent: the age-old story of the master and the apprentice, of the older generation passing the torch to the younger. "That's why we have a new guy," Forge explains. "The Cardinal is not the boss. He's just the toastmaster. A cardinal is junior to a pope figure. We still have Papa Emeritus [ Zero, a.k.a. Papa Nihil ] but he's passing on. He needs to teach the Cardinal to become a pope, to earn his skull paint."
Forge says it was always the plan for Ghost to have a succession of Papas. Each one has a built-in term limit — kinda like presidents. "And then there was gonna be a moment in time where you have to sort of chew through a little bit of an underdog person that you might not like," he says with a laugh. "So we end up with this character that I'm not even fond of myself. He's new and he is an imposter and he hasn't proven himself yet. But if he does, he will become Papa IV."
As for the previous Papas, Ghost revealed in an April video that they'd been slain to make way for Copia; their bodies have been on display for VIP ticket-holders on the band's trek in support of Prequelle . "They're gonna be put back in use now on tour," Forge says playfully, "but slightly less animated than before."
It's all part of his grand plan. "Obviously Ghost and everything that comes with it is based very much on a rock fan perspective," he says. "It's my way of trying to procreate with rock history. I've achieved so many things now that 10 or 15 years ago were inconceivable. And I'm not at all talking about monetary gain. I'm talking about just merging with the night, like with a dream of whatever it was that I encountered as a child. That's still the thing I'm trying to capture."
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