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Ditanya Tentang Band yang Menginspirasi Dalam Berkarya, Vokalis Ghost: Bukan Metallica dan Iron Maiden
Penulis: Nada Aprillia
Editor: Alvin Bahar
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Identitas Mantan Gitaris GHOST Terungkap
Setelah tak lagi tergabung di band rock eksentrik Ghost, gitaris asal Swedia, Martin Persner akhirnya menguak identitas aslinya, sebagai sosok sesungguhnya di balik topeng Omega, atau Quintessence atau salah satu personel dari deretan Nameless Ghoul, sebutan untuk para musisi yang tergabung dalam Ghost. Pengakuan itu ia tuturkan lewat video berdurasi dua menit, yang kemarin diunggah ke media sosial.
“Hai, nama saya Martin, dan saya telah menjadi bagian dari band rock Ghost selama tujuh tahun,” ucap Martin di video tersebut. Ia juga lantas menyebutkan bahwa ia tidak lagi terlibat di band tersebut sejak Juli 2016 silam. Namun alasan ia hengkang dari Ghost tidak diutarakan. “Tidak hari ini, lain kali saja,” cetusnya.
Selain mengucapkan terima kasih kepada para penggemar atas dukungan mereka selama ini terhadap perjalanan karir Ghost, Martin juga memanfaatkan kesempatan tersebut untuk mengumumkan kebangkitan Magna Carta Cartel (MCC), band lamanya yang sudah lama vakum.
“MCC ‘tidur’ selama tujuh tahun saat Ghost mulai berjalan. Tak banyak waktu buat MCC dalam masa yang sangat lama. Sekarang segalanya sudah berubah, waktunya buat MCC untuk bangkit dan bersinar kembali.”
Baru-baru ini, MCC sudah merilis single baru bertajuk “Sway”, yang nantinya akan termuat di album baru yang bakal rilis pada 20 April 2017 mendatang.
Dalam tubuh Ghost sendiri, pergantian personel konon kerap terjadi tanpa pemberitahuan ke publik. Bahkan setelah menghabiskan jadwal tur di Amerika Utara pada akhir 2016 lalu, vokalis Ghost, Papa Emeritus telah melakukan perombakan menyeluruh, mengganti seluruh musisi yang tergabung di Ghost.
Pada Selasa, 28 Februari lalu, Ghost berhasil memenangkan penghargaan kategori “Best Hard Rock/Metal” di ajang Swedish Grammis Awards yang berlangsung di Konserthuset, Stockholm, Swedia. Ghost berhasil menyisihkan pesaingnya, Amaranthe, Cult of Luna, Dark Tranquillity dan In Flames.
Rilisan terakhir Ghost adalah “Popestar”, sebuah album mini berisi lima lagu yang didominasi komposisi daur ulang, diedarkan via Loma Vista Recordings, sejak 16 September 2016.
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Swedish hard rock band noted for hooky melodies, Satanism, outlandish costumes, and provocative stage shows.
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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.”
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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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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 Nameless Ghoul (Sodo)
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Every Member Of Ghost Explained
Ghost is not just a metal band — they are an entire phantasmagoria, haunted by the lore and rumors dreamed up by their lead singer and mastermind, Tobias Forge.
Forge, who grew up in Linköping, Sweden, took on his brother's obsession with rock and amassed an enviable collection of metal magazines before he was 10 (via Los Angeles Times ). He got into the underground metal scene in his teens. He looks back at that time as having been deeply immersed in death metal and black metal, but those genres were hardly his only inspirations. As Total Guitar says, he was inspired by everything from Black Sabbath to Blue Oyster Cult and even ABBA (they are part of his Swedish heritage, after all).
Ghost started out with an inverse Pope who worshipped the devil and was often surrounded by his Nameless Ghouls. That Pope, Papa Emeritus I, was mysteriously killed off only to be replaced by his successor, Papa Emeritus II. The inevitable happened again: Forge (the only one behind those corpselike faces) buried the Papas for a while and performed as Cardinal Copia, who was eventually anointed as another Satanic Pope. But listen closely, because the lyrics are far from a musical black mass.
"The lyrics are not about God. They're about man," Forge told the Los Angeles Times. "We are, at the end of the day, an occult, pop, satanic sort of rock 'n' roll band meant to entertain a group of people who are already down with that stuff."
Papa Emeritus I (2010-2012)
Papa Emeritus I was the first demonic Pope character of Ghost who emerged with their premiere album "Opus Eponymous." It was the moment church went metal.
The skull-esque makeup, mitre, and robes adorned with upside-down crosses — which all the Papa iterations would wear in one form or another — were the brainchild of lead singer Tobias Forge. The Los Angeles Times observes that Forge had a different approach to occult metal as opposed to the expected chorus of screams and swears and explosive guitar riffs. He delivers the lyrics of a black sermon with a hypnotically melodic voice. Ghost first formed in 2006, and the release of "Opus Eponymous" in 2010 saw the emergence of the first of a line of anti-Popes blessing (or should it be damning?) the stage (via Ghost Cult Magazine ).
The vestments of Papa Emeritus I are mostly black, crowned with a silver mitre and slashed with red panels glittering with the repeated Cross of Saint Peter. Watch Forge perform as Papa I singing "Death Knell" at a 2011 concert, and it is clear he goes beyond just throwing on a costume to embodying the character — though the costume is a spectacle in itself. His hand motions appear to be leading a blasphemous mass as he walks solemnly across the stage.
Papa Emeritus II (2013-2015)
As "Opus Eponymous" gave way to the band's second album, "Infestissumam," Papa Emeritus I was overthrown by Papa Emeritus II. The successor to Emeritus I appeared with an even ghastlier face and more elaborate vestments that were almost completely black, with the only flashes of heavenly light coming from his silver mitre and ornamental inverted crosses. According to Seattle Weekly , "Infestissumam" is an album devoted to the mythical birth of Satan. This disturbed some printers to the point that they actually refused to print the album art for the deluxe edition, which features — among other unholy things — a throwback to the 16th century in the form of a massive Renaissance orgy. It was because of this that the release ended up being delayed.
Forge was still anonymous at this point — as anonymous as the Nameless Ghouls who made up the rest of the band. In the middle of 2014, one of the Ghouls leaked the impending replacement of Papa Emeritus II to Louder as the "Infestissumam" cycle came to a close and teased possible candidates for the Papacy. The Ghoul in question was referring only to the character and not Forge himself, but remember that Forge still cloaked himself in anonymity during this era. Deepening the mystery was the mention of the band considering candidates when the only ones to be considered were coming into being in Forge's imagination. Blabbermouth.net gave away that Papa Emeritus II was last seen, appropriately enough, holding up a coffin lid on the cover of Sweden Rock Magazine.
Papa Emeritus III (2015-2017)
Papa Emeritus III is actually supposed to be the younger brother of Emeritus II, born only three months later — how that works out biologically remains a mystery (via Louder ). This Papa's skull face is more abstract, and his papal robes are slashed with purple, a slightly less nightmarish departure from his predecessor. Metal Insider announced the transformation in 2015 when Ghost supposedly recruited Papa III for their latest album, "Meliora." When Forge still went unidentified, the band wanted fans to believe that each Papa was a new singer rather than a different persona their only lead singer conjured up.
Another Nameless Ghoul told Loudwire that the succession of Papas was not unlike different actors playing the same role. That same Ghoul went on to say that the imagery and music of Ghost are inextricably linked. The band had no visuals when they put out their first EP, but their ghoulish image soon followed. In another Loudwire interview, Forge himself admitted that he had a reason for killing off previous Papas. While they all succeeded, and he never had a favorite, he needed to keep his audience (and himself) engaged somehow. "If we just continued with Papa to Papa to Papa to Papa, that would grow very boring," he said.
The Papa characters vanished temporarily after Papa III's "death" (though they are briefly seen as corpses in the "Chapter Three: Back on the Road" video). In a move that almost seems sacrilegious, the next frontman of the band was a mere cardinal.
Papa Nihil (2017-2020 and 2022-present)
Also known as Papa Emeritus Zero, Papa Nihil is the most ancient Papa character, and he first appeared at a Gothenburg concert and announced, "The Middle Ages begin now."
Papa Nihil has the sunken face of a mummy and the gilded robes of an archangel. He always seems to be on his last breath, shambling onstage with a walking stick in one hand and an oxygen mask over his mouth, according to Kerrang . This Papa is a central character in Ghost's promo videos from his wheezing entrance in "Chapter One: New Blood," where he insists his bloodline goes back generations upon generations, to his remembered '60s youth in "Chapter Eight: Kiss the Go-Goat".
The videos unravel Nihil's backstory, revealing that he was once a rocker in '60s Los Angeles. As Kerrang also remembers, the band supposedly played their first gig — to promote their new EP "Seven Inches of Satanic Panic" (released by Galaxy Recordings) — at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go Bar right on the Sunset Strip. "Seven Inches" was Ghost's actual 2019 vinyl record, which his aging fingers revealed at the end of "Chapter Eight," as he claimed it was time to rerelease the EP that gave his band their big break in 1969. He appears on the cover as a psychedelic nightmare.
Inevitably, Papa Nihil went on to die like the others, but unlike them, he was eventually resurrected. Planet Radio named him as the band's official anointer and saxophonist.
Cardinal Copia (2018-2020)
The poster ghoul for the album "Prequelle" wasn't an undead Pope but a cardinal sans white face paint, though still rocking the look of blackened eye sockets. Cardinal Copia has no relation to the exalted bloodline of the Papas. This is something Papa Nihil keeps endlessly complaining about starting in "Chapter One: New Blood."
As Loudwire observed, the video "Chapter Seven: New World Redro" is an homage to Stephen King's "The Shining." Papa Nihil repeatedly types, "All work and no play makes Papa a bad dad," while Cardinal Copia navigates the clergy headquarters — already a shadowy mausoleum — on a tricycle and runs into the same sorts of terrors Danny Torrance encounters in the movie. Notably, there is a pair of twin girls who walk on either side of Papa Nihil in some of the videos. They channel those creepy twins that beckoned Danny to come play with them by having them materialize in front of the Cardinal and try to get him to join in a ghostly game of Red Rover before they suddenly vanish.
Forge started rumors that Cardinal Copia could survive for more than one tour, as he told Australia's "The Music" podcast (via Loudwire ) in 2019. "Right now, if everything goes according to plan, we're hoping for Cardi to be strong enough and cool enough to possibly do something that none of the previous ones have done, and that's basically to do two cycles," he explained.
Papa Emeritus IV (2020-present)
Turned out Cardinal Copia escaped the fate of death to be reanointed as Papa Emeritus IV. No wonder he inherited Cardinal Copia's eye makeup.
Though Tobias Forge previously said he wasn't going to create any more Papas, he morphed Cardinal Copia into one. The unholy anointing happened during a 2020 concert in Mexico City, which also marked Forge's 40th birthday (via Revolver ). The transformation is captured in Ghost's "Life Eternal" video, in which a clip of Cardinal Copia somberly walking down the hall of the Clergy's mausoleum headquarters gives way to legions of adoring fans with and without makeup and masks (and sometimes mitres). The video ends in an explosion of smoke and confetti that makes way for the newly mitred Papa.
Papa Emeritus IV is the flashiest Papa character yet, with jewel-encrusted vestments decked out in gold thread. He went from Cardinal to Pope to usher in the era of Ghost's latest album, "Impera", according to Distorted Sound Magazine . Kerrang announced an epic crossover when Iron Maiden made this Papa a character on their "Legacy of the Beast" mobile game. Forge himself is a Maiden fan — something he focused on in a 2018 interview with Loudwire — and has even toured with them. "There's a lot of cross-pollination between Iron Maiden and Ghost nowadays," he told the outlet. "They have been extremely important for my whole reason wanting to be here and the reason why I've gotten to the place where I am now."
Omega (Martin Persner, 2010-2016)
Ever wonder who those spooky masked figures behind Papa (or Cardinal Copia, depending on the era) are? The Nameless Ghouls of Ghost had their identities set aside for more emphasis on the music and the mythos that Forge created for the Ghost universe. Ghouls have come and gone — but at least some have been revealed.
Guitarist Martin Persner was one iteration of the Nameless Ghoul known as Omega, according to Metal Injection . The former bandmate of Forge's — who played alongside him in Magna Carta Cartel pre-Ghost — was also the first Nameless Ghoul to reveal his human form. Initially, there was skepticism surrounding whether he was telling the truth since his face always remained hidden behind some sort of mask. But the rings he wears in the video announcing his parting ways with the band in 2017 are the same as those Omega wore up until then.
"I wrote some songs [for Ghost], but mostly it was [Tobias's] own songs, and I would come along, maybe, and say, 'Oh, it should be like...' and we would fight — as always," he told GoetiaMedia . Why Persner gave up Ghost may always be a mystery. He gave a cryptic response when asked the question, telling GoetiaMedia that he would rather not talk about it because it was too personal and only let on that "something horrible happened." Loudwire found out that Persner resurrected Magna Carta Cartel and has been with them since his exit from Ghost.
Aether (Chris Catalyst)
Chris Catalyst is the face behind the Nameless Ghoul, otherwise known as Aether. The former Sisters of Mercy guitarist, who has also played with bands such as Terrorvision, Ugly Kid Joe, and Ginger Wildheart, recently unmasked himself on Twitter after Ghost's European Imperatour (via Planet Radio ). "Amazing tour with our wonderful Ghost family," he tweeted. "I supposed that's that particular cat out of the bag."
The entire band is unmasked in the group photo he tweeted (along with the members of supporting acts Twin Temple and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats). If you really zoom in, you can see him flashing a peace sign over Tobias Forge's right shoulder. The face to the left of Forge is thought to be guitarist Per Eriksson, formerly of Katatonia and Bloodbath, whose Ghoul alias would be Fire if he really is one of these creatures. There has been no confession from him yet.
Some ex-Ghouls left the band with a lawsuit, as Blabbermouth reveals. In 2017, four of them sued Forge after being fired because they believed he was breaking a partnership agreement by withholding their share of the profits. It was this lawsuit that gave away Forge's identity after years of going incognito behind heavy stage makeup. Some of the Ghouls in question — Air and Water — eventually formed the cyberpunk band Priest.
When the Colorado Springs Independent (via Blabbermouth ) asked Forge whether he could have dodged that lawsuit by making the Ghouls' identities known, he said he believed so.
The Ghoulettes (2018-present)
The Nameless Ghouls were all male until 2016, when two Ghoulettes were introduced to the band. As MetalSucks remembers, the identity of the first Ghoulette slipped when a finger tattoo identified her as bassist Megan Thomas of all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band Lez Zeppelin, who had also been missing from concerts for no apparent reason. How long she stayed on with Ghost is unknown. As of 2018, the PRP noted that another Ghoulette had joined the lineup because of a telltale mask style.
The Ghouls started out as faceless and genderless beings in hooded black robes. When Papa Emeritus I swapped out his black vestments for ghastly white, the Ghouls did the same, with masks that covered their entire faces except for two eerie eye holes (via Planet Radio ). With the rise of Papa Emeritus II, they were back in black, with black leather masks covering all but their eyes. The Ghouls backing Papa Emeritus III wore mouthless horned demon face masks. It was the shinier versions of these chrome masks that appeared in 2018, which had female versions that featured longer molded "hair."
Ghoulettes now touring with Ghost are thought to be Cirrus and Sunshine — aka Laura Scarbourough of Diamond Kobra — and musical theatre performer Sophie Amelkin (per Planet Radio ). Their suspected identities haven't been officially confirmed or denied. Forge's inspiration for the current post-apocalyptic Ghoul masks were the (once again genderless) Tusken Raiders of "Star Wars," as he told Revolver . He was into the dead look.
Sister Imperator (2016-present)
Supposed nun Sister Imperator is the forbidden lover of Papa Nihil in Ghost lore — whatever vows these members of the clergy took evidently did not involve chastity. Sister is the only main character who does not play with the band. Her main role is to build mystery and anticipation in Ghost's music videos and series of promo videos, and according to Revolver , Forge uses her to do just that and still leave fans wondering at the end. She is first seen in "Chapter One: New Blood," when she announces to a curmudgeonly Papa Nihil that fresh blood is needed in the Clergy, and that fresh blood later turns out to be Cardinal Copia. Whether he actually belongs there is something they continue arguing about.
Nihil and Sister argue even through her lengthy stay in the hospital after nearly being crushed in a car accident in "Chapter Four: The Accident," in which the hearse she drives is sidetracked and goes up in flames. In "Chapter Five: The Call," a completely bandaged Sister makes her best attempt to dial him on a rotary phone, and they proceed to review the "Omen" movies. Alternative Press noticed that Sister was flaunting a stunningly new look after the bandages were removed.
The sexual tension between Nihil and Sister is obvious in the videos they appear in, coming to a climax in a Valentine's Day video clip . ( Metal Hammer confirms suspicions that they are recreating the infamous "horny pottery" scene from the movie "Ghost.")
The Clergy (2010-present)
Shrouded in mystery, the Clergy are supposed to be the larger (fictional) cult from which Ghost spawned. They are never seen, but always heard on social media. Metal Hammer describes them as beyond powerful but never actually appearing anywhere. While the Papas, Sister, and Cardinal Copia are regarded as clergy since they are supposed to be nuns and priests, they are still not the Clergy, who are supposedly some higher power. The Clergy surrounded Cardinal Copia when he was reanointed to become Papa Emeritus IV. They can also decide when it is time to kill off the latest Papa — or potentially morph him into something else.
The Clergy members are most visible through their announcements. Ghost's social media posts and YouTube videos often open with "[MESSAGE FROM THE CLERGY]" — and of course, an omnipotent power like them would use all caps to get the importance of the message across. This is always followed by "we wish to inform you" before the announcement is made (via Twitter ). But who are they? What we do know is that Sister Imperator is the head, according to Revolver . So she is both clergy and Clergy.
Even after all the reveals, Ghost continues to be shrouded in mystery, and there are some things that may never crawl out of the inner sanctum.
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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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Ghost: the definitive guide to every member of their crazy universe
From Papa Emeritus I to IV to Papa Nihil, Sister Imperator and beyond, here's everything you need to know about Ghost's colourful cast of characters
Ghost have long been shrouded in mysterious shenanigans. As well as the largely anonymous Nameless Ghouls that make up the bulk of the band, with each passing album, Ghost mastermind Tobias Forge has introduced a ghastly lead character to front the fold, starting back in 2010 with Papa Emeritus I for debut album Opus Eponymous . After Papas II and III followed for Infestissumam and Meliora respectively, for 2018's Prequelle , there was no numbered Papa to be found – just a Cardinal and another, newly introduced ancient figure known as Papa Nihil.
The plot has only thickened since then, with Cardinal Copia being upgraded to a Papa all of his own for the Impera era and even more strange and spooky characters being introduced into the Ghost canon. Here's our definitive guide to all of them so far.
Papa Emeritus I
AKA: The first one. Years Of Service: 2010-2012. Notes: Papa Emeritus I was the OG Ghost frontman and could usually be found stalking back and forth on stages wielding his trusty thurible (that’s that big, swinging incense burner thingy he used to have). The original, certainly, but arguably not the best.
Papa Emeritus II
AKA: The scary one. Years Of Service: 2013-2015. Notes: With a far ghastlier looking visage than his predecessor, Papa Emeritus II was also the first Papa to ditch the makeup when he fronted a special, three-song Ghost set for an Australian website in 2014. Though we’re still not convinced that was his real face, either.
Papa Emeritus III
AKA: The dandy. Years Of Service: 2015-2017. Notes: Allegedly the younger brother of Papa Emeritus II, Papa Emeritus III brought a new energy to Ghost, shrugging off his Papal robes mid-set for a snazzy suited-and-booted look that came with a host of sexually-charged stage moves. Oooh, the cad. It set a a new precedent for the dynamics of how Ghost shows would usually operate (let's just say the costume change count has only gone up since then). Papa III was eventually and unceremoniously killed off, along with his two predecessors, his decapitated head appearing on the cover of Metal Hammer in 2018. Oh dear.
AKA: The old one. Years Of Service: 1969-2020 alive, 2020-2022 as a spooky spirit Notes: Making his live debut seconds after Papa III was dragged off stage in Sweden in late 2017, Papa 0 looked older than time itself (er, no offense). His role was seemingly to mentor younger Papas and Papas-in-waiting, not least a newly arrived Cardinal who seemed to have more than just professional connections to the old-timer. Papa 0 could also, it would appear, bust out a mean saxophone solo, but that sadly wasn't enough to save him when he was rudely offed live onstage in Mexico in 2020. Then resurrected in 2022 to play sax again. This band's health insurance renewal rates must be through the roof, quite frankly.
AKA: The one that wasn't a Papa (but is now). Years Of Service: 2018-2020. Notes: Providing a combo breaker by eschewing the corpsepaint and having a decidedly less pope-y fashion sense, Cardinal Copia was the lovably daft Papa-in-waiting that brought an extra flash of sass to the Ghost camp. Tobias Forge once suggested to us that, unlike previous Ghost frontmen, Cardi C might actually stick around for a few records - and he was half-right. In March 2020, on stage in Mexico, The Cardinal was surrounded by The Clergy and transformed into Papa Emeritus IV. A new dawn beckoned...
Papa Emeritus IV
AKA: The grandest Papa yet Years Of Service: 2020-present Notes: The upgraded Cardinal is currently serving as the fourth Papa Emeritus, and if Ghost's latest live show is anything to go by, he may be the most extravagant one yet. Packing dazzling robes, a fancy new hat (or three) and a fine array of new stage costumes, he's perfectly set to lead what looks to be Ghost's most over the top and bombastic era ever. But what happens when The Clergy grow tired of him and decide it's time for a freshen-up? Could Ghost's current hero buck the trend and leave the fold with his head and body intact? Could a serving Papa IV become Papa V? Or is he doomed to join his predecessors in death? Only time will tell.
The Nameless Ghouls
AKA: The band. Years Of Service: 2010-Present. Notes: Less individuals and more a mass of souls represented onstage by mysterious, anonymous figures. They seem to grow in number with each passing album cycle, and get their own revamp to go alongside each newly introduced (or upgraded) frontman. Currently, The Nameless Ghouls are rocking a badass steampunk look. We approve.
AKA: The matriarch. Years Of Service: 1969-Present (at least) Notes: A figurehead behind the scenes, the mysterious Sister Imperator has appeared in a number of videos put out by Ghost in recent years, and she seems to have a particular (motherly) affinity for The Cardinal/Papa IV. We got to see both Sister Imperator and Papa Nihil in their younger incarnations during Ghost's Kiss The Go-Goat era.
First introduced in Chapter 10 of Ghost's ongoing video series, Mr. Saltarian is yet another mysterious religious figure with definite but somewhat murky connections to The Clergy. With poor Papa IV's future seemingly up in the air as of Ghost's most recent Chapters, it seems that Mr. Saltarian may have a part to play in the increasingly paranoid frontman's ultimate fate.
AKA: The main event. Years Of Service: 2010-Present. Notes: The mysterious cult from which these strange beings all stepped forth, The Clergy is the centre point for everything that Ghost is, was and shall be. They remain anonymous, omnipotent and powerful. Which is metal as fuck, to be fair.
Father Jim Defroque
AKA: The Bad Boy Priest Years Of Service: [unknown]-Present Notes: Introduced in a half-hour special on YouTube entitled "Jesus Talk With Father Jim Defroque" released on Easter Sunday 2023, at first it appeared the Pastor was the antithesis of our favourite Satanic Swedes and a true man of the cloth as he disapprovingly dissected lyrics from bands including Ministry, Soundgarden and Green Day (all Jesus themed, naturally).
It wasn't long before Father Defroque's true colours came out, however: suspicious sniffs throughout his YouTube special turned into a full bender during the Jesus He Knows Me video featuring copious amounts of blow, guns and erm, a questionable haircare regimen. How does he fit in with the wider Ghost lore? Well, we guess we'll find out pretty soon...
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Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He is also probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.
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Grammy-winning metal band Ghost addresses 'satanic' accusations: 'There are other music styles that promote a way worse lifestyle'
The swedish shock-rock saviors' flamboyant frontman believes that “dark music, everything from gothic to death metal and black metal and hardcore” is a source of celebration and even salvation..
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Over the past decade, bombastic, theatric, operatic metal Swedes have become unlikely mainstream rock stars. They won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 2016 and have scored three nominations since then, most recently for "Call Me Little Sunshine" off their 2022 studio LP, Impera. That ambitious 12-song cycle — despite being a seemingly willfully uncommercial concept album about "demigod worship" and "the unescapable fails and falls of empires" after the Black Plague, and boasting Aleister Crowley-inspired cover art — managed to yield the band's first Hot 100 single, “Mary on a Cross,” and debut at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Impera also won two big fan-voted honors, Favorite Rock Album at the American Music Awards and Best Rock Album of the Year at the iHeart Radio Music Awards. And among Ghost's biggest fans is Def Leppard's Joe Elliott, who in a torch-passing moment contributed guest vocals to a new version of the Impera anthem " Spillways " earlier this year.
But not everyone’s a fan. “We obviously are a polarizing band,” Ghost’s fearless leader Tobias Forge — alternately known as the diabolical priest character Papa Emeritus or Papa’s panda-eyed successors, Cardinal Copia and now the Impera -era Papa Emeritus IV — tells Yahoo Entertainment.
Although Ghost’s over-the-top, presumably tongue-in-greasepainted-cheek satanic imagery has always drawn detractors, as their fame has grown, so have protests targeting the band — including a bizarre one that took place in Midland, Texas, and made international headlines, during Ghost’s “A Pale Tour Named Death” U.S. arena trek.
In November 2018, Larry Long, the pastor of the Fellowship Community Church, said Midland needed to be protected from the supposedly devil-worshiping group, warning a local CBS affiliate, “This kind of band will bring spiritual influences into this area. We’re concerned about it, because we believe the devil is real, just as we believe God is real. … I think if [young fans are] singing along to those lyrics, who knows what in the world they’re opening their hearts and lives up to?”
Ghost’s Midland show went on as planned — and of course, the church's stunt only raised Ghost's profile in the United States. “At the end of the day, what [the Fellowship Community Church] caused was more tickets sold. So, thank you very much,” Forge chuckles.
Still, although Forge says such outrage is “to an extent, amusing,” he adds, “To a greater extent, I think it’s sad . … I find it saddening thinking that there are people who don’t know f***ing bad from good and shit from Shinola. I find it saddening that people would choose to stand out in the cold [protesting Ghost], thinking that they’re making a difference. I think it’s sad that people are wasting their time thinking that we’re bad for people, when actually what we’re really trying to do is make people happy and make people feel good about themselves when they come to our show and have a good time.”
Although certain PMRC-baiting shock-rockers that paved the way for Ghost — Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, Judas Priest — have been accused of encouraging suicidal or homicidal tendencies among impressionable fans, Forge believes that “dark music, everything from gothic to death metal and black metal and hardcore” can, on the contrary, be a source of celebration and even salvation.
“There are definitely rock fans over the years that have done negative things toward each other and or towards themselves, but I don’t think that’s because of the music . That’s because they were in a bad place in their lives,” the good Papa stresses. “Actually, it might have even been the music that made them live so long, that kept them going. Hard rock, in general, does not promote that you should harm anyone. I definitely think there are other music styles that promote a way worse lifestyle, that you could look upon as being more negative. [Pop] music styles that promote a way of living that their fans will never have — when music is all about ‘making it’ and wearing ‘bling-bling’ and ‘all them bitches,’ and the idea that without that stuff you’re nothing — that is a bad influence for your fans. At least with most gothic or hard rock music, it’s about feeling good about yourself.”
Forge instead sees Ghost as following in tradition of “the big shock-rock bands of 1984” that his much older, punk-rocker brother introduced him to when he was growing up in a liberal, pop-culture-savvy home in Linköping, Sweden. “The artists I immediately grasped onto were when I was 3 years old,” Forge recalls. “[Mötley Crüe’s] Shout at the Devil , [Twisted Sister’s] Stay Hungry , KISS, stuff like that. My brother was so nice and just passed those records on to me, like, ‘Here, you’ll like this more.’ I played them all the time. Then it just blossomed from there.”
Now Ghost is being heralded as the imagination-sparking band serving the same purpose for today’s rock-starved youth. “I do believe that there is a glimmer of hope in what we do with regards to the fact that there are a lot of kids coming to our shows. We are the first band that they see live. That is a really good thing, thinking long-term,” Forge muses. “I don’t mind being that glimmer of hope. I do believe that the more exposure we get, the more time that we spend in people’s ears, I hope that the interest in analog rock will be kept alive or awoken or might find a way into kids of today. I guess we could be a little bit [for today’s young fans] what KISS was in the ’70s.”
That being said, Forge is reluctant to accept the pro-Ghost media’s proclamations that Ghost are the reigning saviors of rock ‘n’ roll. “I’d love for the mainstream music climate to steer back towards rock, and I’m sure it will at some point. But does that mean there will be image-driven shock-rock bands, as far as a movement? I don’t know,” he says. “I do believe that the rock bands that will be big in the future are the ones that are being formed by kids, the 18-year-olds, today, right now. They are the ones that will rock the future, because that’s how it always is. The bands that will be big in five or 10 years, when there might be a big domination of rock again, will be bands that we most likely don’t know as of right now.”
But those bands, as Forge hints, may very well be Ghost disciples, because today’s kids, despite the handwringing of concerned conservatives like Long, are loving Ghost’s epic live shows on their current "Re-Imperatour" — in which a Pope-robed Papa IV, flanked by Victorian-jacketed, steampunk-helmeted, and occasionally keytar-wielding Nameless Ghouls, performs dystopian anthems like "Imperium," "Rats," "From the Pinnacle to the Pit," "Year Zero," "Mummy Dust," and "Dance Macabre” in a rock ‘n’ roll church bedecked with inverted crosses.
As the tour climaxes next week with two shows at Los Angeles's Forum , the nearby Grammy Museum will even launch the Ghost Devotional Pop-Up for the band's especially faithful flock — complete with confession booth where fans are encouraged to "bare their souls about why they think Ghost are the best rock band in the world!" Ghost's imagery and themes may be alarming to some, but it seems the rock kids understand.
“The biggest misconception [about Ghost] is that the lyrical content is being provocative because it’s about God. And it’s not. It’s not about God at all,” insists Forge. “It’s about man , mankind. I use language and analogy to make it seem that it is about other things, but the songs are usually, they are about very real things. Sometimes I think it’s almost laughable to the point of annoying that protesters are just picking up on the literal meaning.
“There are many misconceptions about who I am or how I think, and of course it’s annoying. But that is just part of being in a band nowadays. If I didn’t want any of this, I shouldn’t be in a band. But I want to do this. I want to rock.”
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MCKEES ROCKS ― Fresh off opening arena shows for Guns N' Roses, bluesy rockers Ghost Hounds head back to their own paradise city − Pittsburgh − to prepare for a big hometown headlining concert.
Catch the expanded band, now with a fulltime fiddler, at the Roxian Theatre on Nov. 17.
"It marks a significant moment for us because it's a big headlining show," Ghost Hounds bassist Bennett Miller said. "We've done a lot of support for other bands, which we're lucky to do. But this is a headlining show and we're going to get to play all the songs we want to play. Plus, there'll be a lot of friends there, and that's exciting."
The band's drummer Blaise Lanzetta, added, "We haven't been home in a while."
Those Guns N' Roses dates in Edmonton, Idaho and Utah gave Ghost Hounds a chance to perform songs off the band's summer release, "First Last Time," composed between assignments warming up stadium audiences for Garth Brooks and The Rolling Stones.
Like enduring bands before them, Ghost Hounds took a few albums to fully find their identity.
All you need is a little patience.
"The sound has developed for about five years now with each progressive record," Bennett said. "I think we sort of narrowed in on knowing what our sound is a little bit more. One of the things I'm really excited about is the addition of a fiddle. We're an American band and we have an American sound, and that fiddle adds a certain Appalachian feel to certain songs on the album, like 'Here No More' and you can hear strings prominently featured on 'Last Train to Nowhere.' I've always been a huge fan of that music, and for me it's exciting to have that element in the band. And on top of that the writing's got better and better and the fan response is showing that's happening, so it's very exciting whenever you've been working on something for a long time, and it starts to have an impact on listeners in a positive way."
A July 28 review of "First Last Time" in The Beaver County Times praised Lanzetta and Miller for keeping the pocket propulsive, "as the sound swaggers seamlessly into gritty blues blasters ('Dirty Angel'), FM-ready alt-rock (the title track), testifying soul-rock ('Make It Shake'), mid-tempo Black Crowes-y rock ('Let's Sleep on It Together') and country-western territory ('Here No More.')"
"I like how you said soul-rock for 'Make It Shake,'; that's a pretty good one," Miller said.
Interviewed by phone on the eve of the first Guns N' Roses date in Canada, Miller and Lanzetta were quick to applaud the band's keyboardist, Joe Munroe, of Center Township.
"The local legend Joe Munroe!" Lanzetta said.
"Joe brings a lot to the table, he's a phenomenal keyboard player," Miller adds.
"I think we all know that" Lanzetta said. "And I think Pittsburgh knows that."
Ghost Hounds' Thomas Tull (guitar/lyrics) and the dynamic Tre Nation (vocals) joined by new fiddle player Kristin Weber, backing vocalists Kamilah Marshall and Kenna Ramsey and ex-guitarist John Baab, fill out the album's sound, which also earned praised from music sites like Spin ("timeless classic rock and Southern blues with a modern twist") and Guitar World ("profound lyricism, powerhouse vocals, and showstopping melodies ... an absolute triumph.")
"The collaborative effort, and how it was created, is what I cherish most about this album," Lanzetta said. "I mean we're always creating together, but with this album there was a little bit more of developing it totally from the ground up; the little riffs and ideas we were playing between Stones shows. And Kristin is awesome. I love having a fiddle in the band, too."
"It's fun as a band not to be pigeonholed," Miller said. "We're getting to expand on our sound, and we're not being held to playing exactly as we did on our first album. I love all the records, but I don't think we're afraid to bring in new elements. We're playing what we feel, and people are responding positively to it so that's exciting because it makes us feel we can continue to develop in the way we want to organically develop."
The Roxian show will include a couple of songs that haven't been released yet, "and a bunch of songs that have been released that we haven't gotten to play live due to the limitations of set lengths being a support band," Bennett said. "It's very exciting getting to draw from the songs that have not been played live recently. For the people who have been out there listening to the band for a few years or have heard a few of our records, hopefully you're going to hear the songs you want to hear. From my standpoint, I'm very excited to get to play the songs I want to play."
"I know the song I want to play," Lanzetta interjects, singing a line from "When Your Shadow Touches Mine."
"That's a band favorite by the way," Miller said. "We've got a live video that's out there from Thunderbird Cafe where we're playing 'When Your Shadow Touches Mine.' It's going to be so good to play that one again."
We'll see if Ghost Hounds' fiery take on "Devil Woman," a '70s hit for Cliff Richard, remains in the setlist.
"Oh man, I think that's been on almost every setlist," Lanzetta said.
"Last First Time" also brings faithful covers of Led Zeppelin's most honkytonking tune, "Hot Dog," and the John Denver classic "Take Me Home, Country Roads."
The band's merch table will sell vinyl versions of the album pressed at Hellbender Vinyl in Lawrenceville.
"We've been very supported by the Pittsburgh community and we're very grateful for that," Bennett said.
"Chad Tyson, Randy Baumann ... those guys over at WDVE (FM) have been great," Lanzetta said.
Ghost Hounds first big hometown headlining show, in 2019 at Jergel's Rhythm Grille, drew a large contingent of Pittsburgh Steelers as spectators, a nod to the band's lyricist-guitarist-founder Tull, a minority owner of the team.
Tickets remain for the band's 7 p.m. Roxian show, mostly $41 general admission floor and $59 standard balcony seats. But there's no guarantee they'll be left three weeks from now, as nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.
The 1,400-capacity McKees Rocks theater might seem small compared to 20,000-seat sports arenas Ghost Hounds played with Guns N' Roses, but size doesn't change the band's enthusiasm, Bennett said.
"Playing shows in all types of venues is great. There's a certain energy when you're playing in a dive bar and people are right in front of you, and that's great and fun and that experience can be very rewarding," Bennett said. "And when you get to play San Siro Stadium in Milan with 70,000 to 80,000 people there, it's a different animal. You kind of feel the impact of every note you play. But it's extremely gratifying especially if the audience responds as well. We were lucky to have a good set that night; we were well-rehearsed and able to connect with the audience, so that was a really beautiful night. And obviously afterwards, when you get to stand backstage and watch The Stones play. That's a pinch me moment, too. And the same with Bob Seger and ZZ Top. Even Garth Brooks, earlier this year we got to be on a bill with Darius Rucker and Sheryl Crow seeing them perform was incredible as well."
Probably feels like you're knocking on heaven's door.
"It's as exciting as you'd think it would be," Lanzetta said. "We still are as excited every time we go out there."
Scott Tady is entertainment editor at The Times and easy to reach at [email protected].
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Sun Child Stick to the Shadows on First Full-Band Single “Ghost”
Jacksonville Beach-via-Charleston’s Sun Child , the folk-pop outfit formed earlier this year as the solo project of singer-songwriter Brooke Garwood, have shared their first single as a full band.
Released last week, “ Ghost ” is a downcast, atmospheric breakup ballad in which Garwood sifts through the fallout of a fractured relationship, equally unsure of what it truly meant and of what comes next. Somber piano, oceanic synth tones and keening violin underpin Garwood’s Billie Eilish-esque murmurs, her enunciations slurry as if she’s in a punch-drunk daze: “Were you always just a ghost?” she wonders, as if in the face of a dead silence that threatens to undermine every word of affection that came before.
The percussion-less instrumental sprawls, helping to evoke a heartbreak that makes each day and night alone feel eternal. But as its clipped violin bow strokes and melodic bass line gain momentum, “Ghost” shows signs of vitality even as it lingers on Garwood’s unanswered questions and palpable feelings of betrayal — “You were there, stood by my side / Held my hand all through the night / Now you don’t even say hi / Were you always just a ghost?” — like a reminder that all endings are also new beginnings.
Sun Child recorded “Ghost” with Jacob Hudson at Pine Studios in Murray Hill. It’s their first release since April’s Everything , their debut EP, recorded with Trash Panda’s Patrick Taylor in his home studio.
You can listen to “Ghost” above or via the streamer of your choice here .
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