The 10 moments that made Ghost superstars
Not many bands can honestly say they’ve enjoyed the kind of meteoric rise to stardom that Swedish doom rockers Ghost have. It’s a success that’s been well-earned – some might say due to hard graft and relentless touring, others pointing to the esoteric appeal and masked mystique that helped pave their path to global dominance. Ultimately, however, there’s only one reason why Ghost stand where they do today – Tobias Forge’s knack for writing some of the most devilishly brilliant rock anthems around.
From the humble beginnings in Linköping to selling out London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall last year, here’s a look at the 10 moments that made them the world’s fastest growing cult…
1. Writing the song that started it all
Though Tobias Forge had been active in the nearby Stockholm scene during his stints in Repugnant, Crashdïet and Magna Carta Cartel, it was the song Stand By Him that gave birth to a new musical ideology in 2006 – one which embraced nightmarish theatrics into its sweetly seductive melodies. Originally sung in their native tongue, its opening line ‘The Devil’s power is the greatest one’ would prove to be incredibly prophetic of the years to come and the first of many odes to Lucifer himself.
2. The first coming of Papa Emeritus
It was during these rudimentary stages that Tobias hatched the concept of demonic frontman Papa Emeritus and the Nameless Ghoul musicians backing him. As their popularity later surged, it would be one of the Ghouls conducting the vast majority of their interviews, keen-eared fans on YouTube noting the consistencies in the voice speaking out for the group. Tobias Forge would eventually reveal the group’s aesthetics were inspired by the shock-rock exploits of the bands that dominated his teenage years, citing KISS, Mötley Crüe and King Diamond as the main culprits.
3. Signing with Rise Above Records
After posting three songs on MySpace, Ghost inked a record deal with UK independent Rise Above Records (owned by Cathedral/Napalm Death legend Lee Dorrian) for their 2010 debut Opus Eponymous. “Working on the first album was a great experience that ultimately put me on the map,” remembers Jaime Gomez Arellano, who mixed and mastered the recordings in his North London studio. “I realised early on that Ghost were going to be massive, not only because of the exceptionally well-crafted songs, but because of Tobias’ hard work ethics and determination.”
4. Playing Live Evil
On October 23, 2010, Ghost made their official live debut at the Hammer Of Doom Festival in Würzburg, Germany, though it was their second appearance the following day at London’s Underworld for Live Evil, booked by black metal legend Fenriz, that sent ripples through rock’s underground. Video footage quickly surfaced on YouTube depicting what looked like a zombie priest in the midst of a live ritual like no other, burning frankincense and blessing the front row with his unholy water.
5. Winning celebrity fans
It didn’t take long for the Black Sabbath meets Blue Öyster Cult allure of Ghost’s debut to win them friends in high places, including Duff McKagan and James Hetfield. Dave Grohl was so impressed, he later produced and even performed on first EP If You Have Ghost, which was recorded at his Californian studio. The Nirvana/Foo Fighters man has also masked up to perform with them live, though lips have remained sealed on when exactly that might have been.
6. Conquering America
After making their U.S. debut at Maryland Death fest in 2011, it was the following year’s Heritage Hunter tour with progressive metal masters Opeth and Mastodon that gave Ghost a chance to win over American fans in bigger rooms. Which is precisely what they did, impressing audiences enough to land tour offers from the likes of Iron Maiden, Alice In Chains and Avenged Sevenfold.
7. Headlining Brixton Academy
It took three years for Ghost to go from London’s Underworld club to Brixton Academy, billed above Gojira, The Defiled and Feed The Rhino on 2013’s sell-out Jägermeister Music Tour – the £5 tickets offering fans eye-watering levels of value for money. Papa Emeritus II and his sinister ministers closed the night with Monstrance Clock, as they have been doing ever since, the encore serving as one of many highlights from their more expansive second full-length Infestissumam. It would mark the first release of many under a new deal with Universal imprint Loma Vista.
8. Winning a GRAMMY
Having won the Swedish equivalent of a GRAMMY on their sophomore album, it was 2015’s Meliora that saw them gain mainstream recognition in America as well as home soil – lead single Cirice scooping the award for Best Metal Performance at the 2016 GRAMMYs. “Thank you so much, this is is a big thing for us, obviously… a nightmare just turned into a dream,” remarked Papa Emeritus III, when picking up the gong on the night.
9. The arrival of Cardinal Copia
The years in between Ghost’s third and fourth albums were perhaps their most challenging. After a decade of operating relatively anonymously, four ex-members would publically name themselves and sue Tobias for lost earnings, claiming the main songwriter and leader had turned their band into his solo project. The Linköping District Court would eventually dismiss the lawsuit and appeal. It was these tumultuous times that would spawn the music and lyrics for 2018’s Prequelle – arguably the most mind-blowing Ghost album of them all. Though Tobias had now officially revealed himself as the group’s leader and put an end to the Papa Emeritus bloodline, Cardinal Copia’s tenure was about to begin.
10. Selling out the Royal Albert Hall
As anyone that attended last year’s Royal Albert Hall show will be able to attest, that night could very well have been the greatest show of their career. With two keyboardists, three guitar players and a rhythm section behind him, as well as a brief stint from Papa Nihil on sax, Cardinal Copia took his final bow safe in the knowledge that this band have never sounded bigger or better. Looking ahead, 2019 will be a busy year for Ghost – though after joining forces with Metallica for their continuing WorldWired Tour what happens next for the young cardinal will remain to be seen. Are his days numbered? Who will replace him? No-one really knows but Tobias Forge himself…
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