Why Ghost Are The New Kings Of Occult Rock Metal

When your daily job requires you to dress up as a satanic pope, you’re going to have a complicated view of Christianity. But that doesn’t mean Tobias Forge, the creative mastermind behind occult rock band Ghost, can’t appreciate the artistic and cultural beauty of religion.

“The same way I wouldn’t hang out with an alien from the movie Extraterrestrial, but I like the look of this one? It’s my relationship with Christianity,” Forge says. rolling stone. “I’m a big fan of the artistic treasures in there and it’s always had a big impact on me, even though I use it as a repellent.”

Since forming Ghost in his native Sweden in 2006, Forge has concocted an entire upside-down catechism that devilishly mocks the teachings and rituals of the Holy See. As Papa Emeritus, the dark singer who takes on a new form with each album, he performs in papal miter and robes. The lyrics are rich in Christian allusions to transubstantiation and resurrection. The band, which hides its face behind elaborate masks, even handed out unholy communion to fans during their concerts. If Tipper Gore set eyes on Ghost in the heyday of the PMRC in the ’80s, she’d turn into a pillar of salt.

But after the release of their first album in 2010 Eponymous album – a theatrical metal masterpiece about the coming of the Antichrist – something peculiar began to happen with Ghost: Forge sinking a cloven hoof into social and political commentary. Their 2018 album Prequel told the prescient story of a plague that not only spread disease across the world, but also contagious schools of thought. “This miserable mischief now crosses your souls,” Forge sang in the single “Rats.” On Friday, Ghost goes even further with the release of their fifth album, Impera, a sobering look at the fall of empires. Yes Prequel inadvertently but accurately presaged the Covid-19 pandemic, then Impera predicts an even darker future.

Calling from an Ohio hotel where Ghost is on tour with Danish metal band Volbeat, Forge sneers when it is suggested that the ‘plague record’, as he calls it, predicted the global health crisis of 2019.

“In hindsight, yes. But everything in nature and time and our behaviors are very cyclical. It’s almost strange how we repeat the 1900s again,” he says. “We have just gone through what would amount to the Spanish flu in early 1918 and, currently, we are on the brink of what could become World War III.”

According to Forger, Impera is not about a specific empire, but rather about the “concept of empires and their self-destruction mechanisms”. Yet it is easy to extract lyrical references to the post-Trump United States, a country where civility and even the peaceful transfer of power risk becoming relics. “We’ll catch ’em all by the hoo-hahs!” Forge screams in “Twenties,” a Broadway thrash number that fantasizes about a boom time of anarchy, lust and greed. In “Grift Wood,” he confuses the false piety of a power-hungry leader like Mike Pence. Words about a “Mother” who “shines[s] like the sun and the moon” read as a blow to the one-term vice president and his nickname for his wife.

“Let’s just say it can be someone like him who is willing to serve his whole life in pursuit of power and then justify it by claiming some sort of religious connection,” Forge says when asked. directly on Pence. “He’s a great example of someone like that. Every basement he reaches, he miraculously finds a new one. It’s one of the most diabolical things I’ve ever seen – making people think they’re on their side.

Born and raised in Linkoping, Sweden in 1981, Forge consumed a steady diet of American entertainment as a child – very little, he points out, overdubbed in Swedish. “As part of the Cold War of the 1950s, because of our proximity to the Soviet Union at the time, there seemed to be a great influx of American culture. If you went to Sweden in the 1950s, there were American cars everywhere, jukeboxes, Elvis Presley, American movies,” he says. “We watched the same TV shows you did when we were kids in the 80s: sesame streetKermit the Frog, The Cosby Show, dallas, twin peaks. I don’t find superlatives strong enough, but I’m a big fan of Americana. It’s part of my DNA.

American culture may be part of Forge’s makeup, but organized religion is not. He was not brought up under a specific faith, nor does he subscribe to it now. “I am not against religion or religious systems”, he clarifies, but he cannot accept what he calls “linear religions” built on the idea of ​​a beginning (birth), d an end (death) and a hereafter where good behavior on earth will be rewarded. “The idea of ​​linear religions has infested our ways of thinking and it’s really damaging. They are obviously man-made to control others.

After stints in death-metal, glam-rock, and power-pop bands, Forge fused elements of all three into Ghost. Aside from satanic trappings, ironic as they were, the group was defined by its anonymity. The musicians – called an indistinguishable group of nameless ghouls – wore masks to conceal their identities, and Forge fully transformed into the character of Papa Emeritus, wearing his own set of highly detailed face coverings and makeup.

Since then, Ghost has played festivals like Download and toured with Metallica (they covered “Enter Sandman” last year Blacklist tribute album). Their concerts are euphoric shows of fire, smoke and confetti, with Forge changing costumes regularly – out of Papa’s pope outfit and into sequined sportcoats. On stage, he shimmers like an old-fashioned vaudeville star. It can be fascinating.

Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale, who once ministered wine and bread to fans at a Ghost show as one of the band’s “Sisters of Sin,” says the band’s commitment to performance makes them a important figure in the landscape of heavy metal.

“Beyond the brilliant art they create, they bring theater back to heavy music. Part of the appeal of Tobias and his band is their unapologetic use of humor and story,” Hale said. rolling stone in an email. “It’s just rock music; we must not take ourselves too seriously. Tobias’ vision attracts a wide range of fans, and I’m inspired every time I see Ghost live.

When Hale burst onto the scene with Ghost in 2015, few knew Papa Emeritus’ true identity. For years, that anonymity has provided fans with one of rock’s most satisfying mysteries since Kiss came clean. But following a legal dispute with former band members over royalties in 2017, Forge came forward as the man under the miter.

“When I did Prequel, my life was a little fragile, but the world was ironically in a more stable place. By making the new record, I was personally very well placed, but the world was the opposite,” he says. “We now have mechanisms within our own western empire that are actively trying to create, and to some extent have created this time machine that we are regressing to. We are leveling the earth. We submit to stupidity, which is unbelievable.

At Impera, Forge denounces the ongoing war on facts by telling an ancient story. The explosive opening track “Kaisarion” is a tribute to the philosopher Hypatia, who was murdered by Christians in Alexandria, Egypt in the early 5th century.

“They killed her because she was a woman exercising her rights as a human being to spread some kind of wisdom that is not in line with a gang of angry men, who wish to control women in particular and burn and destroy things that are not. belong to them,” Forge says with a dramatic pause. “Sounds like old times, doesn’t it? »

Or, some might say, modern Texas.

While Impera marks Forge’s most overt hit to date in social commentary, he argues that he is simply writing heavy-metal fiction. He loves Ghost’s refuge of remaining anonymity and creative freedom – any similarity to modern divided empires is purely coincidental.

“At the end of the day, it’s an escapist rock & roll album,” he hesitates. But the one that even Papa Emeritus hopes for will not come true.

About Raymond Lang

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