A Changing of the Ghoul
May 24, 2018
The message from the clergy has been received and their orders have been executed. There is new blood leading Ghost once again.
In a recent turn of events, the leader of one of the hottest bands in the world has been replaced. Papa Emeritus III, long revered as the neoteric who finally put the band over the top, helping them gain mainstream exposure as well as a 2016 Grammy win for Best Metal Performance, has relinquished power to upstart Cardinal Copia.
With Copia at the helm, Ghost have been reenergized and have positioned them to not only continue their worldwide dominance but their pursuit of dominance in other worlds as well.
Of course, all of this is nothing new for Ghost. Every album cycle brings forth a new leader for the band, a leader with a new vision and path for the band. For most of the band's 12 years, the identity of that leader, Papa Emeritus, and the identities of his band of Nameless Ghouls remained a closely guarded secret, a true accomplishment in this age of information.
However, a 2017 lawsuit brought by some of the former band members drew back the veil and revealed the visionary behind the band was, in fact, Swedish vocalist and guitarist Tobias Forge.
After finally acknowledging his role in the band, Forge seems to have become comfortable with his position as the face of the band while still going to great lengths to protect the sanctity of what the band has built over the years.
"I've always tried to point out that there is a great difference between being anonymous and being unmasked, and I still will put a lot of effort into preserving the latter," Forge explained in a recent interview with The Oakland Press.
"The thing that I tried to achieve originally and what I've been trying to maintain is the sense of theater rather than a classic kind of rock n' roll show. My idea is Ghost is basically a theater show that you could come and see, like Hamilton, and you don't have to worry too much about the real stories. I guess I've become a little bit more of a normal rock artist, but now it's my job to do my darnedest to preserve the aesthetic and the theatrical qualities, and I'm going to do my absolute best to do that."
Ghost are on the road supporting their forthcoming fourth album, Prequelle, scheduled to hit store shelves and digital outlets June 1. "Rats," the lead single from the album, currently sits at the top of the Mainstream Rock charts and builds upon the momentum of last year's breakthrough "Square Hammer."
But, Forge explained in a recent phone interview with whatzup, fans should not expect an album full of similar sing-along anthems or a carbon copy of 2016's Meliora.
"The record is not filled with 10 different 'Rats,'" he said. "I think the new album, Prequelle, is definitely connected with Meliora. For me it's a natural progression from Meliora. I don't know how to explain it. It's a diverse album that is filled with songs that we didn't have before, which I'm always very keen on when I write a new album. I don't want it to be exactly like a previous one, and I want it to contain songs that we don't have. It expands from highs to lows and from hards to softs. It's a mixture."
Forge said the album was partly inspired by the legal issues he recently had with Ghost's former members.
"There was a great sense of urgency over the album," he explained. "The situation I was in told me I had to salvage what I could and reclaim what is mine while also justifying that it was mine to begin with. This was a record about survival through extreme circumstances. The end result is positive, but it's about taking something that is completely negative and turning into something that you can learn from."
Cardinal Copia's rise to the forefront of the band is an interesting twist to the storyline of the band. After Papa Emeritus I, II and III, the leadership has taken new form in the "lesser" Cardinal.
As Forge explained, "The clergy needed some new blood in there, and the idea of a master and an apprentice struck me as interesting. The idea revolves around how the younger apprentice [Copia] needs to deserve the power that he might be given one day and also for the master [Papa Emeritus III] to acknowledge that he is replaceable and needs to pass the torch on to someone else. You have to work hard, in this case, to deserve your skull paint and if you do a good job over two years, maybe you become Papa IV. That's the Cardinal's task."
The exchange of leaders after each album is purposefully unique to Ghost, but Forge said it is necessary to evolve the movement of the band.
"It has to do with the fact that when you are a normal, unmasked band, you have your natural aging as sort of being the narrative. An artist can change from one album to another by growing out their hair, growing a beard, shaving off that beard, shaving your head, getting a gym card, getting a divorce or having a kid. There's a lot of things that make just the normal aging process a good storyline in your normal band. Ghost needed that aging [of Papa's] in order to make it feel like the story was progressing."
Forge said he remembers performing to a packed house at the Embassy Theatre just last year, but cautioned that, even if you went to that show, you should expect a different performance this time around.
"We played Fort Wayne not too long ago," Forge said, "but it's going to be different because, first and foremost, we're doing a little bit of a different setup now. It's a little bit of an upgrade. The show is also divided into two acts, which allows us to play more songs. We're also playing a lot of different songs that we haven't really played in a while and some songs that we haven't ever played in America. The production is bigger and better now as well. In short, you will still get Ghost, but more than you've seen before."