Ghost (Swedish band)

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Ghost - Wacken Open Air 2018-4997.jpg
Ghost performing at Wacken Open Air in 2018
Background information
Also known asGhost B.C.
OriginLinköping, Sweden
Years active2006–present
Associated actsDave Grohl
Past members
  • Martin Persner
  • Simon Söderberg
  • Mauro Rubino
  • Martin Hjertstedt
  • Henrik Palm
  • Gustaf Lindström
  • Aksel Holmgren
  • Rikard Ottoson
  • Linton Rubino
  • Megan Thomas

Ghost is a Swedish rock band that was formed in Linköping, Sweden in 2006.[1][2] In 2010, they released a 3-track demo followed by a 7" vinyl titled "Elizabeth", and later their debut full-length album Opus Eponymous. The Grammys-nominated album was widely praised and significantly increased their popularity. Their second album and major label debut Infestissumam was released in 2013, debuted at number one in Sweden, and won the Grammys Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Album. The band released their third studio album, Meliora, in 2015, to much critical acclaim and high record sales, reaching number one in their home country of Sweden, and number eight in the United States. Its lead single, "Cirice", earned them the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. The band released their fourth studio album, Prequelle, in 2018.

Ghost is easily recognizable owing greatly to its eccentric on-stage presence. Seven of the group's eight members, its 'Nameless Ghouls',[3] wear virtually identical, face-concealing costumes. Prior to a 2017 lawsuit filed by former members of the band, lead singer Tobias Forge obscured his identity behind the character "Papa Emeritus". The character, which consists of Forge in a prosthetic mask and makeup can be best described as a 'demonic anti-pope'.[3] The Papa Emeritus Character has gone through four incarnations - I, II, III, and Nihil. As of the 2018 album Prequelle and subsequent world tour, Forge portrays a character known as "Cardinal Copia", who is described as being unrelated to any of the Papa Emeritus characters and whose costume consists of either Cardinal vestments or a black or white tuxedo alongside a prosthetic mask with black eye makeup and the multi-colored eyes which had been present in each Papa character.


Formation and Opus Eponymous[edit]

Ghost was formed in 2006, when future band leader Tobias Forge wrote the song "Stand By Him".[4] 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."[5] Forge then contacted his former Repugnant bandmate Gustaf Lindström to record the song.[4] In early 2008, the two entered the studio to record three songs: "Stand by Him," "Prime Mover" and "Death Knell".[4] Afterwards Forge remarked to Lindström: "This definitely does not sound like two dudes that look like you and I".[4] Thus Forge decided that they should be an anonymous "theater band", and use their love of horror films and "the traditions of Scandinavian metal" in the band's imagery.[4][5] While other members of the band would wear black hooded robes and be called "Nameless Ghouls", Forge would go by "Papa Emeritus", dressed in Papal regalia and his face painted to resemble a skull.[6] Forge then chose the name Ghost for the group.[4] Initially Forge had no aspirations on becoming the band's vocalist, instead wanting to play guitar.[4] He offered the position of lead vocalist to Messiah Marcolin, Mats Levén, Christer Göransson and JB Christoffersson, all of whom passed.[4] As a result, Forge became the band's lead singer by default.[4] On March 12, 2010, Forge posted the first three Ghost songs on MySpace and within two days was contacted by records labels and managers wanting to work with the group.[4]

Ghost spent a few weeks in a basement studio in the band's hometown of Linköping recording their debut album.[6] In June 2010, the band released their first single "Elizabeth".[6] Ghost released their first studio album, Opus Eponymous, on October 18, 2010, on the independent record label Rise Above Records. The album reached number 50 on the Sverigetopplistan and was well-received by critics, being nominated for the 2011 Grammis Award for "Best Hard Rock" album.[7][8][9] Ghost played their first concert on October 23, 2010 at the Hammer of Doom festival in Würzburg, Germany.[10]

Ghost live at Roskilde Festival 2011

Ghost supported gothic metal band Paradise Lost on their "Draconian Times MMXI" tour in April 2011.[11] On May 29, Ghost made their United States debut at the Maryland Deathfest.[12] The band played at the annual Download Festival in the United Kingdom on June 11. Following their performance, Phil Anselmo, lead singer of the band Down, performed wearing a Ghost T-shirt and invited three members of the band to join him on the main stage, where they performed Down's "Bury Me In Smoke" together.[13] In December 2011, Ghost took part in the "Defenders of the Faith III" tour with Trivium, In Flames, Rise to Remain and Insense.[14] 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.[15] Afterwards Ghost joined Mastodon and Opeth as the opening act on the Heritage Hunter Tour throughout North America during April and May 2012.[16][17] In June, Ghost received the award for "Breakthrough Band" at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards.[18]


In February 2012, a Nameless Ghoul revealed that the band had completed writing their second album.[19] Ghost entered the studio in October to record their second album in Nashville, Tennessee, with producer Nick Raskulinecz.[20] The band had planned to record the album at the turn of 2012, but after starting their US tour in January, they were offered another tour immediately after.[20] At the same time the band, their management and Rise Above Records all agreed that the group's next album should be released on a different label.[20] Thus Ghost signed with Loma Vista Recordings in partnership with Republic Records—a division of Universal Music Group.[21]

On December 15, 2012, Ghost played a show in 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 Marionette".[8] During the same show, the band introduced Papa Emeritus II as the successor to the first Papa Emeritus.[22] On December 20, the band announced that their second album, Infestissumam, would be released in early 2013.[1] On February 5, 2013, the band announced a name change to "Ghost B.C." in the United States for legal reasons.[23] 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."[24] They officially dropped the amendment from their name in 2015.[25] From February 23 to March 4, 2013, Ghost toured Australia as a part of the Soundwave Festival.[26]

Ghost performing in Utrecht in 2013

Infestissumam was originally scheduled to be released on April 9, 2013, in the US, but the band could not find a US company that would manufacture the CD.[27] 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." [27] 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.[27] All European copies and the US vinyl versions include the controversial artwork.[27] Infestissumam charted in seven countries, including at number one in Sweden, eventually going gold. The album was also well received by critics, winning the Grammis Award and the P3 Guld Award for "Best Hard Rock/Metal Album" of 2013.[28]

Ghost began their "Haze Over North America" tour on April 14, 2013, at the Coachella Festival, which continued until May 18.[29] On July 27, Ghost began the "Still Hazing over North America Tour", which ended in Chicago at the Lollapalooza festival.[30] Immediately after, Ghost toured South America supporting Iron Maiden and Slayer, which included a performance at Rock in Rio.[31] In October 2013, Ghost opened for Avenged Sevenfold and Deftones on their US tour.[32] In November, the band toured the UK with Alice in Chains, before a tour of Europe.[33][34] On November 20, 2013, Ghost 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.[35]

In January 2014, Ghost received six nominations at the Loudwire Music Awards.[36] From January 17 to February 2, 2014, the band toured Australia as a part of the Big Day Out festival.[37][38] They then embarked on the "Tour Year Zero", which lasted from April 17 until May 17, 2014, in North America.[39] In July, the band performed at the European Sonisphere Festival.[40]


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.[41] 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.[42] 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.[43]

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 mitre, and performed alongside the two guitarist Nameless Ghouls; accompanying them on the kazoo.[44] A tour of the US titled "Black To The Future" began on September 22 and ran until November 1.[45] 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.

Ghost performing in Germany at Rockavaria, 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.[46] They were the opening act for Iron Maiden on their 2017 North America tour from June to July 2017.[47] 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.[48]

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.[49][50] 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."[51] 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."[52] 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."[2]

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.[53] 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.[54]


Ghost performing at Wacken Open Air 2018

On April 13, 2018, Ghost released a new single, titled "Rats", along with an accompanying music video.[55] This marked the first release from the band, with their "new" frontman Cardinal Copia.[55] Additionally, the band welcomed a new character, saxophonist Papa Nihil, extending Ghost into a septet.[56] The album was titled Prequelle, and it was released on 1 June 2018.[55] A second song from the new album, 'Dance Macabre' was initially released on the band's instagram stories but later that day was made available for streaming in its entirety on 17 May 2018.

To promote the album, Ghost began the Rats! on the Road tour in the United States which ran from May 5 until June 1.[57] The band was an opening act for Guns N' Roses in Oslo, Norway on July 19, 2018.[58]

Ghost began A Pale Tour Named Death in London, England at Royal Albert Hall on September 9, 2018. A North American tour of the same name began later in the fall that year featuring two headlining arena shows in Los Angeles and New York City.[59][60] An early 2019 European tour of the same name was announced on September 10, 2018.[61] In March 2019, the band will perform in Australia as part of Download Festival.[62] Ghost was later announced as the opening act for Metallica's WorldWired Tour from May to August 2019.[63]

The band released their second music video for the song "Dance Macabre" on October 17, 2018.[64]


  • Tobias Forge – vocals (2008–present)
    • Papa Emeritus – vocals (2008–2012)
    • Papa Emeritus II – vocals (2012–2015)
    • Papa Emeritus III – vocals, kazoo (2015–2017)
    • Cardinal Copia – vocals (2018–present)
  • Nameless Ghouls – guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, backing vocals
  • Papa Nihil – saxophone (2018–present)

The members of Ghost mimic the Roman Catholic Church, but have reversed the image to worship Satan instead of the Holy Trinity.[65] From 2010 to 2017, the band's instrumentalists, referred to as the "Nameless Ghouls", each represented one of the five elements; fire, water, wind, earth, and ether,[66] and wore their respective alchemical symbol on their instruments. With Meliora each Nameless Ghoul had all five elemental symbols embroidered on the right breast of their costumes, with the elemental symbol representing the individual Ghoul being highlighted to show the identity of the wearer. In 2018, the band's line-up was expanded to include a third guitarist, two female keyboardists referred to as the "Ghoulettes", and Papa Nihil on saxophone.[67]

Papa Emeritus[edit]

The original Papa Emeritus (left) in 2012, Papa Emeritus II (middle) in 2013, and Papa Emeritus III (right) in 2016

The group's vocalist usually portrays the band's mascot character, a Satanic priest known as Papa Emeritus.[3] 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 0, to the stage to introduce the band's next chapter. Papa Emeritus 0 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 that features a character, implied to be Papa Emeritus IV, listening to Ceremony and Devotion 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.[41][68] All versions of Papa Emeritus are actually the same vocalist.[69][70]

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.[71] His claim was later confirmed by Forge.[72]

Cardinal Copia[edit]

Cardinal Copia performing in 2018

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; he is not a part of the Papa Emeritus lineage.[55] Instead, Forge described the situation as being like star wars; there is always two, master and apprentice... And if he does his job well then he may earn his face paint.

In promotion for their 2018 US tour a video showed that Papa Emeritus one through three had been killed and their bodies embalmed.[73] In an interview the following month, Forge stated that unlike Ghost's previous frontmen, Cardinal Copia is planned to be around for about five years.[74] The band also welcomed Papa Nihil, the first band member besides Forge to receive a character name. Originally introduced as Papa Emeritus Zero, Nihil is the ancestor of all previous Papa Emeritus characters, and after the "deaths" of his descendants, the only survivor of the Papa Emeritus lineage that we know of.[56]


The Nameless Ghouls performing in Austin, Texas, 2016

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 the merchandise by stamping their individual alchemical symbol, while Papa Emeritus signs with his stage name or the letters "P.E."[66] 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".[75] 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."[76] 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.[19] 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."[77]

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.[78] In April 2014, a Nameless Ghoul revealed that the group has had several member changes through the years.[79]

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".[80] All of the band's songs are credited to "A Ghoul Writer", causing people to suspect that Forge is Papa Emeritus. The online database for US-based performance rights society ASCAP, when having the name Tobias Forge entered into its search box, reveals all of Ghost's original songs (even though many of the tracks use the pseudonym "A Ghoul Writer" in the database itself)[81] Ghost has stated they will not comment on any rumors of their identities.[19] Following a lawsuit in 2017, Forge's identity as Papa Emeritus was revealed.[49]

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.[82] A few months before Persner's announcement, the band recruited a new bass player who was suspected to be Lez Zeppelin bassist Megan Thomas, later confirmed by Forge.[72][83] 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.[51] 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."[84] The lawsuit was dismissed by the court on 17 October 2018.

Musical style and influences[edit]

Ghost's music has been categorized in many genres, critics have classified them as heavy metal,[85][86][86][87][88] hard rock,[85][86][89][90][91] doom metal,[85][89][92][93] progressive rock,[94] psychedelic rock,[95] pop rock,[96] occult rock,[97] and arena rock.[96] 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."[98] Speaking to, 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.[99]

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."[5] A member of the band said the Swedish and Scandinavian black metal movement of the early '90s plays a major role in their act,[92] and said that each member has come from a metal background.[76] However, the band has stated several times that they do not aim to be a metal band.[76][19] 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."[100] Only a few members actually write songs.[101] 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.[101] In 2017, Forge claimed that he was the main author of every song except "Year Zero" and "Zenith", which were Persner's ideas.[52] 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."[84]

Their lyrics are blatantly Satanic[citation needed]; 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."[75] 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."[3] Infestissumam also deals with "how people relate to a deity or God, themes like submission and superstition, the horrors of being religious."[76] 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."[65] The group's theatrics are influenced by Kiss, David Bowie and Alice Cooper, but a member said they are more influenced by Pink Floyd.[76] A Ghoul later cited Death SS as an influence on their "gimmick" but not their music.[102]


Ghost performing at the Getaway Rock Festival 2011 in Sweden

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.[103] 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.[27] 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."[104] 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.[105][106]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Grammis Awards

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2011 Opus Eponymous Best Hard Rock Album[9] Nominated
2014 Infestissumam Best Hard Rock/Metal Album[107] Won
2015 Meliora Best Hard Rock/Metal Album[108] Won
2016 Popestar Best Hard Rock/Metal Album[109] Won
Ghost Swedish Export[110] Nominated

Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2012 Ghost Breakthrough Band[18] Won

Loudwire Music Awards

Year Nominee/work Award Result
Ghost Live Act of the Year Nominated
Infestissumam Metal Album of the Year Nominated
Ghost Metal Band of the Year Nominated
"Year Zero" Metal Song of the Year Nominated
"Year Zero" Metal Video of the Year Nominated
Papa Emeritus II Vocalist of the Year Nominated
2015[111] Nameless Ghoul Best Bassist Won
Ghost Best Live Act Nominated
Meliora Best Metal Album Won
Ghost Best Metal Band Nominated
"Cirice" Best Metal Song Nominated
"Cirice" Best Metal Video Nominated
Papa Emeritus III Best Vocalist Nominated
Papa Emeritus III Rock Titan Nominated
2016[112] "Square Hammer" Best Metal Song Nominated
"Square Hammer" Best Metal Video Won
Ghost Best Live Act Nominated
Papa Emeritus III Rock Titan of the Year Nominated

P3 Guld Awards

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2014 Infestissumam Best Rock/Metal Album[113] Won

Bandit Rock Awards

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2016[114] Ghost Best Swedish Live Act Won
Ghost Best Swedish Group Won
Meliora Best Swedish Album Won
2017 Ghost Best Swedish Live Act Won
Ghost Best Swedish Group Won
Popestar Best Swedish Album Won

Grammy Awards

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2016 "Cirice" Best Metal Performance[42] Won
2019 Prequelle Best Rock Album Pending
"Rats" Best Rock Song Pending

Notable tours[edit]



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