Ghost (Swedish band)

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Ghost live in Utrecht.jpg
Ghost performing in Utrecht 2013.
Background information
Also known as A Group of Nameless Ghouls, Ghost B.C.
Origin Linköping, Sweden
Years active 2008–present
Associated acts Dave Grohl
  • Papa Emeritus III
  • Nameless Ghouls (5 instrumentalists)
Past members
  • Papa Emeritus
  • Papa Emeritus II

Ghost is a Swedish heavy metal band that was formed in Linköping in 2008.[1] 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 Grammis-nominated album was widely praised and increased their popularity significantly. Their second album and major label debut Infestissumam was released in 2013, debuted at number one in Sweden, and won the Grammis 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.

Ghost is easily recognizable because of its eccentric on-stage presence. Five of the group's six members wear virtually identical, face-concealing costumes. The most distinguishable member is the vocalist, who wears a prosthetic face with skull face paint, appearing as what can be described as a "demonic anti-Pope".[2] Each album cycle has brought about a change in the band's appearance. The vocalist is always portrayed as the same archetype character, but has slight appearance changes and even personality traits are altered from former versions. The band members' true identities are kept anonymous, as their actual names have not been publicly disclosed. The vocalist calls himself Papa Emeritus, and the musicians are referred to only as Nameless Ghouls.[2]


Formation and Opus Eponymous[edit]

A Nameless Ghoul said that Ghost formed in 2006, when the members were in another band together and he played a riff that would become "Stand By Him" to them. 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."[3]

Sample of "Elizabeth" from Opus Eponymous (2010).

Problems playing this file? See media help.

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.[3] 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."[4] 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.[5] The album was well-received and was nominated for the 2011 Grammis Award for "Best Hard Rock" album.[6][7]

Ghost supported gothic metal band Paradise Lost on their "Draconian Times MMXI" tour in April 2011.[8] On May 29, Ghost made their United States debut at the Maryland Deathfest.[9] 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. When Down closed their set, both guitars and drums were played by members of Ghost.[citation needed]

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.[10] Ghost joined Mastodon and Opeth as the opening act on the Heritage Hunter Tour throughout North America during April and May 2012.[11][12] In early 2012, a Nameless Ghoul said that the band had completed writing their second album.[2][13]


On December 15, 2012, Ghost performed a special show in their hometown, Linköping, where they debuted the new song titled "Secular Haze", which was released online earlier that day, and their cover of ABBA's "I'm a Marionette".[6] At the same show, they introduced Papa Emeritus II as the successor to the band's frontman Papa Emeritus—believed to be the same person simply playing a new character.[14] On December 20, the band announced that their second album, Infestissumam, would be released in early 2013.[1] 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.[15]

On February 5, 2013, the band announced a name change to "Ghost B.C." in the United States for legal reasons.[16] 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."[17] They officially dropped the amendment from their name in 2015.[18]

Two Nameless Ghouls at the 2013 Coachella Festival

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.[19] 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.[20] 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".[20] 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.[20] All European copies and the US vinyl versions include the controversial artwork.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22] Immediately after, Ghost toured South America supporting Iron Maiden and Slayer; this tour included a performance at Rock in Rio.[23] Ghost opened for Avenged Sevenfold and Deftones on a US tour in October.[24] In November, the band toured the UK with Alice in Chains.[25]

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.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28]


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.[29] The song "Cirice" was released as a free download from the band's official site on May 31, and is currently nominated for the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.[30] 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.[31] The album was first promoted in August by a five date unplugged 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.[32] A tour of the US titled "Black to the Future" began on September 22 and ran until November 1.[33] This was quickly followed by a European tour of the same name that ran until December 21, including a full UK tour.


The six members of Ghost mimic the Roman Catholic Church but have reversed the image to worship Satan instead of the Holy Trinity.[34] The Nameless Ghouls each represent one of the five elements; fire, water, wind, earth, and aether (also known as quintessence),[35] 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[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 portrays the band's mascot character, a Satanic priest known as Papa Emeritus.[2] There have been three different characters taking the name Papa Emeritus, each younger than the last. The first welcomed the second Papa Emeritus on December 12, 2012 in Linkoping. 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.[29][36] It is believed that all versions of Papa Emeritus are actually portrayed by the same vocalist.


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."[35] 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".[37] 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."[4] 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.[13] 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."[38]

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.[39]

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".[40] 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.[13] However, when Papa Emeritus II was asked in an interview if he (Papa) was the Ghoul Writer, he said he was not.[34]


Ghost's music has been categorized in many genres, though critics usually classify them as heavy metal, doom metal,[41][42] hard rock, and to a lesser extent progressive rock[43] and psychedelic rock.[44] 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."[45] 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.[46]

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."[3] A member of the band said the Swedish and Scandinavian black metal movement of the early '90s plays a major role in their act,[41] and said that each member has come from a metal background.[4] However, the band has stated several times that they do not aim to be a metal band.[4][13] 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."[47] Only two members actually write songs; vocalist Papa Emeritus is not one of them.[48][49] 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.[48]

Sample of "Year Zero", featuring a "Hail Satan" chorus and the naming of several aliases for the Devil or other demons; "Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer."

Problems playing this file? See media help.

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."[37] 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."[2] Infestissumam also deals with "how people relate to a deity or God, themes like submission and superstition, the horrors of being religious."[4] 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."[34] The group's theatrics are influenced by Kiss, David Bowie and Alice Cooper, but a member said they are more influenced by Pink Floyd.[4]


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.[50] 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.[20] When one interviewer said 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.".[51] 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. The burger has been called "tasteless" by local Catholic institutions, who demanded that it be removed from the menu. The restaurant's owner has refused, and stated that the burger is quite popular and is quite tasty.[52][53]


Studio albums[edit]

List of studio albums, with selected chart positions
Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications Sales
2010 Opus Eponymous
  • Released: October 18, 2010 (2010-10-18)
  • Label: Rise Above
2013 Infestissumam
  • Released: April 10, 2013 (2013-04-10)
  • Label: Loma Vista
1 189 150 5 85 8 58 28
2015 Meliora
  • Released: August 21, 2015 (2015-08-21)
  • Label: Loma Vista
1 21 23 1 19 2 23 8
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Extended plays[edit]

EP Year Peak positions Certification
If You Have Ghost
  • Date released: November 20, 2013
2013 87


Single Year Peak positions Album
US Mainstream Rock
  • Date released: June 20, 2010
2010 Opus Eponymous
"Secular Haze"
  • Date released: December 15, 2012
2012 22 Infestissumam
"Year Zero"
  • Date released: April 19, 2013
  • Date released: May 30, 2015
2015 4 Meliora
"From the Pinnacle to the Pit"
  • Date released: July 17, 2015
  • Date released: August 7, 2015

Awards and nominations[edit]

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Recipient/Nominated work Award Result
2016 "Cirice" Best Metal Performance Pending

Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards

Year Recipient/Nominated work Award Result
2012 "Ghost" Breakthrough band Won


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External links[edit]