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Other... / Oct 26, 2023

"Papa's got a brand new bag" The Rise & Rise of Ghost.

With HMV’s Metal Week in full swing and set to bring down the house with an exciting selection of exclusive coloured vinyl, metal-infused playlists and an all around celebration of everything metal both old and new - I felt it only natural to bring light to a fairly recent metal band who’ve really surged in popularity over the last year. Ghost.

Having formed in 2006, and having gone from uploading their songs to MySpace to performing sellout tour dates to crowds in the thousands, Ghost have experienced a massive increase in their fanbase, which stemmed at their release of their single ‘Mary on a Cross’ which introduced a new generation to the band after the song became a trending sound on TikTok in 2022. Since then, the band have amassed 1.7 million followers on their Instagram and  1.4 million followers on their TikTok.

Ghost are renowned for their unique style, and while being classed overall as a ‘metal’ band, do not limit themselves to such. Their songs cover pop rock, hard rock, heavy metal, and have been stated to recall ‘psychedelic rock of the late 60s’. The band have also done numerous covers of the years, including songs by The Pet Shop Boys, Tina Turner and Genesis.

The group are also most prominently known for their theatrical stage presence. With Tobias Forge donning the persona of ‘Papa Emeritus’ with ceremonial robes and corpse paint styled make-up,  and the instrumentalists sporting identical masks as ‘The Nameless Ghouls’, they create an illusion that’s incredibly distinctive to their fans.

Ghost have also created a wide story and universe around their music, with multiple short stories in the form of video shorts explaining the vast lore behind the band, it’s frontman Papa Emeritus, the Ministry and its Clergy (the ‘behind the scenes organization’ that supposedly controls Ghost behind the scenes, consisting of Papa Emeritus 0, aka Papa Nihil, and Sister Imperator) explaining how they came to be, and how the current frontman Copia was chosen to be the frontman.

There is always wide speculation, rumors and analyzation occurring within the Ghost fandom. With many speculating what Tobias has in store next for the ever expanding universe of Ghost, and what fate is in store for Papa Emeritus IV/Copia, the current frontman. Earlier in May this year, Ghost announced a project called ‘Escape the Ministry’; an explorable Ministry game experience available to play on Ghost’s official site. What may simply seem a simple exploration game holds many hints and nods to the future and past of the Clergy of Ghost, which has sparked ongoing debate amongst fans online.

While Ghost are not the first band to utilize masks in their performances (with more notable examples being Slipknot and Daft Punk), but are one of the more prominent instances of a band creating characters, story and lore around their band and its music. It certainly does seem as if a lot of bands have taken inspiration over recent years. Another notable example would be ‘Sleep Token’ who have become another popular staple in the metal industry only just recently with their album ‘Take Me Back To Eden’. Much like Ghost, they are also known for their usage of masks on stage, creating anonymity amongst the singers and their musicians. Tobias Forge himself has stated in interviews he enjoys the refuge and escape of Ghosts’ remaining anonymity and the creative freedom it brings. 

However, despite their success over recent years, it has not come without controversy. Ghosts aesthetic, music and theming heavily revolves around Satanism, with Papa Emeritus being described as ‘a demonic anti-pope’. Because of this, Ghost faced difficulties during their early years. During recording of their second album, ‘Infestissumam’, they were unable to find choral singers based in Nashville to record the backing vocals and lyrics for the album. Instead, they were given no other option but to record these parts in Hollywood instead. When it came to pressing the album, there was great difficulty, as no US manufacturer was willing to take on Infestissumam due to the album's artwork and lyrics. Furthering this, no US chain stores, shows or commercial stations would take on their music.

This has drastically changed over recent years however, with the US seeming to warm to them more and more. With Ghost having just finished their ‘Re-Imperatour’ across the USA, and also making appearances on TV, performing ‘Cirice’ on The Late Show in 2015 for a Halloween themed episode. Now, with multiple awards and nominations spanning over the years, Ghost have proven themselves worthy in a long line of famous and talented metal artists - with Metallica being one of their more high profile fans and listeners. 

With their USA ‘Re-Imperatour’ bringing the final curtain on Ghost’s Impera Era, fans are left wondering what is next for the band, and whether or not Copia will remain frontman for the next album. Tobias has stated that the next album will have a different vibe to what’s come before, and that there are a lot of things he wants to do differently this time, and to ensure he’s not repeating himself - wanting no two albums to be the same.

Despite this, fans seem to be excited for what’s next to come in Ghost’s future, whatever it may bring (even if it is a change of Papa). There’s no doubt that whatever Ghost put out for their next album, it’s certain to be iconic.

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