July 15, 2024

Ghost made an immediate impression.

Papa Emeritus wore a skull mask and dressed like a “demonic anti-Pope. He was backed by the Nameless Ghouls who were hidden behind silver masks with horns, satanic symbols and full-length hooded robes. It was a visual borne from a “love of horror films and the traditions of Scandinavian Metal.”

Ghost’s sophomore set, “Infestissumam,” marked the band’s major label debut. The album went to #1 in their native Sweden and made a small dent in the U.S. (after its release was delayed due to controversial – sexual – artwork that was eventually abandoned on all but limited editions).

Then came the release of the “If You Have Ghost” EP. The five- song set, produced by Dave Grohl (Nirvava, Foo Fighters), included covers of Abba and Depeche Mode. 

“Meliora” (a Latin adjective meaning “better” or “for the pursuit of the better”) dropped in ’15 and was followed by the announcement that Papa Emeritus II had been “fired.” His successor, Papa Emeritus III, was said to be II’s “younger brother by three months.” Okay.

Up against Slipknot, Lamb Of God and Sevendust for the ’16 Best Metal Performance Grammy, Ghost’s “Meliora” took home the trophy. 

The “Popestar” EP, arriving in ’16, moved 21,000 copies in the U.S. during the first week of release to top both Billboard’s Top Rock Albums and Hard Rock Albums charts. 

Ghost also topped the Active Rock chart with “Square Hammer.” They were the first Swedish band to have a #1 song on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart. 

In addition, “Popestar” took home the trophy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Album at the ’17 Swedish Grammis Awards. It was the band’s third Grammis win. 

With fame came notoriety. Tobias Forge publicly stated he was Papa Emeritus. Of course, speculation had swirled since the band’s debut. This revelation occurred around the time band members were claiming Forge had not properly divided the group’s earnings. Essentially, the band felt they were partners in Ghost while Forge saw them merely as hired hands.

Their lawsuit was subsequently dismissed with the ex-Ghost musicians ordered to pay Forge’s legal fees. They had sued for roughly $22,000 in unpaid compensation.

Forge subsequently overhauled the band. For live shows there were three guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and two female keyboard players. Also, Forge dropped the Papa Emeritus moniker adopting the persona of Cardinal Copia. 

“Prequelle,” Ghost’s fourth full-length effort, was recorded at Artery studios in Stockholm with producer Tom Dalgety. The album topped the US iTunes sales chart and debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200.

The album spawned two #1’s on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs airplay chart – “Rats,” which topped the chart for seven weeks, and the second single, “Dance Macabre.” That was three consecutive #1’s.  

While on tour in support of the album, Ghost was forced to end their Milwaukee concert early after a fan collapsed in the mosh pit during intermission. CPR was given to 52-year-old Jeffrey Fortune while concertgoers cleared the Riverside Theater. Sadly, Fortune died later that evening after being transported to the hospital.

Ghost fans later raised over $9,500 via a crowdfunding drive for Fortune’s family.

In the real world many popes have a relatively short tenure due to their age.  In Ghost it’s even more pronounced. The arrival of Papa Emeritus IV in ’10 marked the fourth Papa in a decade.  The latest iteration made his debut on Swedish television performing the Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil” with the Hellacopters. How stunningly appropriate. 

Ghost then provided a cover of “Enter Sandman” for “The Metallica Blacklist” tribute album before contributing “Hunter’s Moon” to the soundtrack for the slasher flick “Halloween Kills”

“Impera” dropped in early ‘22. Forge explained it was a concept album based on “the rise and fall of empires.” The set featured the previously released “Hunter’s Moon” and the single “Call Me Little Sunshine.” 

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