Ghost is complicated.
If you’re simply after some solid Swedish heavy metal music, this Grammy Award-winning band will quench your thirst. But if you’re also on the hunt for a sinister-looking crew destined to give you nightmares, with satanic-themed back stories and lots of weird religious-based characters, you’re holding a royal flush.
Ghost will bring their “Ultimate Tour Named Death” to The Broadmoor World Arena on Tuesday. The group is touring in support of last year’s “Prequelle,” their fourth album, which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart.
“Its themes are tied in with the Black Death in Europe,” said frontman and founder Tobias Forge about the latest album. “But it’s an analogy to explain other things, otherworldly turmoils we all experience, the end of the world as you individually know it. That could be anything that threatens your life.”
It’s hard to know where to even begin with explaining the band, though Forge is quick to offer a word of warning to Ghost newbies.
“If you’re a religious person, you might be in for a shock,” he said. “If you’re an open-minded, intelligent, rock-digging modern person, as opposed to a Bible thumper, you’re in for a treat. It’s a quite theatrical and colorful rock show.”
The first whispers of Ghost came in 2010, after Forge posted some songs he’d written on MySpace and was almost immediately contacted by record labels and managers from around the world. His music and lyrics were dark and dramatic, heavily influenced by spending his 20s playing in death metal and rock bands and listening to heavy metal groups such as KISS and Alice Cooper.
“Within that genre, all sorts of satanic attributes are common,” he said. “It comes with the trade. If you’re a fan of death and rock metal, then you like horror films, you like that world.”
When it became clear to Forge that Ghost was gathering steam and could become an actual band, he knew he wanted to focus on creating a dynamic image and theatrical experience, one in which spectators knew nothing about the daily lives of the musicians.
Enter the creepy masks, macabre makeup, stage personas and online videos telling stories about the characters in different chapters.
In the band’s early days, its anonymous frontman (Forge) dubbed himself Papa Emeritus I and wore a pope’s hat while stalking around stage brandishing a thurible, a metal container in which incense is burned during religious ceremonies. That character exited, only to be followed by Papa Emeritus II, still wearing a pope’s hat, but with a much more ominous face, either painted or masked, it’s hard to say. Three more characters later, and Cardinal Copia is the new front guy. He wears a mask and black Catholic cardinal hat and sports copious amounts of black eyeliner.
In a plot twist, Forge’s identity as Ghost’s frontman was only confirmed in 2017, after former members of the band filed a lawsuit due to a royalty dispute. He doesn’t seem upset about the reveal, though. After all, the group is still wildly popular two years after having his cover blown.
“It’s been a gradual thing that started way beyond me revealing it,” he said. “Being in a band, an entertainment act, and striving to become bigger, is diametrically opposed to the idea of becoming less known. By the time I was unveiled, it wasn’t a big difference.”
JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM