Are you on the level?
Are you ready to swear,
Right here, right now,
Before the devil?"
Ghost (known as Ghost B.C. in North America from 2013 to 2015) is a Swedish Hard Rock and Heavy Metal band that combines melodic '70s rock and metal with Satanic themes (imagine a cross between Blue Öyster Cult, Black Sabbath and Mercyful Fate). They are an interesting example of an Anonymous Band: the band members dress all in black, wear masks that completely conceal their faces, and only identify themselves as "Nameless Ghouls"note , while the singer (former Repugnant member Tobias Forge, who was anonymous until a lawsuit forced him to reveal himself) is a succession of Sinister Ministers called Papa Emeritus. The Papa character was seemingly retired in 2018 and replaced by Cardinal Copia, along with the reveal of an elderly Papa called Papa Nihil. However, Nihil "died" in 2020 and Copia became Papa Emeritus IV.
- Opus eponymous (2010)
- Infestissumam (2013)
- If You Have Ghost (EP) (2013)
- Meliora (2015)
- Popestar (EP) (2016)
- Prequelle (2018)
- Seven Inches of Satanic Panic (EP) (2019)
- Untitled Fifth Album (TBA)
Ghost provides examples of
- Affably Evil: Every frontman for the band has played the part of a Card-Carrying Villain, which the associated musicians back up. Even so, there's no denying that the band is very friendly, especially Papa III and Cardinal Copia. They openly make jokes and have fun with the crowd at performances.
- Anonymous Band: The musicians wear robes, hoods and masks on stage and are referred to as "Nameless Ghouls" (even in song credits, where they're credited simply as "A Nameless Ghoul"). They refused to comment on any speculation about their real identities, and even faked a singer switch to try to throw off speculation about the singer's identity. The band said that Dave Grohl has played with them as one at a live studio performance, and that they have had several lineup changes. A few members have been guessed, possibly successfully. note
- In March 2017, Martin Persner of the Magna Carta Cartel identified himself as the former rhythm guitarist "Ether", sometimes known as "Omega". This was the first time anyone had intentionally revealed themself as a member.
- In April 2017, four other former membersnote willingly identified themselves as being members until 2016 (some for longer than others) and identified the singer against his will as Tobias Forge (although most already knew it at this point from Forge's own projects and the past photo leak by Nergal), after claiming he'd fired them due to a pay dispute.
- In August 2017, Forge hosted the popular Swedish radio show Sommar and talked openly about the creation of Ghost and being Papa Emeritus.My name is Tobias Forge and I am the man behind the mask in Ghost. Thank you for listening.
- The Antichrist: Features in some of their songs. "Ritual" revolves around a Satanic ritual intended to bring about his conception, "Death Knell" focuses on that conception, and "Prime Mover" talks about his imminent birth. The boy in the video for "Year Zero" is implied to be the Antichrist, and "Antichristos" is being chanted in the background near the end of the song.
- Arc Symbol: The "grucifix◊", an upside-down cross with a stylized 'G' in the middle (resembling an inverted Celtic cross).
- Backmasking: Played with. If you play "Deus Culpa" backwards, you get a Swedish hymn, "Gläns över sjö och strand".
- Biting-the-Hand Humor:
- Against the rest of the music industry when receiving a Swedish Grammy:Doing the Devil's work through singing and clapping and dancing and cults of personality and idolatry... well, that's not something only we are doing, but everyone in here. So thanks for letting us help!
- Done again years later in "Chapter One: New Blood", with Sister Imperator referring to the band's Grammy as "that most beloved of golden calves."
- Against the rest of the music industry when receiving a Swedish Grammy:
- Black Comedy: While there's a dark undercurrent to the "Chapter" videos, overall they're very tongue-in-cheek and highlight the goofiness of the Nihil and Copia characters. Even the three previous Papas being killed to be made into a display piece is played for comedy, as they're playing UNO in street clothes and one of them has his cards the wrong way, and there's a voiceover advertising their preserved bodies being on display for fans at the very end of the video.
- Blood Bath: Referenced in the last verse of "Elizabeth".To bathe in pure fresh blood / She'd peasant virgins killed
- Call-Back: Possibly. The phrase "Secular Haze" has previously appeared in the song "Son of May" by Forge's previous band Subvision.
- Catch Phrase: All of the band's official Facebook posts start with "[MESSAGE FROM THE CLERGY] We wish to inform you [...]"
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: Their cover of The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" changes the key from major to minor and the meaning from a happy celebration of spring to a song about the coming of The Antichrist ("Here comes the Son").
- Card-Carrying Villain: Many of their songs imply this about them.
- Corrupt Church: The music video for "He Is" is basically a parody on how Christian churches are more a cult to the personality of the pastor or priest on duty than to worship God. Within the video, there are references such as:
- Papa Emeritus III playing up the "cult leader" aspect by wearing form-fitting white suits and large sunglasses while conducting the services, which include over-the-top Pentecostal-style spirit channeling and river baptisms.
- Two Freeze Frame Bonuses, as a form of parodying subliminal messages. The image in question belongs to Tony Alamo, a Evangelist pastor who was sentenced to prison for tax evasion and sexually abusing children he called his "wives".
- The ministers collecting the tithe are pocketing some of the money.
- A woman who receives the host is in a position, as some commentaries in the video noted, to give a blowjob.
- The girls in the choir, one showing her bare breasts, are the parody of Tony Alamo's "wives". This aspect goes even further at the video's end, as the women being baptized are naked under their robes, and one is almost being groped by Papa as he's lifting her out of the water.
- Darker and Edgier: Meliora had shaped into this, and the final show of Papa III with Papa Zero declaring a message that "The Middle Ages have begun" seem to hint this for Era IV.
- Dead Guy on Display: As revealed in "Chapter Three: Back On the Road", this is the final fate of the three previous Papas: they're killed and embalmed to be turned into a traveling display for VIP fan packages at concerts.
- Decapitation Presentation: What Copia does to Papa Emeritus III's head. It's implied he eventually had it sewn back to Papa's body before it's displayed during the tour.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The first lines of the chorus to "Stand By Him".Tis the night of the witch / Tis the night of the witch, tonight
- Downer Ending: Prequelle is hardly a happy album to begin with, being about the Black Plague. However, its final track, "Life Eternal", ends it with two lovers, about to die at any moment, pondering what they would do if they could live forever.
- Elemental Powers: Each of the Nameless Ghouls is marked with their own elemental symbol. They use stamps with the same symbol to sign merchandise.
- Fire ("alpha"): lead guitar
- Water: bass
- Air: keyboards
- Earth: drums
- Ether ("omega"): rhythm guitar
- The End of the World as We Know It: As revealed in "Year Zero", Satan's goal is to destroy humanity and likely the earth itself.
- Evil Laugh: Done at the end of the first repetition of the chorus near the end of "Faith".
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The video for "Dance Macabre". Two guys crash a party at a huge mansion, one enthusiastically and the other as a reluctant tagalong. They're greeted at the door by a guy who looks like a goth take on Riff Raff; he rebuffs them until he gets a good look at the reluctant one, then invites them in. Once inside, it appears to be your typical wild party, but with the revelers looking dark and gothic. Dancing girls soon show up in black robes and plague doctor masks, and later a guy wearing a goat mask and robe who the others fawn over appears. While this is happening, the reluctant one begins dancing with Sister Imperator; she then leads him being transformed into Papa Nihil, and they eventually kiss. The first guy, on the other hand, is mauled, and possibly killed, by the women who latched onto him when they first walked in.
- Fallen Angel: "From the Pinnacle To the Pit", more specifically about Lucifer's fall from heaven.You were cast out from the heavens to the ground
Blackened feathers falling down
You will wear your independence like a crown
- Foreshadowing: In the video for "Square Hammer", the last shot before the film self-destructs is a stone cross with a cardinal sitting on it, a nod to the eventual transition from Papa III to Cardinal Copia.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Near the end of the video for "Year Zero", there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it frame of the long-haired woman who eats the apple before Papa shows up, back in the room where the women were sitting and topless, if not completely nude.
- Gender Reveal: The video for "Year Zero" shows the Nameless Ghouls as being all women. This being Ghost, though, it shouldn't be taken seriously but rather as a Take That! at the speculation around their identities. As of Prequelle (2018), there have been three female ghouls: the Water Ghoul during Era III and the current Ghoulettes of Era IV.
- God and Satan Are Both Jerks: This seems to be the case in their songs.
- God Is Dead: Implied by "Deus in Absentia".
- God Is Evil: The lyrics for "Infestissumam" mention the Trinity as the Father, Son and Evil Spirit.note
- Gratuitous Italian: "Con Clavi Con Dio" features the lyrics "Siamo con clavi / Siamo con dio / Siamo con il nostro dio scuro" which roughly translates to "We are with nails / We are with our lord / We are with our dark lord"
- Gratuitous Latin: The titles of their first three studio albums. Opus eponymous, means "our work", "Infestissumam" means "bitterest" or "most hostile" note (which could be them taking a jab at the 'sophomore slump' trope) and "Meliora" meaning "to improve or make better". The fourth, Prequelle, changes it up by going with Gratuitous French.
- Hollywood Satanism: What their image and lyrics are all about, though the band have said repeatedly that it's not because they're Satanists, instead saying it's all tongue-in-cheek and they are "an entertainment group". They do leave it a bit ambiguous as to whether or not they're actually Satanists. When asked in an interview if they believe in the Devil, a Nameless Ghoul (who might very well be Papa in disguise) acting as the band's spokesman said, "Let's just say that he believes in us." In a later interview, he says, "I'm not an atheist." Their stage show might just be a gimmick, but to what extent is unclear.
- Hot as Hell: "Jigolo Har Megiddo"'s subject, most likely the Antichrist, describes himself as "the one who comes richly endowed" and brags up his sexual potency throughout the song.
- I Am the Band: Tobias Forge is the band's sole constant member as well as its main creative force. Following the lawsuit filled by former bandmembers, he also released a statement clarifying that the other members were pretty much just his employees.
- Intercourse with You:
- "Jigolo Har Megiddo" is basically about the Antichrist bringing women to worship of Satan through sex.I am the way
And you invited me to stay
However fair and pure, you crave the wand
You see through me what lies beyond
- While fairly tame lyrically, "Kiss the Go-Goat" and "Mary On a Cross" are still very sex-themed. Justified as they're being "sung" by Papa Nihil in his youth, when he appeared to be as much about scoring as he was about singing about Satan.
- "Jigolo Har Megiddo" is basically about the Antichrist bringing women to worship of Satan through sex.
- It's the Same, Now It Sucks!: Invoked by Tobias during an interview with Loudwire. When asked about the "changes" in the singer, he said that part of the reason for going with a more animated and charismatic character in Papa III was to prevent the band's formula from becoming stale and causing fans to lose interest.
- Kayfabe Music: Sort of. While the band is famous for its image as members of a Satanic Church, the members (save for Papa) generally don't adhere to this premise outside of live performances and a few in-character videos.
- Kill the God: Invoked in the lyrics of "Infestissumam". "Il padre, il filio, et lo spiritus malum / Omnis caelestis delenda est" translates to "The Father, the Son, and the Evil Spirit / Everything heavenly must be destroyed".
- Last Note Nightmare: To be expected, given the band's premise.
- "Deus Culpa" gets louder and louder, with a "Wham" noise fading in before the song loudly and abruptly cuts off, leading into "Con Clavi Con Dio".
- "Year Zero" ends with a haunting synthesizer reprise, combined with the sounds of static and someone whispering... something...that ends with "Can you hear me?"
- Their album closers seem to have this too. "Monstrance Clock" (rounding off Infestissumam) ends with an eerie choir reprise of the song's chorus. "Deus in Absentia" rounds off Meliora with a solemn, sorrowful choir lamenting at the absence of God.
- Left the Background Music On: Played with in "Chapter Two: The Cardinal". When Cardinal Copia first appears, organ music is playing, but it quickly becomes apparent that it's coming from the boombox he's carrying on his shoulder. He shuts it off before speaking to Papa Nihil and Sister Imperator, then turns it back on just before leaving.
- Loudness War: The CD version of Infestissumam suffers from Death Magnetic levels of brickwalling. It's not as bad in the iTunes digital master, but the clipping is still very noticeable.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Catchy, melodious '70s rock... with over-the-top Satanic lyrics. Some songs take this even further:
- The chorus in "Monstrance Clock" sounds like something out of "We Are the World", while actually being about a Black Mass.
- "He Is" is a parody of Christian praise songs (the "He" being praised is in fact Lucifer).
- "Dance Macabre" falls into this, with an upbeat, almost disco feel to it. The lyrics, while not as dark as some other songs, still involve dying from the Black Plague.
- "Pro Memoria" has a lovely melody for the lyrics "Don't you forget about dying / Don't you forget about your friend Death / Don't you forget that you will die".
- "Rats" has a incredibly bouncy feeling in the instruments and apart from the chorus, the vocals are in general very upbeat. The actual lyrics are a Religion Rant Song comparing the spread of religion to rats spreading disease.
- Male Frontal Nudity: In the video for "Year Zero", as the music ends Papa II abruptly pulls the front of his robe over his head, revealing that he's naked...with a huge censor bar.
- Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness: Usually an 8-9.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: 5-6.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Used frequently, most notably on Infestissumam. This became a problem when they recorded Infestissumam in Nashville—"the Buckle of the Bible Belt"—as they couldn't find a choir that would agree to sing their Satanic lyrics. In the end, they had to turn to Hollywood to get those backing vocals. This explains why there's a noticeable lack of choirs on Meliora; the band wanted to avoid the trouble they went through trying to get choirs to sing such lyrics, so they used mellotron choirs. The chanting at the end of "Deus in Absentia" is a leftover outtake from the Infestissumam sessions.
- Ominous Pipe Organ
- Paper-Thin Disguise: A lot of fans saw through Tobias Forge's disguise long before the lawsuit that resulted in his name being revealed. Needless to say, not many people were surprised.
- Performance Video:
- While "Year Zero"'s video is mostly a skit involving Papa II showing up to apparently make a pact with a group of women, the last two choruses have the band playing the song in a series of rapid cuts between Papa and the Ghouls.
- "Monstrance Clock"'s video is a live performance with the studio track overlaid.
- "Secular Haze"'s video is shot as if it was a live performance on a 70s-era variety show.
- "Faith"'s video is a montage of shots of the band performing the song during the A Pale Horse Named Death tour, intercut with shots of the crowd rocking out to the song and concert-goers in Ghost-themed costumes and/or makeup.
- The first half of "Kiss the Go-Goat"'s video appears to be a black/white music video, while the latter half has the group performing at the Whiskey a Go Go.
- Punny Name: "Idolatrine" is a combination of "idolatry" and "latrine".
- Precision F-Strike: As their songs usually don't contain profanity note , the second verse of "Deus In Absentia" starting with the phrase "You're so goddamn frail" really stands out.
- Progressive Rock: Some of the material on Infestissumam, particularly "Ghuleh/Zombie Queen".
- Psychedelic Rock: 7 Inches of Satanic Panic, which, within the band's lore, was released in 1969, while Papa Nihil was fronting the band.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
- Because Faith. Is. Mine.
- ZOOOOOMMMM!BIIIEEEEE QUEEEEEEEEEEN!
- Rain of Blood: Near the end of the video for "Dance Macabre", just after Sister Imperator and Papa Nihil kiss, blood begins to rain onto them.
- Renamed for the Export: From 2013 to 2015, they were known as Ghost B.C. in the US, thought to be related to the prior touring presence of a Japanese rock band that is also called Ghost. They eventually got it sorted out and are now back to being Ghost.
- Religion Rant Song: Downplayed, surprisingly enough. Ghost has written some of this kind of song, such as "Idolatrine", "Rats", "Faith", and the music video of "He Is", but for the most part their Satanic and anti-Christian image is used to create a dark and creepy aesthetic.
- Retraux: Some of their videos are deliberate call-backs to older media:
- "Secular Haze" resembles a live performance from a '70s variety show, including cheesy fog effects, awkward camera angles and close-ups, and a grainy appearance.
- "Square Hammer" and "From the Pinnacle To the Pit" both evoke the silent film era, with the latter having a strong German Expressionism theme and also incorporating material from Cecil B. DeMille's Madam Satan.
- "Kiss the Go-Goat" reflects the song's Psychedelic Rock sound by having it start as an apparent filmed video, complete with go-go dancers, then segueing to a live performance at the Whiskey a Go Go.
- Revolving Door Band: A Nameless Ghoul has admitted that the band has gone through ten lineup changes since its formation. The lawsuit regarding Tobias Forge indicated that the Nameless Ghouls are viewed simply as employees for recording and live shows.
- Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Most of their lyrics. Again, this is done firmly with tongue in cheek.
- Satan: The subject of at least half of their songs.
- Satan is Good: Ha! You wish.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In the video for "Square Hammer", Papa III finally has enough of the craziness in the theater, throws his hands up, and walks out with the Nameless Ghouls following.
- Self-Deprecating Humor: In "Chapter Five - The Call", Sister Imperator calls Papa Nihil to talk about a series of movies. Their conversation is not only a huge lampshade on the Omen films, it pokes fun at the band's own concept of Imperator taking the reins in the church and having Cardinal Copia take over for the Papas.Nihil: I mean, 1, 2, and 3 are very good...but then suddenly, Christ smites our Lord at the end of 3 and that's it? What a shitty ending.
Imperator: And then there's number 4, which feels like an excuse to bring in a new director and try to get the ending right after 15 years.
Nihil: Well, whenever you have a new creative team, when you start episode 4, you have to do a lot of rebuilding.
- Their album and merchandise artworks feature frequent homages to horror movies, as well as other bands, occasionally:
- Papa III's looks were based on Bela Lugosi while Papa II's were inspired by the founder of the Church of Satan himself, Anton Lavey.
- Cardinal Copia bears a striking resemblance to famous horror star Vincent Price.
- "Cirice"'s video features a nod to Carrie, as the girl the band is playing to suddenly develops telekinesis and begins causing havoc in the auditorium, although in a less violent way than Carrie.
- "Chapter Seven: New World Redro":
- The video is a Whole Plot Reference to The Shining, featuring long silent shots of Cardinal Copia riding around on a tricycle and later seeing the eerie twins that accompany Papa Nihil in the same manner as the twins from the film. Also, Nihil is typing a letter to Sister Imperator only to realize that he's just been typing "ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES PAPA BAD DAD" repeatedly. He later sees who he thinks is the young Imperator but who turns into his younger self (which is also a teaser for the next Chapter video). The video title even references the "REDRUM" bit.
- Papa Nihil's letter to Sister Imperator (or at least, what he thinks he's typing) is a rewording of part of the lyrics of "Frankly Mr. Shankly" by The Smiths.
- Story Arc: For a metal band, this is pretty surprising. Following the start of Era III (with Papa Emeritus III), Ghost began to establish lore about itself: The band is a key element to what's implied to be a church dedicated to spreading the word of Satan, with a Papa being the front man and of the same bloodline. Around the start of Era IV however, it's revealed there's a much older Papa called Papa Nihil (the one seen when Papa III was ousted) who used to be the band's singer. Howver, Sister Imperator reveals to him that the Church has decided to go with a different front man of Ghost, a cardinal known as Cardinal Copia. After almost two years, Papa Nihil dies during the band's only show of 2020, and Copia becomes Papa Emeritus IV.
- Talent Contest: The video for "Cirice" sees a school talent show get derailed by a kid version of the band.
- Theremin: "Spirit" opens with an eerie theremin refrain backed by a mellotron "choir" which sets the mood for both the song and the album as a whole.
- Trrrilling Rrrs: Occasionally used for dramatic flair. They're most prominent in the choruses in "Rats", although said choruses only consist of "(Them) r-r-r-rats!" repeatedly.
- Twisted Eucharist: "Body and Blood" mocks the concept of Communion by depicting Jesus's corpse literally being exhumed and consumed.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Sister Imperator and Papa Nihil in "Chapter One: New Blood", particularly as their younger selves. Their two minutes of interaction was enough to get fans speculating about the nature of their relationship, ranging from Friends with Benefits to Dry Docked Ship. The video for "Dance Macabre" showed that both Nihil and Imperator were at least lovers but whether or not they remained so in the current era is unknown. Although it's clear that at least Nihil is still enamored with her, it's a bit more ambiguous on Imperator's side. As of Chapter 8, it's confirmed that this trope was resolved; while they were lovers (and it's implied that Imperator was pregnant with his child), Nihil instigated the breakup by being too flirty with his fans, culminating in him kissing a pair in front of a watching Imperator in the video for "Kiss the Go-Goat." While Nihil continued to hold a torch for her, Imperator told under no certain terms that she was done with him, staying only because the Ministry is far more important.
- Wham Episode:
- The final show of Papa III became this: Papa III was hauled off the stage by strange men in suits and a similar very older sinister pope (complete with oxygen tank and mask!) who identified himself as Papa Zero came on stage and declared a haunting message in Italian: "The party is over. The Middle Ages have begun".
- On March 3rd, 2020, the band performed in Mexico for the last part of A Tour Called Death, which was aptly named "The Final Gig of Death." It was their sole show of the year, and it whammed hard. At the end of the saxophone solo in "Miasma", Papa Nihil fell, his handlers panicking. As the good Cardinal came out, the handlers revealed that Nihil had died. A briefly sorrowful Copia pays his respects, before an entourage of Sisters of Sin appear, surrounding him. When they pull away, he has donned papal robes and the Papa face paint, becoming Papa Emeritus IV.
- Witch Hunt: "Stand By Him" is about a woman who was accused of being a witch after an affair with a vicar and burned at the stake, and is brought back to life by a black Sabbath to get revenge. The prechorus starts with "The witch hammer struck her down" and the song includes a quote from the Malleus Maleficarum.
Come together, for Lucifer's son ♫