On Stage: Ghost appears locally as US tour leg wraps up

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


Ghost, a Swedish rock band whose music spans many genres, rose to arena status a few years ago – and has continued to build on its success ever since.

Now one of the most popular touring bands in the world, Ghost is coming down to the final few shows of its mammoth year-long schedule of live concerts.

After playing a show in Hershey on Thursday night, Ghost is wrapping up its “The Ultimate Tour Named Death North America 2019” swing with a concert at Cure Insurance Arena (81 Hamilton Avenue, Trenton, NJ, www.cureinsurancearena.com) on October 25 and a show in Glen Falls, New York on October 26.

Ghost, which features Cardinal Copia on vocals and “Ghouls and Ghoulettes” as the band. Also known as “Cardinal Copia and his Nameless Ghouls,” it is a project started and maintained by front man/composer Tobias Forge. The “Nameless Ghouls” remain nameless with the line-up changing from tour-to-tour and in the recording studio.

For area Ghost fans, if you miss Friday night’s show, it will be a serious case of “You snooze, you lose.”

“We won’t be touring at all in 2020,” said Forge, during a phone interview from Hershey on Thursday afternoon.

“We’re staying off the road for a year and heading into the recording studio to work on our next album. I started writing for the next album right when we finished making our current album. It’s definitely ramping up. New ideas are piling up.”

“We have one show in March in Mexico and that’s the only thing in 2020. This has been a long tour. I’m definitely ready to finish it. I’m going back home for family time.”

Ghost will play 21 shows in Europe from November 16 in Nottingham, England until December 19 in Toulouse, France. Other than a show on March 3, 2020 at Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City, there will be no stage appearances by the band until sometime in 2021.

Ghost has been making its distinct style of music for a decade-and-a-half. Forge first brought Ghost to life in 2006 in Linköping, Sweden. Later, he moved to Stockholm, the country’s capital.

“I’m in transition between finishing a toured and beginning work in the studio,” said Forge. “It’s an interesting situation. When you’ve been touring for a while, you look forward to getting off the road and going in the studio. Then, when you’ve been in the studio for a while, you look to get out on tour again. It’s a very cyclical drive.”

Back in 2016, Ghost, which is known for its elaborate – and at times sacrilegious – live shows, rose to a new plateau internationally when it stole the show at the Grammy Awards show. Ghost’s “Cirice,” from its critically acclaimed third album “Meliora,” was awarded a Grammy for “Best Metal Performance.”

“Meliora” was released on August 21, 2015 and debuted at No. 1 at Independent Retail, No. 2 at Rock, and in the Top 10 (#8) on Billboard’s Top 200 Album Charts. Ghost are one of just four bands from Sweden to have been in the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart (joining Avicii, Ace of Base, and Europe).

“I guess you could say that ‘Meliora’ was a breakthrough album – at least a breakthrough for American rock radio,” said Forge.

A lot of the album was made in Sweden with Klas Åhlund as the producer. The album also marked the debut of the band’s third lead singer — Papa Emeritus III. The group’s vocalist portrays the band’s mascot character, a Satanic priest known as Papa Emeritus.

There have been three different characters taking the name Papa Emeritus. The band’s original Papa Emeritus I was with the group from 2008-2012 and Papa Emeritus II was the front man from 2012 until 2015.

Papa Emeritus III lasted from 2015-2017 and was replaced by Cardinal Copia last year. A common thread linking them all is Forge playing the role and doing the vocals.

According to Forge, “Plans are for Cardinal Copia to be around for five years.”

Not long ago, Ghost also welcomed Papa Nihil, the first band member besides Forge to receive a character name. Originally introduced as Papa Emeritus Zero, Nihil is the ancestor of all previous Papa Emeritus characters.

Ghost’s music began as being much heavier, harder and “more metal,” but over the band’s recent history, the songs have evolved to embrace a catchier, rock/pop sound.

Five of the Ghost’s songs have hit Billboard’s Top 5 Rock chart — “Cirice” claimed the #4 spot in 2015, “From The Pinnacle to The Pit” went to #5 in 2016, and “Square Hammer” (2017), “Rats” (2018), and “Dance Macabre” (2018) all held the #1 spot on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart and on the Mediabase Active Rock chart.

“Faith,” the band’s current single, is the third consecutive Top 10 single on the Rock Charts from the “Prequelle” album. Ghost’s music retains its rock edge as well as its dark lyrical themes like The Black Plague, the Antichrist, the Inquisition, avarice, and the Apocalypse.  Ghost has received three Grammy nominations – “Best Metal Performance” in 2016 for “Cirice,” which it won; along with “Best Rock Album” for “Prequelle” and “Best Rock Song” for “Rats” in 2019.

“Being able to span genres definitely helps,” said Forge. “We’ve been a success because we’ve been able to attract so many types of listeners.

“If you want to be a really big band, when you get out of the 500-1000 capacity venues, you’ll get people that don’t know that much about the band. When you play in front of large crowds, you have to win the people over.”

That was the situation when Ghost opened for Metallica on a tour earlier this year. When Ghost is on its own headlining tour, it has already won over 99 per cent of the audience before even one note is played.

“Play 150-180 shows a year and you’re definitely down with it,” said Forge. “The good thing about this tour is that we’re ending on a high note. It’s very close to where I wanted it to be. The show tonight and the rest of the tour is pretty much ‘bang on.’ I do it with a lot of pride.

“The show has evolved a lot, but the big moments are the same. Everybody in the band is super-confident. It’s very symmetrical – like a soccer team that plays well together. It’s more than just playing the right note at the right time.”

Forge, a soccer enthusiast who grew up a fan of AIK (one of Stockholm’s top teams) and was a member of the team’s ‘Black Army’ fan organization, is looking forward to getting back to his home city.

“With a family, you do have a wish to come home,” said Forge. “It’s going to be interesting to be back home and just be around friends again. I haven’t been able to do that for nine years.”

Video link for Ghost — https://youtu.be/qyxrzUe_TDM.

The show at the Cure Insurance Arena, which has Nothing More as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $59.50, $49.50, $39.50, and $25.

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