Hailing from Linköping, Sweden, in northern Europe, Ghost has been making waves in the metal and rock scene since the beginning of the decade. And now as the 2010s have come to a close, Ghost has officially cemented itself as one of the most influential, genre-bending bands in the industry.
Scandinavia has always been a world leader of having the most metal bands per capita. The reason may be a combination of a culture steeped in rich history, inspiration from a less-than-amiable natural world, and the socio-political climate. In any case, northern Europe is a hotbed of alternative music. According to a study presented by AV Club, Sweden has 428 metal bands per 1 million people. To put it into context, the United States has a resounding 5 bands per 1 million people.
Since Sweden is no stranger to satanic metal, Ghost knew it had to set itself apart in a unique way if it had any chance of standing out from such a congested crowd. Corpse paint, ripped jeans, and bullet belts were not going to cut it for this band. Instead, Ghost opted for an expertly choreographed theme of anonymity and subverted papal authority.
Costumes and Sound
At their inception, the lead singer dressed as a satanic pope with a prosthetic, skull face mask, affectionately known as Papa Emeritus I. While the singer beneath the mask remained the same, his costumes and masks would change for each new album. The rest of the band were known as The Nameless Ghouls, and wore monk cloaks with Venetian bauta masks. They too would update their appearances with every album. Ghost managed to stay anonymous for almost a decade, but the lead singer recently came forward admitting his position in the band and continues to sit for interviews without hiding behind his stage clothes.
However unlike Ghost’s image suggests, their sound is surprisingly mellow. There is absolutely no “growling” like you would expect from a Swedish satanic metal band. Instead, their songs harken back to the sound of classic metal bands from the 1970s and 1980s, like Black Sabbath. Ghost’s songs are an interesting combination of massively catchy melodies which partner with sharp and witty lyrics about the coming apocalypse and emergence of the anti-Christ on earth.
Popularity in the United States
Through Ghost’s anonymity, intriguing outfits, and lyrical genius, they managed to start a cult-like following of fans. The release of their first album Opus Eponymous in 2010 gained popularity overseas. But the second album, Infestissumam, which was released in 2013, is what sparked their career in the United States. After entering the scene in a wash of obscurity, Ghost managed to find a seat at no. 28 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums list in a mere three years.
I remember seeing promotional shots for Ghost’s second album on the cover of almost every metal magazine I liked to read. I was completely enthralled by the fact that I had never seen anything as scandalous and amazing as this, and I had grown up listening to the shock-rock king, Marilyn Manson. After seeing Ghost’s frontman dressed as a satanic pope among a sea of black balloons on the cover of Decibel’s 100th issue, I knew I had to look them up. Ever since then, I have been an undying fan, pun very much intended.
It was a huge moment for the band and fans alike when a couple of songs off of the 2015 album, Meliora, made it on rock radio stations here in the United State. That was Ghost’s definitive moment of “we finally made it.” And as if things could not get any better, the following year, Ghost was recognized for the monumental amount of musical content they had been presenting fans as well as their high-caliber live shows. Ghost ending up winning the Grammy for “Best Metal Performance.”
In total, Ghost has released four full-length albums, Opus Eponymous (2010), Infestissumam (2013), Meliora (2015), and Prequelle (2018). Likewise, they have also put out three EPs, If You Have Ghost (2013), Popestar (2016), and Seven Inches of Satanic Panic (2019).
Over the last decade, Ghost’s sound has changed and grown with each album. Their musicality has become much more complex, showing that they feel more comfortable in experimenting with different instruments, harmonies, and lyrical content. While it is difficult to narrow down what Ghost’s best songs are, here is a list that illuminates how far they have come since 2010:
- “Elizabeth” -- Opus Eponymous Ghost
- “Satan Prayer” -- Opus Eponymous Ghost
- “Secular Haze” -- Infestissumam Ghost
- “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” — Infestissumam Ghost
- “From The Pinnacle To The Pit” — Meliora Ghost
- “Mummy Dust” — Meliora Ghost
- “Dance Macabre” — Prequelle Ghost
- “Life Eternal” — Prequelle Ghost
Ghost has proven themselves as a tour-de-force in terms of putting out high-quality albums and energetic live shows. They have made enormous strides in carving out a unique position for themselves in the genre, which is proving to have a definite positive effect on sales and growing their fanbase. Ghost’s upward trajectory has not faltered an inch in the last decade which only solidifies their place among other rising greats. They have gone from playing tiny, in house shows to selling out sports arenas. As they finish up the massive two-year long tour, A Pale Tour Named Death, Ghost’s frontman has gone on record with Loudwire stating they have plans for a fifth album in 2020. If the last decade has been this kind to the band, the next decade will surely be even better.