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Ghost’s music haunted by rock, metal influences

It started with a guitar riff, then a song. That became the spark for a musical vision by Tobias Forge that has grown into a multi-media sensation across the globe.

“I spent 30 years of my life not being successful,” he said during a recent phone interview. “I still feel that feeling of knowing what it’s like to have nothing, careerwise. Then, you can fast forward to now and … I can’t believe this. I grab my 12-year-old self by the hand and say, ‘Look at that! Wow!'”

As the creative force, singer, songwriter and musician of Ghost, Forge combined a multitude of 1970s and ’80s rock and heavy metal influences, including Alice Cooper, KISS, Journey, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Foreigner, with the death metal and black metal he grew up with in his Swedish homeland. Altogether, he became as familiar with the importance of melodies and harmonies as he was the rites and traditions of Catholicism and Satanism. He incorporated all of that in the music, images, themes and storylines of Ghost.

Forge played characters — Papa Emeritus I, II and III, and Nihil — onstage and in videos. Now, he wears a mask performing as his latest creation, Cardinal Copia.

Where does Ghost’s music fit within the categories of rock? “The easiest way to explain it is shock rock, just because it has a visual representation that goes beyond just putting your coolest pair of jeans on and your coolest T-shirt, which is what most other bands do,” Forge said.

“A lot of historical shock rock bands you have are equally hard to put a finger on what it is musically. What was Alice Cooper? What was KISS? Everything from doo-wop to heavy metal. Both had big soaring ballads with orchestral arrangements, obviously with producer Bob Ezrin. That’s the sort of thinking that I have musically.”

He also mentions the sonic diversity of Queen’s catalog. “They didn’t conform to any music style. That’s the compass of mine. I just want to be entertaining. I like a lot of different rock and pop, so I have a little bit of everything in there.”

Under Forge’s guidance, Ghost has excessively catchy tunes that easily transition from heavy metal to theatrical rock ballads, disco-infused rock, gothic orchestral scores and more. The group racked up three Grammy award nominations and one win for Best Metal Performance of the song “Cirice.”

The 2018 album “Prequelle” tackled dark subject matter with a melodic flair. It deals with the Black Plague of the 14th century and how humanity’s imminent demise by natural forces should be a reminder to celebrate while still alive. Songs such as “Faith,” “Rats” and “Danse Macabre” contained an abundance of hooks that entranced listeners and quickly rose to the top of the national rock radio airplay charts.

Not resting on his success, Forge takes Ghost in new directions with the next chapter in the band’s video series that goes back to the groovy times of the late ’60s Sunset Strip. That’s reflected in the recently-released single, “Seven Inches of Satanic Panic” with the farfisa organ heavy-tracks “Kiss the Go-Goat” and “Mary On A Cross.”

Following festival dates last summer and an opening slot on Metallica’s European tour, Ghost headlines the Ultimate Tour Named Death, which arrives today at Covelli Centre. Nothing More opens.

The band brings along its full-scale production that resembles a medieval cathedral with stained-glass windows that depict the Papa characters, while a mask-wearing eight-piece backing band, dubbed the Nameless Ghouls, perform with skintight precision.

With his identity hidden, Warren native Dave Grohl secretly played onstage with the band. He also produced and played on Ghost’s 2013 EP, “If You Have Ghost.”

Wanting to be more than a regional act, Forge noticed the successful results of bands such as Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden, who consistently played venues across the United States. “You’re never big in America unless you’re touring everywhere. I was always dead set on, ‘Let’s never get stuck (playing just Sweden).’ It’s nothing against my home country, but that is something I followed and it’s worked very well.

“I’m now looking forward to a new tour cycle beginning in 2021 where I’m fishing up a lot of stage production ideas that I might have come up with 20 years ago. I had this idea or drawing that back then was me dreaming about either being in a band that did that or me being a stage production designer,” he said.

Right now, Forge’s dreams are coming true as he continues to be the architect of Ghost’s world.