Published Jun 12, 2018For the majority of the band's existence, the members of Ghost remained anonymous. The Swedish shock-rock project was fronted by Papa Emeritus, a skeletal-looking pope figure, and backed by a rotating cast of "nameless ghouls" who hid their identities behind masks. In 2017, the curtain was pulled back when ringleader Tobias Forge was sued by four of his former band members, who claimed they were cheated out of their share of royalties for touring and album sales.
With each album, Ghost have ushered in a new Papa Emeritus to front the band, but since the outing of some of the band members, they have "killed" the three former frontmen and found a new leader, Cardinal Copia, for their fourth record Prequelle. Forge says that if Cardinal Copia proves himself worthy, he could potentially take on the role of Papa Emeritus IV.
"A lot about the new record — but also throughout all of our records and the whole concept — is about the concept of mortality and of passing the torch," Forge tells Exclaim! "After Papa IV, there must be a Papa V. There's always someone coming after you. You are not eternal. You're not immortal. That is not to say there is not an afterlife; I'm just saying that everybody has to pass the torch forward."
Prequelle is centred around the idea of surviving a catastrophic event such as the Black Death, and while it draws from medieval themes, Forge says the record relates closely to today's world.
"There have been tons of black metal records written about the death aspect of the Black Death. Half of the European population was wiped out, but half of the population did not die. This record is more about surviving through an ordeal like the Black Death."
Forge carefully plans each step of Ghost, and began collecting snippets of music for Prequelle while completing 2017's Ceremony and Devotion. Even now, the musician is preparing ideas and gathering material for their next record.
"Some of them amount to more fully fleshed-out songs, and by the time that I know I'm going to hit the studio again, in probably January 2020, by then the pile will be relatively large," says Forge. "Sometimes I know the theme years in advance — I knew even before [2015's] Meliora that I wanted to make this record — but that didn't mean that the whole record was written."