Ghost B.C. on Nameless Ghouls, Satan, and ABBA
Like most of it's traditions of which Sweden has many, Death Metal is a pervasively dark and sorrow-driven force in the the country's music history. With many brands of heaviness in it's ranks the band Ghost (or Ghost B.C. as they are known stateside) stand out as one that seemingly came from out of nowhere. Vaporizing into form as the hooded spiritual beings lead by the skull-faced "Pope", Papa Emeritus II, the band manages to create and capture a dark and gloomy, satanically-inspired persona that visually enhances and solidifies the band's overall concept.
While no one really knows who the actual band members are, they aren't the first band in history to create their own mythology but have since created a sound and characteristics that make their live show a must-see theatrical experience.
Their new record released this month, Infestissuma, further elaborates upon the band's exploration of satanic themes in modern-day society. With a progressive sound that incorporates organs, a chorus, and chanting lyrics like "Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer," one is forced to ultimately look at the package of Ghost as metallic theater.
Speaking by phone from the band's hometown, Linköping, I was greeted by a somewhat soft-spoken voice, apparently one of the Nameless Ghouls from the band. With a very serious tinge to his description of the band's music we were able to dig deeper into the sound of the band and the forthcoming performance the band delivers and will be bringing to Mill City Nights this weekend.
Gimme Noise: So who am I talking to?
Nameless Ghoul: Uh, I am a Nameless Ghoul..
Hey Nameless Ghoul. Which instrument do you play, so as I can discern just which Nameless Ghoul I am talking to?
I am the guitar player.
Awesome. Have you been in the band for a while or do the Nameless Ghouls kind of come in and out of the band?
I'm the founding member.
Oh cool, the founding Ghoul! Hey, I been listening to Infestissumam quite a bit and really digging it. Have you gotten some good feedback from it? Are you pretty happy with how it turned out?
Yeah, the overall reception has been very good, I think. Especially in Europe where we've had slightly more great reviews in Scandanavia -- in all the daily magazines -- the reception has been really strong. It's been very highly-ranked and the record went number one in Sweden. So, obviously we're not at that level anywhere else, but we scored pretty high on Billboard here for being a band of our nature. Really exceeded anything we thought we'd do a year ago.
Well, if you got to conquer each part of the world, I'd guess Scandinavia is a good place to start.
That's our home base. Even though we sort of did everything backwards, since we never did that rudimentary club-circuit-thing before you get signed. We started after our first record came out. Our first show was in Germany and the second was in London. We never really built our base in Sweden but we're really lucky they picked up on us really early. They say "You can never really be a prophet in your own hometown." but we've managed to have a really strong following at home.
About the new record. Would you say it's a concept thing as much as the performance is as far as telling a story with each release?
Obviously being a really strong conceptual band, the records are thematic but they aren't chronological stories. Everything on the new record deals with a presence of a devil and/or Antichrist. But that's the literal essence of it. Whereas most of the songs are about how mankind relates to having a devil presence and what man would consider being a diabolical presence. The first record was more about the impending doom. We're basically doing the church, rolled-up authority that tells you hell is coming. Yes, it's thematic but it's not storytelling.
I like some of these themes about coming to terms with your own insignificance. I don't know if that eludes to the daily pact with the devil that people kind of make, sacrificing themselves as individuals. What's the inspiration for some of these ideas?
If you take everything the literal way, then you basically are just viewing the artistic side of Ghost. We're trying to paint an audio and visual landscape that's intriguing for your eyes and ears and soul that's based upon on an overtly-satanic concept that is supposed to feel very dark and evil. Whereas the underlying meanings of everything have some substance. You can choose to ignore that if you want to. You can read into the morals that there are in it. For being a satanic band that originates in metal, we are preaching but we aren't demanding anyone to act upon what we're saying.
You are creating a representation of these ideas in a literal way, but ending up with a fantastical presentation. In the end, it's kind of like Kiss as far as portraying characters, but perhaps you really are "knights in Satan's service!"
They'd be an inspirational force for sure. My first record was Lovegun. I think I got it when I was three. So, that whole impression lies very dear to me and to what sprung Ghost. I mean, first and foremost, Ghost is an entertainment institution. It's meant to be regarded as something like theater or a movie. That doesn't mean that whatever issue that is brought up is fake. It isn't meant to be taken 100% as a personal statement.
I wanted to ask about the ABBA cover on Infestissumam?
We've made a hobby out of taking a lot of songs and doing our own renditions of them. Just before going to Nashville to record the actual album we thought we'd record some of them separately. We met up with Dave Grohl at one point, and he was really into recording them with us so we went to L.A. and did five songs with him. "I'm a Marionette" was one of them. That song had been in mind for a long time, as it's one of those songs that everyone has kind of completely forgotten about.
A deep cut!
It's just not a highly recognized ABBA song. It's never on any of the "Best Of" collections, and it really has that dark element. It seemed like a real typical thing for Papa to sing. Our motto kind of is "What is the Papa thing to do?" It goes along with what we decide to cover. So that song felt very perfect for that.
Yeah, I didn't remember that song real well. After listening to yours and then listening to theirs it sounded more evil than it probably is. I think you were successful in capturing the essence of the song to go with what you do. Any word from Benny or Björn, and what they might think of your version?
There is a photo of Björn holding our record. That is about as far as it has gone. Their office is just a few doors down from our label so I know they are definitely in reach. I know he has the record but I have no idea what he thinks of it.
So touring the states, in some parts of the country do you get different reactions. Do people take you really literally and protest and all that?
We are still too unknown for the pastors and priests to pick up on the band. I think they know better nowadays to go out of their way to say "This band is dangerous!" because they know it only actually helps us.
Yeah, hopefully that will change. Maybe that should be a goal of the band to really stoke the coals.
Well that isn't really a goal of ours, but I suppose it is bound to happen.
Ghost performs with Ides of Gemini on Saturday, May 4 at Mill City Nights. 8 p.m. for Ages 16+
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.