Ghost brings ultimate Halloween show to Hamilton this October
Grammy-winning Swedish sensation marries cult with camp
Tobias Forge is a man obsessed with two things — the devil and perfection.
The frontman of the pseudo-satanic, cult sensation Ghost is bringing the band's ornate, tongue-in-cheek theatrics to Hamilton for the first time this month.
Now touring in support of the Swedish band's acclaimed fourth album Prequelle and fresh off a tour supporting metal behemoths Metallica, you'd be forgiven for thinking Ghost's expansive stage show has been close to perfected.
Not so, says Forge, who says he still has trouble getting the ideas from his head onto the stage.
"Everything you've ever seen by Ghost is a lesser version of what I had in mind originally," he told CBC News.
Constant tinkering and concessions always seem to dilute his original vision, he says.
"And things like that make me absolutely explosive — and that keeps happening all the time."
Still, the band's footprint just keeps growing. From somewhat humble beginnings in smaller venues following the band's debut 2010 album Opus Eponymous through the Grammy Award-winning Meliora, Ghost is now playing arenas in many cities across the world.
The band's stage show is like a spiritual successor to Alice Cooper, just with less of an emphasis on pure shock and more of a focus on the theatre of its faux-cult persona.
Forge spent years playing the part of a succession of "demonic anti-popes" called Papa Emeritus, before transitioning to a new character called Cardinal Copia on the most recent record. The vocalist is flanked onstage by a band of masked instrumentalists known as "nameless ghouls," whose numbers have grown in recent years to flesh out the live show.
It all sounds like the grand ridiculousness of heavy metal tradition, but Forge is adamant that Ghost is not a metal outfit. Though the band's sound started out firmly rooted in old-school metal, it has since evolved to include a decidedly poppy sheen.
The band's latest single Kiss the Go-Goat harkens back to the early 60s (and is being marketed as a "deep cut" from an earlier iteration of the band).
"I've always liked throwing songs in that would, in one way or another, hint at other musical styles, just because I want everyone who is into Ghost to be aware that we are not a homogenic band," Forge said.
"We're not a metal band. We're not just a retro band. We're not trying to emulate one band like so many others are doing."
Ghost's biggest influence might not be musical at all. It's easy to see that film and theatre informs everything about the group, something Forge attributes to his father, who is a retired photographer and documentary maker.
"I've always regarded cinema as the most complete craft when it comes to control. You can dictate everything," he said. "I've always been a great lover of that."
Rock and roll and cinema merged together for Forge at a young age. One of his early favourite films was the Sex Pistols mockumentary The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.
"So, for me, rock and roll and film has always been close," he said. "I take a lot of cinema into my version of what I think good rock and roll is."
Ghost's current tour finishes up in December, and Forge is heading into the studio in January to start a new album, which is due out in 2021.
The band has been on the road almost constantly since 2010, so Forge says he's looking forward to taking a little bit of a break from that schedule, with only one show scheduled in 2020.
"We want people to miss us a little."
Ghost's "Ultimate Tour Named Death" hits FirstOntario Centre on Oct. 17.