Photo | Mikael Eriksson
Sweden’s Ghost brings Scandinavian metal to the Saenger.
Date: Thursday, Nov. 29, with doors at 6 p.m.
Venue: Saenger Theatre, 6 S. Joachim St., mobilesaenger.com
Tickets: $27.50-$75, available through Ticketmaster
For decades, Sweden’s music scene has made its presence known globally through pop groups such as ABBA, Ace of Base and Rednex. Other bands such Bathory, Amon Amarth and Entombed gave the world a cold blast of dark metal from this Scandinavian country. Of all the music echoing from the Swedish shores, Ghost could be considered one of the country’s most, ahem, enigmatic and unique musical groups.
This musical project from Tobias Forge will be making its debut in the Azalea City for a relatively intimate performance at the Saenger Theatre, exposing the audience to one of the most musically and visually innovative bands on the road today. According to Forge, the overall Ghost experience is what keeps this band in business and on the road.
“Ghost is proving that we are willing to be a noneconomic entertainment entity,” Forge said. “We’re not saving up the money for something else. We’re putting it all into the show. That makes a lot of promoters interested in seeing what we’re made of in terms of elevated spots.”
Musically, Ghost has created a fascinating trademark sound. With classical arrangements and monstrous metal running wild through each measure, first impressions might lead one to classify Ghost’s sound as a form of Scandinavian black metal. However, Forge places Ghost’s sound in its own dimension with a contrasting infusion of bright indie pop and sometimes disco. As strange as it might sound, this infectious concoction has found a wide array of listeners of all musical tastes. But the group has also had its critics.
“I think that the reason why we’re roasted by the underground is because our music is uplifting and catchy,” Forge explained. “That will always be a good recipe. The songs have to be moving. I also think that the word has gotten around about the entertainment value of it.”
The value goes far beyond the music. Coined as the “Andrew Lloyd Webber of rock,” Forge has created a visual and narrative concept for Ghost that obscures the band’s identity. Past live shows, music videos and short films have taken on the air of a dramatic, tongue-in-cheek black mass with a band of masked musicians known as “Nameless Ghouls” backing the lead singer.
Historically, this unholy service has been fronted by one of the members of the infernal Emeritus papal line. The popelike Papa Emeritus III served as Ghost’s lead singer from 2015-2017. Upon his departure, his “right-hand man” Cardinal Copia was chosen as his replacement on lead vocals. As far as the retirement of the corpse-painted Papa Emeritus III is concerned, Forge says he is always moving into the future of Ghost, but he also maintains a nostalgia for previous concepts.
“Especially a little at the beginning of a tour cycle, there’s a little getting used to an aspect that I’m not super fond of,” Forge admitted. “I am a creature of habit more than anything else. I like the same old, same old. It’s a paradox. I want to keep going further. When it comes time for change, I’m also afraid of the change. I want to take away the thing that I’m bored of, but I’m a little bit reluctant to do the new thing. It’s just part of it.”
Ghost will be performing cuts from its newest album, “Prequelle.” For this release, Forge brought in British producer Tom Dalgety (Pixies, Royal Blood) to work with him in the studio. Forge first met Dalgety several years ago at a Ghost show in Bristol, England. At the time, Forge wanted to create an EP “in a specific time and at home.”
“It was a two-week endeavor, and it was a good time to try out how we work together,” Forge said. “It’s not a full-length album or a five-month endeavor. He came over, and we recorded just down the street from where I lived. It worked really well. A week into it, we were like, ‘Wow, it would be really great to make a whole record at some point.’”
Forge and Dalgety worked together to create the arrangements for “Prequelle.” Forge says the musicians featured on Ghost’s albums have never been the same as those who have joined him on the road.
Forge and Dalgety controlled the album’s instrumental tracks. When they chose not to lay down an instrumental track themselves, session musicians were brought into the studio to serve as the album’s “Nameless Ghouls.” As soon as their work was done, the session artist would be dismissed from the studio. He says he has found comfort, convenience and business logic by using this technique.
“Making a record takes a lot of time and a lot of involvement from me,” Forge said. “Sometimes, it’s a little bit impractical to have someone in the room just sitting around with a computer just doing something else for a few months. That’s an additional mouth to feed. It’s very impractical. A lot of bands that are a little bit more of a core group have suffered through many a recording because of this. Since I don’t have to, I find it way more rewarding and way more creative to just work with a producer and bring in people who I have chosen myself to work with.”
When Ghost unleashes “Prequelle” on the Azalea City, Forge’s unsuspecting audience will be treated to songs he pulled from such muses as Jim Morrison, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Morrissey and James Hetfield. In addition to such offbeat pop metal anthems as “Dance Macabre,” Ghost will pay homage to classic British metal with epic tracks including “Rats.”
The crowd can also expect to be amazed with a dramatic live show that will turn the Saenger Theatre into a dark cult cathedral and leave the crowd wondering whether they should headbang … or dance.