It has been three years since Swedish act Ghost’s last full-length album, Prequelle, and its next is yet to be announced. Fortunately, fans are getting a tide-over with “Hunter’s Moon,” which can be heard during the end credits of Halloween Kills, the latest installment of the Halloween franchise again starring Jamie Lee Curtis that arrived in theaters and via streaming service Peacock on Oct. 15.
Ghost mastermind Tobias Forge picked a great vehicle for his first venture into film music writing, for Halloween and the metal band have much in common. For one thing, they make creepy content entertaining: Part of Ghost’s appeal is Forge’s frontman persona of Papa Emeritus IV, a spooky figure who wears vestments and a miter along with a painted-on skeleton face.
The main characters of Halloween and Ghost have been killed off multiple times, only to be resurrected for a new chapter. Papa is backed by a group of musicians known as the Nameless Ghouls who always remain masked, just like Michael Myers, the terrifying slasher at the heart of the Halloween series. And the film spawned one of the most chilling themes in cinema history, while Ghost’s stock in trade is sinister (yet slightly campy) music that won the 2016 Grammy for best metal performance.
As a fan of the original 1978 Halloween film directed by John Carpenter and its 1981 sequel, Forge was immediately up for composing a song for the 2021 Blumhouse Productions vehicle when his friend Ryan Turek, vp feature film development at the company, suggested it over dinner in 2018. Forge already had the title of “Hunter’s Moon” — which is the full moon that appears each October — floating around in his head; he had thought of it after looking up what the term “harvest moon” from Neil Young’s classic tune. However, writing for a movie franchise presented the challenge of having to work within certain parameters.
“You can’t do whatever you want,” explains Forge. “You need to make sure you’re doing like a standalone sort of track, but obviously sort of influenced. There were a few decisions in the writing that probably wouldn’t have been there had it not been for the fact that it was asked to be made for Halloween.”
For example, “Hunter’s Moon” has “a punctuation” in the main riff similar to one in the main score, and the lyrics reflect on Myers’ origin story without giving a linear take on it. “It wasn’t like we had a song,” he says, “and the chorus went, ‘Michael Myers is coming for you.’ ”
Forge, who co-wrote the piece with Max Grahn, worked on it throughout 2019 with an eye on Halloween Kills’ original release date of fall 2020. He enjoys working with other writers such as Grahn — whose performing credits include The Weeknd and Justin Bieber — because sometimes, “as with writing a book or a script, you need an editor who comes in and questions, ‘Is that the best you can do? Is that the best solution for a story?’” he explains. “And you’re like, ‘Oh, maybe it isn’t.’ And then you shape it up a little.”
Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance) and Prequelle producer Tom Dalgety co-produced the song that’s heard over the movie’s credits. However, Forge wasn’t satisfied with the result, so he redid the track.
“It’s a very long story, and I can’t really go into the entire thing,” he says, “but there was a reason for me wanting to rerecord what we recorded. Let’s just say I recorded an album we’re not talking about, and I just wanted to rerecord the song because I knew I could [do] a better job.”
In the credits version, a quicker tempo and prominent synths can be heard. In the rerecorded version that was produced by composer Klas Åhlund (Katy Perry, Ellie Goulding), the guitar takes the lead in the intro, and the instrument is mixed more evenly with the keyboards.
The latter incarnation was released as a single that has tallied 2.4 million on-demand streams, according to MRC Data, and hit No. 1 on the Hard Rock Digital Song Sales chart the week of Oct. 16, which Forge didn’t realize had happened until he spoke with Billboard. Its No. 15 position on the Oct. 30 Mainstream Rock Airplay chart puts Ghost on target to notch its seventh top 10 on the list. Three of those songs reached No. 1 — 2017’s “Square Hammer” (for two weeks), 2018’s “Rats” (seven) and 2019’s “Dance Macabre” (two).
“I was very determined once we had delivered it that I wanted to rerecord it because there are bits and pieces in that [movie] version that ended up being really good,” says Forge. “But I think the [single] is way more representative of how I imagined the track.”