Swedish occult-rock group Ghost just released its first album since a 2017 lawsuit in which four former bandmates accused frontman Tobias Forge of financial misconduct — which made public Forge’s identity as the secretive group’s mastermind. While the members’ anonymity seemed central to Ghost’s mystique since its inception in 2006, Forge, who is now the sole permanent member amid pending litigation, is unfazed by the turn of events, performing as “new” bandleader Cardinal Copia. And he has pushed Ghost into even more over-the-top territory on latest album Prequelle (Loma Vista Recordings) that debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, with a 20-date U.S. arena and theater tour heavy on theatrics — all of which make up the band’s most wonderfully weird effort to date.
1. He Looked To The Plague
“I wanted to write a record that was themed around the Black Death. There are a lot of similarities to now, where we are living in a sort of pre-apocalyptic world. So this is a record about perseverance through trauma and also about survival, because many people think of the Black Death as having been a total annihilation of mankind. But it wasn’t. It just wiped out half of European mankind.”
2. He Listened To Album-Oriented Rock…
“I have a fascination for well-produced ’70s and ’80s rock with a lot of harmonies. AOR bands like Journey, Jefferson Starship, Toto, Kansas, Boston … you can just choose a city name, and there’s probably one. The messages of these bands were actually quite bland, but the music is fantastic. If you’re at a party and you put on [Foreigner’s] ‘Urgent’ or [Rick Springfield’s] ‘Jessie’s Girl,’ people will start digging it because it’s well-crafted music. I take influence from that.”
3. …And A Lot Of Black Sabbath Deep Cuts
“Most bands that sound like Sabbath today seem to sound only like their heavy songs. But the Sabbath I’m influenced by is the mid-‘70s Sabbath of Sabotage and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, where they were hipping out with this mixture of heavy and vulnerable. There was orchestration and acoustic guitar and ballads. It was so brave, so cool, so very… sensitive. They had more class and more sophistication than most people think.”
4. He Wrote Specifically For The Stage
“I always have the live show in mind when making a record, but this time I also had to think about the fact we would be playing bigger venues. That just means the songs are executed in a way where they’ll sound better in a large hall. But they’re not necessarily more accessible or commercial — I didn’t trade a grindcore part for a soft part just to please more people. But you want material that fits the pants.”
This article originally appeared in the June 15 issue of Billboard.