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Ghost: Top The Charts, Hail Satan

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Amid the hustle, bustle and occasional rustle of Space Raiders crisp packets, a gaunt figure stands alone. Clad in black and sporting a mask Doctor Doom would wear if he went to Hell, a Nameless Ghoul lingers in the Reading press tent. His band, Ghost, will headline The Pit stage later in the evening, treading the boards at the same time as Metallica and, er, the Wombats.

“We've done eclectic festivals before and I love that,” the Ghoul says. His words are muffled by the mask, so the Dictaphone is poised perilously close to his face. “When you're playing for an audience who don't necessarily know who you are, then it's more of a struggle to show them what we can be at our best. Personally, I do better gigs at festivals that aren't just hard rock and metal because you have to convince people that you're actually good.”

While Reading is an annual event for music fans, it also attracts a certain demographic who, upon seeing Ghost's priestly attire, might just opt to return to the tent and get leathered. The band has been on the radar of metal and rock fans, however, for some time. Their debut, 'Opus Eponymous', pulled everyone's pants down and gave them a right spanking. Down's Phil Anselmo, Metallica's James Hetfield and countless iron-clad legends gave the Swedish rockers the tattoo of approval.

“I was surprised and, obviously, very happy,” the Ghoul adds, reminiscing on the rock 'n' roll rollercoaster he's been strapped into for five years. A year after their debut was released, they found themselves jamming Bury Me In Smoke, with Down, at Donington. “These guys were teenage idols of mine and still are, in a sense. Obviously it helped in marketing the band – I'd be lying if I said any different.

“We played Rock In Rio after having put out only two albums, and everyone was a bit shaky. Some days I wake up and I'm like: 'What the fuck's going on here? How is this happening? Am I playing in a band and living off the music?' That surprises me every week. Not every day, but it happens. I think it's partially because we wear masks, so I don't see me in the band photos.”

The masks. In this day and age, wearing masks in a band is about as fashionable as Heelys are. Ghost's identities are shrouded in secrecy, and, five years in, they've beaten the likes of Slipknot and Lordi where the big reveal is concerned. There have even been murmurings that Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, who produced their ‘If You Have Ghost’ EP, has played with the band on occasions, unbeknown to the audience.

The hype bordered on hysteria but suddenly dissolved as it became apparent that Ghost are not just a gimmicky flash in the pan, rather a permanent fixture in heavy metal's history books. Their third album, 'Meliora', has confirmed that. Its bluesy, '70s-inspired riffing and Satanic schlock gained the band high chart positions worldwide, including the #1 spot in Finland and their native Sweden and a top 10 place in the States.

“We really worked with the producer this time,” the Ghoul says, pinpointing Klas Åhlund as the man responsible for the streamlining of the band's racket. “We went in and clearly laid out the album; he listened and then just pushed us all the time. He'd just be there like: 'You can do this better.' He wouldn't pick up the guitar and show us how it should go, but he just said stuff like: 'You can do a better chorus than that. That one was good but you can do better.' So he's got a lot to do with it.”

The record is a response to 2013's 'Infestissumam', which saw Ghost tread into overblown and slightly self-indulgent territory. Of 'Meliora', the Ghoul muses: “It's way more naked and raw – it's like a band putting on a live show. The last one sounded like we were playing in a church. It's more rough and Deep Purpley. I love that sound.”

While the first album's concept dealt with the impending arrival of the Antichrist and the second addressed said Devil's presence on Earth, 'Meliora' deals with a different kind of monster: humanity. “Striving for something better,” says the Ghoul, translating the album's title from its original Latin form. “This is about human beings in this day and age. It's a reflection on the current situation. We, as humans, don't realise we were so fucking past our best, maybe 10, 20, 100 years ago. Maybe we're going downhill.”

Despite the Satanic overload and unquestionably heavy crunch of the songs, Ghost have constantly faced comparisons to Deep Purple and Blue Öyster Cult. While this could – and should – be seen as an exceedingly positive talking point, several detractors have belittled the band for living in the past and not contributing anything fresh to the heaving shit-tip of heavy metal. This is, of course, rubbish. Ghost sound like Ghost. You know it's a Ghost song as soon as you hear it.

“Obviously a riff is a riff,” the Ghoul says, not denying his band's ties to classic acts. “I wouldn't say we sit down and listen to Deep Purple and Blue Öyster Cult in particular; Ghost is the sum of everything we've heard through our lives, and it all fits within the frame of what the band can be. We like to spice things up. We want to sound like a band from that age without being one of them. People want to sound retro. They want to sound like 1974, but what they don't realise is that the bands in 1974 didn't want to sound like 1974 – they wanted to sound like 1975. And that's what we're about.”

In 2015, Ghost are a breath of fresh air in the sweaty, mud-stained confines of Reading and beyond. While bands like Ancient VVisdom offer slabs of occult rock in a similar, dream-like manner, nobody does it with the poppy aplomb and fearlessness Ghost do. Hell, they even did that covers EP – including a take on a classic ABBA cut – and it seems like more are in the pipeline.

“We have some covers and we don't know when we're gonna record them – we have fun with that, because we can take a song from a different genre and make it our own,” the Ghoul concludes. When asked on upcoming, original Ghost material, we're sure he must be smiling under that mask. “We have ideas for the next album, but I'm not telling you shit about that!”

Ghost Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat December 12 2015 - LEEDS Leeds Beckett Students Union
Mon December 14 2015 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Tue December 15 2015 - BIRMINGHAM Institute
Wed December 16 2015 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Fri December 18 2015 - GLASGOW ABC Glasgow
Sat December 19 2015 - MANCHESTER Ritz
Sun December 20 2015 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Mon December 21 2015 - LONDON KOKO

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