A Nameless Ghoul Tells Us How Ghost Brings Humor to Metal Without Turning Into Spinal Tap

Only the identity of Ghost frontman Papa Emeritus is known. The other members are Nameless Ghouls.EXPAND
Only the identity of Ghost frontman Papa Emeritus is known. The other members are Nameless Ghouls.
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Ghost and Iron Maiden play the American Airlines Center on Friday, June 23.

In a genre that isn't known for its sense of humor, the Swedish metalheads in Ghost play music that is not afraid to be melodic, thunderous and funny. Their presentation may be ominous, with songs about Satan and a frontman dressed as a demonic pope, but the last time Ghost played here, they came out to the theme from Dallas.

All of the instrumental members wear the same demonic masks and black clothing and identify as Nameless Ghouls. Only the identity of frontman Tobias Forge, who goes by Papa Emeritus, is known.

We talked to one of the Nameless Ghouls, who plays guitar and other instruments in the band, in an attempt to peel back the veil. He says humor is an essential element of the horror and suspense genre.

“It came organically because of how stiff the show was to begin with,” he says. “As a kid, you get applauded for saying funny things. You notice people find it funny, you sort of continue doing that and then you refine it.”

But Nameless Ghoul says you can also take the humor too far.

“The risk of things turning Spinal Tap is bigger, so it was a way for us to dodge situations that might have become that,” he says. “We’ve always been wearing masks onstage. It’s quite easy to hit the wrong notes. It’s a bit of a safety net to be able to have Papa underline it and get him to do a funny thing.”

Ghost has a new lineup and is on the road with Iron Maiden, whose members the group considers mentors.

“For me personally, they have been very influential musically,” Nameless Ghoul says. “I’ve always listened to them a lot growing up as a metal fan. Their live album, Live After Death, had — and still has — a great impact on me when it comes to work ethic. Going through that book that came with the record, watching all those dates. When I was a kid, I would sit there with a map book and pin out all the cities they played on that tour. It was like a hundred shows all over America. The show was so over the top, so it set a standard.”

Nameless Ghoul also cites the Rolling Stones as a major influence.

“‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ was a big influence on me,” he says. “Right as I was really blossoming as a fan, Steel Wheels came out, and their big tour. It was also mind-opening for me. This is how spectacular a show should be, [along with Pink Floyd’s] The Wall, Kiss [and] Alice Cooper.”

In a way, Ghost is continuing what Iron Maiden does with its zombie mascot, Eddie. More so than the appearances of any band members, Eddie sticks out in fans' minds.

“Maiden was one of the big movers when it came to '80s heavy metal merchandise,” Nameless Ghoul says. “All of our merchandise has always been inspired by bands like Maiden and the good ol’ days of faithful Rush T-shirts in parking lots outside of high school, with people smoking joints. That’s the sort of idea I had about rock and roll merchandise. We didn’t want to be worse. We wanted to look like those old, cool shirts, and that was the same with the logo.”

The band plans to release its next album, the follow-up to 2015's Meliora and the Popestar EP in 2016, early next year.

“If everything goes to plan, by the end of the year we will have a new record recorded, mixed, mastered, delivered, and if nothing happens, we can still aim at an April release,” Nameless Ghoul says. “The plan as of right now is to come back to America in April or May. We have a tendency to do American tours in April, so we like that tradition. It’s a good one and we’d like to keep doing that.”

Iron Maiden with Ghost, 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 23, American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave., $39-$100, ticketmaster.com.

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