Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.
Who or What Is Ghost?
Ghost is one of the biggest rock, hard rock, or heavy metal bands in the entire world. Why did I list three separate genres? Because the music of Ghost could well land within any of those three genres, and many more besides.
Ghost is selling out packed stadiums. The crowds are huge, and so too is their internet presence, where their fan pages and groups dedicated to them on various and sundry websites are very large. The size isn't the most impressive thing, it is the absolute adoration and dedication fans have for Ghost which is most telling.
Ghost is a band where the theatrics of heavy metal music are taken to an extreme. They wear masks and costumes, or in the case of the singer (who has primarily been portrayed as a Satanic priest), makeup and costumes. In fact, when I first became aware of Ghost, nobody was sure who these people were. But, because of some lawsuits which have come up, it eventually became known that the front man of Ghost was Swedish citizen Tobias Forge.
In a Swedish radio interview, Tobias Forge described himself as a musician, songwriter, artist and entertainer. He described himself in those terms in exactly that order. You might notice he has never described himself as a Satanist. When asked how he would describe Ghost to someone who has never heard of it, Mr. Forge said he would describe Ghost as a theatrical rock show.
Tobias has related how some of his biggest musical successes came to him originally as jokes, or just intriguing ideas which he began to experiment with writing, and not even intending as something he'd ever perform himself, as Mr. Forge had initially only seen himself as a guitarist, and had never wanted to be a vocalist.
Everything Associated with Ghost Is a Big Theatrical Production
Let me begin by saying I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the music of Ghost. I do not normally like new music at all. I don't hear a thing and just like it, it usually takes me a long time to form a real and lasting affection for new music.
The very first time I heard the music of Ghost, however, I was basically in love with it. I wanted more. I wanted to hear what I'd already heard again and again, and oh for the love of God, I simply must get more of this Ghost music right away. That's the situation, and the situation hasn't changed. Feed me more Ghost music, please and hurry up.
The scope of the artistry here is beyond my wildest expectations for anyone, any musical entity, ever. Ghost, and all things associated with it, from the satirical Youtube "a message from the clergy" videos, the music itself, the lyrics, and then the fantastic music videos, all of it together is something like when you are a small child and you bit too much off the sandwich to chew. You have to put some thought into interpreting this stuff.
Every single official Ghost music video is a work of art in and of itself, and the reach of said video, artistically, exceeds that of the song itself. You wind up with layers upon layers of satire, very serious social, religious, and political commentary, and also just plain art. Then, there are fan created music videos of Ghost, and some of those are so fantastic, one becomes only increasingly amazed by these amazing things this Tobias Forge has initiated.
Religious Experience, and Nameless Ghouls Want More!
According to a Nameless Ghoul in a Youtube interview, the point of Ghost music, music videos, and live shows is to absolutely produce a religious experience, but one which is joyous and euphoric, not guilty and condemning. The Ghoul goes on to express that he is not an atheist, that his every intellectual inclination says there is nothing out there, but he very much wants there to be. He is spiritually seeking.
The Nameless Ghoul in the same interview goes on to emphatically state how he believes anyone who tells you what happens after your death is lying. This would be a rational or intellectual statement, as of course, there's not much in the way of proof as to the whereabouts, or even the existence of a human's person after the physical death. The Ghoul then again asserts how he very very much hopes there is more. Ghouls get conflicted sometimes.
Satan and Rock and Metal Music
Songs written about the deceiver of all mankind in the rock music idiom seem to have began due to a sound business decision. The Beatles were portrayed as goody two shoes sorts, and the Rolling Stones needed an edge to compete. Their handlers suggested the Stones should take on a bad boy persona, and soon enough songs about Satan were becoming common.
Rock music was supposed to be about rebellion. Satan, rebelling against God in a personal way, would then appear to be the ultimate symbol of rebellion.
Towards the end of the decade, Black Sabbath would compose songs about the occult. The men in Black Sabbath had no dreams of competing with either the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. They were big time horror film fans, and they soon started wearing large silver crosses, as they didn't like the idea of being called Satanists.
A fantastic point becomes evident. You watch a film about a killer who uses a chainsaw, and nobody thinks the film producer, or anyone involved with the filming, is a person who endorses killing people, with or without a chainsaw. When someone sings scary songs about Satan, people may assume the singer and band are all Satanists. Musicians have the same artistic license as do film producers, novelists, painters, or any other artist, and so this assumption of Satanic inclination becomes ridiculous.
In the years following the advent of Black Sabbath, there seemed to be something like an arms race where metal bands would attempt to be more aggressive sounding, and more intimidating in appearance than others. It progressed to where it is now. The music of Ghost is fantastic, and the music is very serious music in an artistic sense, but the Satanic get up, well, I suppose you'll have to be the judge as to the purpose of it all.
Submitted for your approval, here is some short analysis for three of my favorite Ghost songs concerning Satan.
You are cast out from the heavens to the ground. Blackened feathers falling down. You are cast out from the heavens to the ground. Blackened feathers falling down. You will wear your independence like a crown
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
From the Pinnacle to the Pit wasn't the very first Ghost song I heard, but this is the first song that got me. I had acquired the fantastic Ghost Meliora album, and I was giving it my very first listen, and this song just jumped out and grabbed me.
Once I heard this song, I was certain to become a fan. The bass line, the drums, the guitar, the vocals, it was all just absolutely perfect, in my opinion. I'd almost just given up on new metal music at that point. Metal music just wasn't happening. I hadn't heard anything which moved me in around a decade.
We have documentation where a Nameless Ghoul describes this song as "truly stomping riff-based song, Led Zeppelin-style" and "something that would sound great coming out of a car stereo in an American high school parking lot."
While any particular ghoul may be nameless, or known, I couldn't agree any more. I'm decades out of high school, however, and I struggle to imagine a parking lot from which I'd not like to hear the song thunderously emanating from a automobile within.
Tobias Forge has related that Ghost albums are not concept albums, but they are all thematic. The theme of Meliora is the absence of God. This absence, whether real or not, isn't the issue, the issue at hand is how, in an increasingly secularized western culture, there is a spiritual vacuum, and something is absolutely going to take the place of the displaced Christianity. That something could well be much less good.
A Song of Satan and Biblical Themes
There's no ambiguity here. There's really not much else to read into it. This song is absolutely about the Biblical Satan. The video is very much also about the Biblical Satan, but the video is running what appears to be an additional story to augment the lyrics of the song.
Like I said before, everything about Ghost is a huge production. There are layers upon layers of ideas expressed here. Tobias Forge will tell people how religion is something he is absolutely fascinated with. The music of Ghost constantly reminds me how true that is.
Revelation 12:9 says, "And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."
Genesis and Revelation are the bell-ends of the books which compose the Bible. The lyrics of From the Pinnacle to the Pit repeatedly chant a paraphrasing of the scripture from Revelation concerning Satan being cast down from heaven. The video, however, has a completely different script of text which goes across the screen during the song, and this text tells a parallel story.
Genesis 3:5 says, "For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." The scripture clearly indicates Satan relaying the idea how man can become something like God or gods.
This exact theme is what is going on with the video and the text on the video of From the Pinnacle to the Pit. The lyrics in the song relate the fall of Satan from Revelation. I find it fascinating how Ghost has combined those two themes and stories in the combined works of art which are the song, and then the music video.
He is the shining and the light without whom I cannot see
And he is
Insurrection, he is spite, he's the force that made me be
According to Tobias, He Is was written for one reason alone, and the reason was to poke fun at his future wife's affection for a cheesy Italian singer she adored. It was essentially written as a private joke between lovers.
Forge liked the song, but never thought of it as a Ghost song. He pitched the song towards a friend of his, thinking his friend could maybe use it in his own career, but his friend told him that no, this song was absolutely a Ghost song. It's quite possible some of the lyrics were changed along the arc of the song's journey to make it more suitable as Ghost material.
The Loss of an Older Brother
The personal life of Mr. Forge comes much more into play with this song than typical, as this song is very worshipful in nature. Because of the whole Satanic priest bit, people tend to think of this song, pretty though it may be, as the most overtly Satanic of ghost songs.
Forge had had an older brother who was thirteen years his elder, and so, with that sort of age difference, it was like his older brother was often more of a father figure, and would, in fact, sometimes be in positions of responsibility for young Tobias. He'd helped take care of him.
Forge's older brother, Sebastian, had been a published author of books, and Tobias thought of him as an extremely successful artist, something he also wanted to become. Sebastian had also introduced Tobias to hard rock and heavy metal music, and in time, his male hero became James Hetfield.
Sebastian died on the exact day Ghost demo music would be released online. Later on, James Hetfield, and Metallica would perform a concert on television where Hetfield was wearing a Ghost t-shirt. It was a surreal experience for Forge, and he relates he's felt as though his brother were observing him from beyond.
The He Is Music Video by Ghost
Lyrically, the song He Is sounds as much like an outright endorsement for Satan as could possibly be made. It is delicious to think of it in just those terms, especially if you're a person, like me, who has attended, at one time or another, a church which seemed, for all the world, to be all about enriching the preacher.
The video absolutely tells a story which is not about Satan, unless, of course, you deem charlatan preachers as Satanic entities, which is, in my estimation, also pretty fair. You've got the well dressed preacher, although in Papa III face paint, twirling flowers. Oh he's such a sensitive guy.
The congregation is almost entirely female, and there are some very impressive flowers in the bunch, if you follow. The preacher blesses his congregants, gives them communion, baptizes them (in a river, no less!) when needed, but most importantly, he and his cohorts collect money from them.
No one really can hurt Christianity more than the charlatan Christians. The notion of devils inside the church is well known within serious Christian communities, and were one to take the video to be the definitive answer to what the song is about, then there you have it.
The true beauty of He Is, in my opinion, is the song works as a joke to the woman you plan to marry, a stunning and touching emotional tribute to your late brother. It also works perfectly as a love song to Satan, or to Jesus Christ, and of course, a savage take down to the charlatan preacher using the pulpit (and often the television) to enrich himself.
Hail Satan, Archangelo! Hail Satan, Welcome Year Zero
Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub. Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer—"Year Zero," by Ghost
Isaiah 14:13 says, "You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north."
Year Zero is a song entirely about praise of Satan. This would be one of the Ghost songs which one would almost certainly think of as being truly Satanic in nature, but were you to take a closer look, I think you may agree with me the perspective here is the narrator, or entity singing the song, is taking a non-human perspective.
My personal opinion here is the song's narrator is, were the interpretation correct, one of any number of fallen angels, or demons, but definitely not Satan. This is all, of course, portrayed by Tobias Forge in the guise of Papa Emeritus II.
What am I talking about? Oh just the lyrics, as they insist the fate of man is of the same value as that of lice. This is not a natural human perspective of humanity. Whenever I encounter someone with such a perspective, I know they're either vegan or seriously mentally ill. Healthy people don't think of themselves as having no more value than lice.
The idea is something a demonic entity would whisper into a weakened mind. Then the narrator at the end asserts how Satan shall rise above the stars of God, and this, of course, alludes to scripture from Isaiah. Satan is the most famous of Archangels, and a lesser demonic entity would surely forever be aware of such for not being of the highest angelic order itself.
Infestissumam, Antichrist, and the Apocalypse
Ghost's Infestissumam was the second studio album produced. The theme of the album concerns the birth of the Antichrist. I purchased this album after having consumed Meliora, so I was initially working backwards. It's another dark heavy metal stomper, and Year Zero is probably the most compelling track, although certainly not the only one.
Essentially, Year Zero is a song of the Apocalypse. Tales of Apocalyptic doom are all the rage these days, and have been for decades. Hollywood films and cable tv miniseries shows are full of Apocalyptic imagining, and so it is entirely fitting for the same sorts of things to resonate in the ears of heavy metal music fans.
So what is Year Zero, meaning the idea? Year Zero is the year when Satan succeeds in his quest to ascend to the heavens, and rise above the stars of God. His triumphant destruction of God's creations would be the evidence, ostensibly, for this.
Tobias Forge says he was not the primary author of Year Zero, although he did compose the lyrics. Guitarist Martin Persner was the primary musical creator of it all, and man, that groove and all the atmosphere make it musically powerful.
You've got what sounds like a Satanic choir of monks, but yes, the melodic verses are much more sinister indeed. Revolver magazine named it the seventh best song of 2013 from any genre.
The Year Zero Video by Ghost
Year Zero in video form can be found, from time to time, in the uncensored form. For the most part, however, you're not going to see that, and the uncensored one allows you to see everything you don't.
There doesn't seem to be a great meaning or message within the video, but in short, Papa Zero visits some women, they have dinner, and then they get undressed, and dress in Satanic Nun attire. Papa Zero, of course, is the father of both Papa II and Papa III. The two are half brothers, being only three months apart in age. Papa Zero wasn't playing by societal rules, and so, neither did his two sons.
In the here and the now we've got Cardinal Copia leading Ghost, but he's soon to be replaced, of course, as per tradition. Hopefully my interpretations of what these songs mean aren't offensive to anyone. They are, however, my exact interpretations.
Are you on the square? Are you on the level? Well, I couldn't possibly do in one article a complete thing about every Ghost song which involves Satan, as that would require quite a lot more space, but these are certainly my favorite three. Thanks for reading.
© 2019 Wesman Todd Shaw
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 20, 2019:
Hey man!!!! Good to see you, for sure!
Yes, I am also completely kicked off of both Facebook and Twitter. I'm on Gab now, and Reddit. What a time to be alive!
John Harper from Malaga, Spain on August 20, 2019:
Great stuff Wesman, you introduced me to music I would never have found! - been de personed in FB so no longer on social media! - good to see you are still writing...