How Ghost mastermind Tobias Forge and his band of Nameless Ghouls earned my respect and fandom.
I love music.
Yes, many of us can say that but let me reiterate: I love music (and making it).
I listen when I’m driving; I listen when I’m showering (TMI?); I listen when I’m writing. If we found ourselves in a dystopian future where music was outlawed, I would protest for nuclear war.
Okay, that’s a bit much, but the sentiment is true. Music brings us together and allows us to communicate on a deeper level. How many of us have made mixes for someone else? Want to show a special someone how you feel? Burn them a CD (or make a Spotify playlist, whatever the hell goes on these days).
The older I get, the harder it gets for me to find new music that I enjoy. Also, Jesus, that sentence put me one step away from shaking my fists at the sky and yelling at clouds. Anyway, when I find a band or artist that really resonates with me, I dive headfirst into their work.
That’s exactly what happened with a theatrical little band from Sweden.
A chance encounter
I was later than many when it came to Ghost. While the band released their debut album—the magnificently atmospheric Opus Eponymous—in October of 2010, it would be a half-decade before they came to my attention. Sure, I had seen images of the band online and on magazine covers, but I was unfamiliar with their work and apparently too busy to educate myself.
Then, on a late summer afternoon in 2015, that changed.
While on a thrift store outing with the family, “Cirice” came on the radio, immediately grabbing my attention. From the menacing opening guitar to the thunderous drums to Forge’s—I mean Papa Emeritus III’s—unmistakable timbre, I was hooked.
The problem was that the song was wedged in the middle of several others, with no identification supplied. Who was this band? What was the name of the song? I had no idea; thankfully, the band was exploding in popularity and I was quickly able to find the answer to both questions.
I began checking out their then-newest album, Meliora, before working my way back through their catalog. Their style—both musically and theatrically—hooked me and bought a copy of everything they had produced.
I was a fan, no two ways about it, but something was missing.
Months passed, weeks stacked upon weeks of me listening to (almost) nothing aside from Ghost. Their cover of Roky Erickson‘s “If You Have Ghosts” had worked its way to the top of my favorites list. Its place there was cemented in mid-March of 2016.
I was out, running errands while the aforementioned song played in the car, when my phone rang.
It was my mom; my grandfather had passed.
To say that it was a surreal moment doesn’t do it service. The health issues he had been dealing with over the four years leading up to that moment didn’t stop me from believing that he would always be there. There had been scares, including one that brought out family from Maryland and Colorado, but he had pulled through.
Now, just as his health seemed steady, he was gone.
I drove towards my hometown, playing the song on repeat. It gave me comfort, gave me a sense that things would carry on, even if they would never be the same. I don’t associate the song with the tragic news; instead, I associate it with the sense of strength that we all need when we lose a piece of ourselves.
That is the power of art. Whatever form it takes, it accentuates our sense of being. Perhaps it relaxes you; maybe it inspires you. Whatever the case, it enriches us.
For those interested, here is the song in question:
Until we meet again…