GLENS FALLS At first glance, lyrical themes and imagery that draw upon the Antichrist, the Black Plague and Spanish Inquisition do not appear to be a surefire pathway to global stardom.
But Swedish rock act Ghost has found mainstream success by doing just that — marrying 1970s arena rock to an elaborate occult-themed stageshow that’s a throwback to the theatrical rock bands of yesteryear.
Sinister cardinals? Black-clad ghouls? Mysterious Pope-like characters?
Check, check and check.
The outfit has spent the past year touring in support of its latest full-length LP, last year’s Grammy-nominated “Prequelle,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and generated two No. 1 singles.
Now, the mysterious rockers are coming to the Glens Falls Cool Insuring Arena on Saturday, which marks the final date of their six-week North American trek.
Tobias Forge, the band’s founder and architect of the elaborate storylines that are woven through the band’s records, music videos, webisodes and live performances, said the band has long wanted to perform in the U.S.’ less-traveled hinterlands, but were prohibited by doing so because not all venues could accommodate their elaborate production, which has ample amounts of pyrotechnics, flames and stage-dressing.
As part of “The Ultimate Tour Named Death,” Forge and his band of Nameless Ghouls will perform on a set resembling a medieval cathedral with a backdrop of illuminated stained-glass windows.
“The interesting thing about this tour is we can finally bring the production to every place, which over the years has been a bit of a problem, Forge said.
Those wrinkles have been ironed out, said Forge, who draws inspiration from the grueling tour schedules and massive productions of enduring A-list metal bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica, the latter of which took them out on the road earlier this summer.
“I want every fan who goes to our show to get the same thing,” Forge said. “Even if you live in a small town, you’ll get the same thing as people in Williamsburg, [Brooklyn] and the people in Hollywood. But that’s a very hard thing to guarantee.”
NEW ROCK GODS?
Despite their reputation, which have drawn comparisons to stalwarts KISS and Alice Cooper, Forge simply called the band’s performances “a spectacle.”
But he’s downplaying the sheer pageantry of it all.
Forge, 38, portrays a sinister figure known as “Cardinal Copia” — the latest in a series of ever-evolving personas that began with the Pope-like “Papa Emeritus I” — and is backed by a band of black-clad Nameless Ghouls.
The mythology is fleshed out in a series of online videos that depicts the universe of clandestine characters and keeps fans guessing.
Forge himself remained a mystery himself until 2017 when his own identity was revealed after his anonymous former band members sued him over a royalty dispute.
As for the band’s music, it went from metal-oriented to more catchy and melodic rock a la Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath, a hook-laden recipe that catapulted them to the top of the charts, which in this era, can be increasingly elusive for a rock band.
In addition to the Grammy nominations and supernova sales — “Prequelle” has accumulated 400,000 album sales and 200 million streams since its June release — the band’s online following includes 1.4 million Facebook fans, and it’s accurate to say the arena-packing outfit are now rock’s standard torch-bearers.
After being lapped by hip-hop and R&B, is Ghost bringing back rock to a more dominant position in pop culture?
“I don’t know, actually,” Forge said. “I hope so. There’s a lack of rock right now, and the pendulum always swings.”
Forge does, however, see a lot of kids at the band’s performances.
“Considering the amount of kids at shows, I hope that we can have a similar effect on them a band like KISS had on myself and other bands in the 1970s and 1980s.”
While Forge doesn’t believe rock and roll will ever again reach the grip that bands like KISS and Alice Cooper had on pop culture in the 1970s — or, to a lesser extent, to the status the crop of post-punk revival bands like The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand clawed back in the early-2000s — he does believe a new generation will arise and breathe new life into the genre.
“I hope we can possibly be a motivator for kids who want to rock and want to play music,” Forge said. “I wish that we can be a motivator in the way of showing that, ‘Look, you can still dream about being a rock star. You can still dream about touring and putting on a show and playing hockey arenas — because it’s still possible.’”
Forge continued: “It’s hard. But if your heart is in the right place and if you’re willing to work, please, bring it on — it’ll be really cool. I really hope that kids will thrive on that dream the same way that I did… and I’m still dreaming.”
NEW RECORD UPCOMING
After wrapping up the tour in Glens Falls, the band will embark on a brief European trek — and play a single date in Mexico — before hanging up their road gear.
Forge will enter the studio to work on the band’s upcoming fifth full-length LP, which has a projected 2021 release date.
While the concepts are still evolving, Forge said he already has the loose contours mapped out on both a conceptual and visual level.
“In my head, I have a quite clear taste for what I think the record will be, but it’s hard to define that in words that formulate exactly what to expect,” he said. “But it’s going to be a record that we don’t have yet, let’s put it that way… I hope it’s going to be an equal part of the totality of our repertoire.”
Forge compared the band’s success to a restaurant receiving a Michelin star.
“That’s not a time to start phoning it in, but that means it’s time to work even harder to keep that star,” he said. “Even dreaming about getting a second one, you need to be very consistent and continue to push and stay focused.”
So far, Forge said he has a “seemingly endless” reservoir of ideas to tap into.
“I hope it never ends,” he said. “But you never know. As I said, the pendulum swings for everything. Nothing is forever, and you have to try to do it when you can. When the iron’s hot, it’s hot — you have to work with it.”
Expect the band to pick up where they left off in 2021.
“What you see in Glens Falls will be one thing,” Forge said. “And what you see one and a half years later is going to be completely improved, better and different.”
The Ultimate Tour Named Death, with Nothing More
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26
Where: Cool Insuring Arena, Glens Falls
How Much: $23 to $47.50
More info: coolinsuringarena.com, 518-798-0366
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