"My name is Lucifer, please take my hand, is such a memorable lyric": Ghost's Tobias Forge on the satanic hymns which lured him to the dark side

Ghost in 2015
(Image credit: Press)

Does the Devil really have all the best tunes? That might be difficult to prove in a court of law, but as a teenager growing up in Sweden, Tobias Forge certainly took great pleasure in listening to songs celebrating The One With Horns, a habit which helped lay the the sonic foundations for Ghost.

In 2018, as his band prepared to release their fourth studio album, Prequelle, we asked Forge to select his six favourite hymns to Satan: here are his choices.

Metal Hammer line break

The Rolling Stones - Sympathy For The Devil (Beggars Banquet, 1968)

Like Voltaire’s Candide – or indeed Forrest Gump - this is written from the perspective of the Devil being involved in all these traumatic, dramatic events in world history. It’s a very cool song musically, and quite odd: if you listen to any live version of this from the last 25 years it sounds different to how it did on Beggars Banquet. I discovered The Rolling Stones from my mother, she loved The Beatles and Stones and Jimi Hendrix, but I really zoned in on them after seeing the Let’s Spend The Night Together documentary, which was the fucking concert film: I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

Iron Maiden - The Number Of The Beast (The Number Of The Beast, 1982)

My older brother was into metal, and I discovered Iron Maiden through him when I was 9 or 10. This was one of the tracks that held me spellbound. From a song-writing point of view, one of the things that’s notable and remarkable about this, and also Run To The Hills, is that it’s written in a major key, which is very unusual in heavy metal. I know that Maiden weren’t devil worshippers, but that chorus “666! The number of the Beast!’ could hardly be more satanic. But while that might have freaked out parents in the American Mid-West, it didn’t cause any alarm in ’80s Sweden. 

Black Sabbath - N.I.B. (Black Sabbath, 1970)

Black Sabbath have so many songs with Lucifer references, but there was generally quite a humane, mournful, romantic undertone to Geezer Butler’s lyrics. Sabbath are a major inspiration for me, and what we do, not so much the first two albums, but certainly Sabotage and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. So many of the sludge and doom bands claim a Sabbath influence, but they’re only borrowing from certain songs, so they’re quite one dimensional, it’s always Symptom Of The Universe rather than, say Laguna Sunrise. N.I.B. is a great song, and “My name is Lucifer, please take my hand” is such a memorable lyric.

Mercyful Fate - Come To The Sabbath (Don't Break The Oath, 1984)

The first two Mercyful Fate albums – Melissa and Don’t Break The Oath – are two of my absolute favourite records. When I first discovered [frontman] King Diamond I thought he was the coolest, and I still do. He seemed dangerous to me as a child. So many of the other representatives of dark, subversive, devil music you couldn’t believe in, they seemed like children too, but he had an air of sophistication – and that’s a relative term here! – and he seemed much older: he seemed like someone who might live in a dark castle with a lot of ancient grimoires linking to the dark side. I could easily have imagined that his parents had died 200 years ago.

Morbid Angel - Angel Of Disease (Abominations of Desolation, 1991)

Praise the beast with virgin blood!” This was another influential band for me. Altars Of Madness and Abominations Of Desolation are so superior to most of their genre. As a 15-year-old I definitely bought into their evil aesthetic, I could definitely imagine that [vocalist/bassist] David Vincent and [guitarist] Trey Azagthoth were sacrificing cats and desecrating graves. From an adult perspective, you can see that it’s roleplay, but they were convincing to a wide-eyed teenager who could only see photos of them in a handful of magazines.

Venom - In League With Satan (Welcome To Hell, 1981)

In 1979 Venom must have bought a book, like A Rough Guide To The Occult, and then they just went through it from A to Z, because every subject is covered in their songs. They were such a cool band, their first three albums are amazing. Their whole aesthetic is the fundamental basis of satanic metal. They represented exactly how I felt when I was 12, they’re just a big ‘Fuck off!’ to the world.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.