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How James Hetfield helped Ghost become the biggest metal band of the decade

James Hetfield and Papa Emeritus
(Image credit: Getty)

If 2022 has proven anything in metal, it's that Ghost are the most widely celebrated and talked-about band of their entire generation. With latest album Impera smashing it in charts around the world and the Swedes playing huge venues across The States and Europe, it's hard to think of another metal band to have emerged at the start of the 2010s that has reaped such huge success.

And one of the band's biggest supporters throughout this whole time? The biggest metal band of them all - Metallica, whose frontman James Hetfield was singing Ghost's praises right at the very start, supported them at early shows, and who was a big part of Metallica taking the band under their wing in the years that followed.

It was way back in 2011 at Gothenburg, Sweden's edition of Sonisphere festival where, wearing one of Ghost's iconic early t-shirts , Hetfield was questioned about his love of the band, whose hype was still in its infancy.

"I'm in their fan club," he told SVT with a laugh. "I had no idea what they looked like until I saw the video [of them performing live]. I heard the music first and I thought it was very great, very unique, very melodic and a breath of fresh air for metal. It reminded me a bit of '70s kind of rock that I liked as well. So yeah, I love the band."

“James wore a Ghost shirt backstage before the show, so the TV host started asking him about us," A Nameless Ghoul told Music Radar when discussing the interview years later. "We were actually on a plane at the time, so when we landed, we switched our phones on and all these messages came in! ‘He’s wearing the shirt!’ Everyone was like, ‘Hey man, forget about the 20 bucks you owe me, I love you!’"

Less than a year later, James Hetfield would make the effort to go and catch the band live at their very first show in his beloved San Francisco, at an intimate, 350-capacity venue called Bottom Of The Hill on February 1, 2012.

“James came to see us at our first San Francisco show in this tiny venue, which was more like a coffee shop," A Nameless Ghoul continued. "We were stood backstage in our underwear – it probably wasn’t the best way to meet your idol for the first time. Then he came by after the show. Of course, we were in our underwear again. Come to think of it, I’ve met James many times in my underwear. It’s crazy. The guy is like royalty to us.”

Evidently, Ghost's live shows made a good impression on James - they were booked to play the first ever edition of Metallica's own festival, Orion Music + More, that very summer, with Hetfield personally introducing the band to the stage and telling the crowd they were one of his "new favourite bands."

In 2018, James would shine the light on Ghost yet again, covering Cirice during a jamming session that took place at Metallica's HQ. A clip of the cover immediately went viral, once again platforming Ghost to the biggest metal fanbase on the planet.

While Tobias Forge's crew were no strangers to playing on Metallica bills by that point, having shared the stage at both Orion and various Sonisphere bills, come 2019 the connection between the two bands was taken to the next level when Ghost were picked as main support on the final leg of Metallica's world tour for the Hardwired...To Self-Destruct album, taking them into stadiums across Europe. It was a tour that Tobias would later rave about, giving Metallica great credit for "taking such good care of us."

With Ghost now firmly installed as one of modern metal's biggest names, Tobias - a lifelong Metallica fan -  is in no doubt over how much help all that support from James and the boys has been.

“Their support has been key," Tobias told Guitar World back in October." Ever since James started pushing the band about 10 years ago, from that moment on we definitely rose to bigger fame. We performed at their festival Orion Music + More, and we also did some touring together with them when they were doing Sonisphere.

"Eventually, they asked us to support them on an entire tour," Tobias continued. "So I’d say that we have had a mentor/student sort of relationship. It feels, you know, like the most Miyagi of dojos – you get the hand of the sensei on you.“

Impera was released last month to rave reviews, and will be taken on the road when Ghost tour Europe starting this weekend. 

Ghost European tour 2022

Apr 09: Manchester AO Arena, UK
Apr 11: London O2 Arena, UK
Apr 13: Glasgow OVO Arena
Apr 15: Birmingham Resorts World Arena
Apr 17: Rotterdam RTM Stage Ahoy, Holland
Apr 18: Paris Accor Arena, France
Apr 19: Cologne Lanxess Arena, Germany
April 21: Leipzig Quarterback Immobillen Arena, Germany
Apr 22: Frankfurt Festhalle, Germany
Apr 24: Prague Arena, Czech Republic
Apr 27: Tampere Nokia Arena, Finland
Apr 29: Stockholm Avicii Arena, Sweden
Apr 30: Oslo Spektrum, Norway
May 01: Malmo Arena, Sweden
May 03: Brussells Forest, Belgium
May 05: Milan Mediolanum Forum, Italy
May 07: Barcelona Olympic Arena Badalona, Spain
May 08: Madrid Vistalegre Arena, Spain
May 11: Vienna Stadthalle, Austria
May 13: Zurich Hallenstadion, Switzerland
May 15: Hanover Zag Arena, Germany
May 16: Munich Olympiahalle, Germany
May 18: Budapest Arena, Hungary

Merlin stepped into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He is also probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.