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“Metallica were always there”: the story behind Ghost’s Enter Sandman cover

Ghost and Metallica
(Image credit: Press/Michel Linssen/Redferns)

There’s long been a two-way love in between Ghost and Metallica. James Hetfield was championing the Swedes as far back as debut album Opus Eponymous, taking the younger band under their wing. Tobias Forge has been equally vocal about Metallica, even covering Black Album classic Enter Sandman on the recent Blacklist compilation and compling his dream setlist for Metal Hammer. We grabbed the man behind the Papa Emeritus mask to ask him about his love of all things ’Tallica…

Metal Hammer line break

How did you end up covering Enter Sandman on Metallica’s Blacklist album?

Tobias Forge: “We’d been asked to play Enter Sandman when Metallica were at [Swedish awards ceremony] The Polar Prize a few years back. We said, ‘Can we choose which song?’ They said, ‘Well, you can choose, but we really want you to do Enter Sandman. If you’re going to open the show, we want you to play their biggest song.’ So when talk of this record came about, it made sense.”

How do you approach a song that’s so well known?

“It’s hard to cover a song that famous, but I heard a little bit more melody in the chord sequence. So I thought I’d explore that and see if I could flip it into something different – not better, just different. It’s such a rock’n’roll song, too – I wanted our version to swing.”

Were you nervous doing it at the Polar Prize award ceremeony?

“Super nervous, cos it was right at the beginning of previous album, Prequelle. So the eyes of our fans and their fans were on us. I was just, like, ‘I hope you dig it, but we’re doing it for Metallica.”

When did Metallica come into your life?

“My older brother was a Metallica fan, so they were always present when I was growing up. I actually had a poster from Metal Hammer on my wall – it had the Jump In The Fire demon on it, but with a Master Of Puppets-era picture. The Black album is the first album I can clearly remember anticipating, like, ‘It’s coming out in August.’”

What was it about The Black Album that grabbed you?

“Like most people, Enter Sandman was the first thing I heard. As soon as it came on MTV or the radio, I would just stop: ‘Here comes this song again.’ It was unique and powerful and just very rocking.

“That was one of the few moments in my life where I was actually in tune with what was happening commercially, especially with what happened with the black metal movement which I was smitten with a little later. There was this big tsunami of huge rock records coming out that around that time – Nirvana and Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But Metallica were the biggest and coolest and most bad ass-band of them all.”

Did you see them on The Black Album tour?

“I saw them a few times. There was always something special about that stage [the Snake Pit]. It had a kind of magical power. But what really blew me away about that period was the Year And A Half In The Life Of Metallica Parts 1 and 2 documentary. I’ve seen it over a hundred times. I’d probably seen it 60 times before I even went into a studio to record my first demo. It became a handbook – this is how you make a record and this is how you tour it.”

What struck a chord with so many people outside of the metal world?

“It was the ballads that made the album so successful. Nothing Else Matters, Guns N’ RosesNovember Rain… these were the songs that were on the radio. If you went to the school disco, Nothing Else Matters was the song they played as the slow dance. You associate it with your first kiss or your first romance, especially if you were a teenager. It found its way into the romantic side of life, and it brought the girls in. That’s the difference between selling two million records and selling 20 million.”

You know the guys in Metallica these days. What would the 15-year-old Tobias Forge have thought of that?

“Utter amazement, of course. I have moments when I’ve been on tour with them, or worked with them, where the older, slightly more blasé version of myself gets a little tap on the shoulder from my younger self: ‘This is fucking cool!’”

If you were to hop on Spotify right now and listen to one song from the Black Album, which one would it be?

Of Wolf And Man. It’s just a wonderfully written track, very catchy. And it’s about werewolves as well.

Ghost are on the cover of the brand new issue of Metal Hammer, out now (opens in new tab)

Ghost Metal Hammer 2022

(Image credit: Future)

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.