"That darkness inside us needs to find its way out": Tobias Forge's track-by-track guide to the new Ghost album, Impera

Ghost tour 2022
(Image credit: Ghost)

Ghost's Papa Emeritus IV is the cover star of the new issue of Metal Hammer, and, inside the issue, the band's creative mastermind Tobias Forge shares his personal track-by-track guide to the Swedish group's eagerly-awaited new album Impera.

Forge has previously revealed that much of his band’s fifth album is rooted, lyrically and subject-wise, in the Victorian era, and deals with "dark shit". Last year, the Swedish musician revealed that Impera was “a record about the rise and ultimately the unescapable fails and falls of empires", and that the album was partially inspired by the book The Rule of Empires: Those Who Built Them, Those Who Endured Them, And Why They Always Fall.

Now, exclusively for Metal Hammer, Forge takes us deep inside the follow-up to 2018's Prequelle, which is set for release via Loma Vista on March 11.

“I think people need to understand that my albums are never conceptual in the way that King Diamond’s are,” he says by way of an introduction to Impera. “It’s never a story that starts in the beginning and finishes at the end of the story. It’s not a rock opera. To compare it to other artists, it’s more like Iron Maiden’s concept albums – like a record that loosely dabbles with the concept of pharaohs or time. On Powerslave, there are other songs that aren’t technically about pharaohs. Or like on Somewhere In Time, the songs have a chronological element in them. Impera is similar, where the songs are shining a light on various things within an empire. I guess you could say they show the cracks inside of it.”

And now, Impera, track-by-track, through the eyes of Tobias Forge. 

Metal Hammer line break


“That’s meant as a national anthem opening. In the illustrations that come with the record, there’s a big city landscape and this cart rolling into town at sunrise. It has a beginning element that I like.”


“That’s the violent start of this new empire. The call to arms. Burn down everything from the past to build something new and burn the books and kill the whore.”


“This is an elegy for the darkness that most people have inside. When you have a dam, spillways are the run-offs so the dam won’t overflow. That darkness inside us needs to find its way out.”


“It’s the Devil, basically, speaking to the little person in front of his or her computer or in their little room, calling out for them, ‘I’m always here for you.’ In this context, it’s not a good thing.” 


“An ode to classic horror. There was something nostalgic and longing in that track that drove me to write it. Like coming back to the playground at nighttime. Also the empire of childhood.”


“It enthusiastically explains how we can utilise science to make the world smaller and to reverse scientific things. Basically a flattened Earth, which I found amusing.”


“A segue, where we go outside the city to this vast landscape – meadows and all that, so you see another part of the empire. It’s meant to sound majestic – like some of those space movies like Dune.”


“A call to arms. It could be a very optimistic song about a future where we can grab people by the pussy and just fuck shit up. So it’s meant as a party track, if you like that stuff.”


“This is about people promoting all of these values under the guise of being God-fearing and righteous while they practise none of it. It’s just for cash and power.” 


“About people who will say or do anything to advance themselves. Like these Bible-thumpers, they don’t believe in that shit. They’re boosted. They’re triple-vaccinated. If their daughter gets pregnant, do you think they’re going to keep it? Fuck no.” 


(Short instrumental segue)


“About Jack the Ripper, who was never caught. As a horror fan, the Victorian era has so many cornerstones of gothic darkness. I’ve always been fond of that Victorian part of London and its dirt and industry-meets-posh, white glove aristocracy.” 

Read much, much more from Tobias Forge on Impera and Ghost's mission for 2022 in the new issue of Metal Hammer, which is on sale from March 3.

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.