"It broke my heart. I wanted us to be signed to Roadrunner and support Slayer." Ghost's Tobias Forge on why it just wasn't a good idea to try and make a career from death metal in the late 90s

Ghost’s Tobias Forge
(Image credit: Katia Ogrin)

Ghost are one of heavy metal's biggest post-Millennial sensations. They've scooped up awards, toured with the likes of Metallica and Iron Maiden, headlined festivals and even gone viral on TikTok. The band's mastermind, Tobias Forge, is the man behind their incredible rise to fame, but Ghost was by no means his first stab at the big time.

In the 90s, Forge formed Repugnant, the gothic death metallers who'd split up before their infamy grew in underground metal circles. Looking back on those days now, Forge appreciates that trying to hit the heavy metal big time with a death metal band may have not offered the most seamless route to success.

“I learned the hard way in the late 90s that wanting to play 80s-inspired death metal with my band Repugnant was painfully out of touch with what was going on at the time," he tells Metal Hammer. "It broke my heart; I wanted us to be signed to Roadrunner and support Slayer. That never happened unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, as it kept me grounded for a few more years and if those things had happened maybe I wouldn’t be here today.

“Repugnant had a close shave with success," he continues. "We signed to the [Dutch] label Hammerheart, which at the time felt like we’d made it because the first thing they did was take us out on our first tour, supporting the American band Macabre. They were a favourite band of ours – still are, and whenever we play Chicago they come to the shows – and at that point it felt like we might be going somewhere, but we quickly parted ways with Hammerheart because we couldn’t agree. It felt like our chance and we’d blown it.”

As it happens, Forge would eventually recalibrate and begin putting together the project that'd catapult him to metal legend in Ghost. So, all in all, things worked out pretty alright for him. Read more from Tobias Forge in the latest issue of Metal Hammer, out now. 

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved 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.