Ghost mastermind Tobias Forge was in a Seattle bookstore in 2014 when he came across what would become the theme for the Swedish occult rockers’ fifth album, IMPERA. “I saw this book called The Rule of Empires,” he tells Apple Music. “I’ve always been quite interested in history and politics, but you don’t need to be an expert to know that every empire eventually ends. Right then and there, I knew that at some point I was going to make a record about the rise and fall of empires.” At the time, Forge was already planning to make a record about the bubonic plague, which became Ghost’s startlingly prescient 2018 album Prequelle. “I felt like those two subjects represented two completely different threats of annihilation,” he says. “One feels a little bit more divine, and the other a little more structured and fabricated. So I compartmentalized the two themes and made two different albums.” Below, Forge details some key tracks from IMPERA. “Kaisarion” “The story this song tells, or the perspective it shines light onto, is basically stupid people destroying something that they don't understand with a frantic smile on their face. This has happened many times and unfortunately will probably happen many times in the future, because unfortunately things that we don't understand or that we cannot control have a tendency to arouse those feelings. We want to kill it. We want to destroy it.” “Spillways” “In ‘Kaisarion,’ we have the en masse, frenetic, frantic buzz of being in a group. In ‘Spillways,’ we have a very internalized pressure that builds up to the next song, which is a distant call that ends up being a voice in your head—the insulated person who’s being communicated with from a higher power. That’s loosely how we move geographically between these three songs. If the leads remind you of Brian May, that’s because I like stacking solos and adding harmonies, which automatically puts you in Brian May territory.” “Call Me Little Sunshine” “This is similar to our song ‘Cirice’ in the sense that you have this betraying hand that leads you into the night pretending to have a torch in the other. Which is interesting, because we’ve placed ourselves in the devil’s corner, pop-culturally, so it becomes this paradox. Myself and other peddlers in the extreme metal world use a lot of biblical or diabolical references, and up until recently we felt we were doing it with a distance from history—like this was in the Old World, when people were stupid. But no—this is real. This is now.” “Hunter’s Moon” “This song was written specifically for the Halloween Kills soundtrack, which made it so much easier to write because I knew the context. If ‘Call Me Little Sunshine’ is a voice inside the head that’s actually coming from outside, ‘Hunter’s Moon’ is inside the empire of the brain of a maniac: ‘I’m coming to get you because you belong to me. Can’t you see I’m doing this as an act of love?’ It’s absolutely illogical, but if you place yourself inside the head of a maniac, it makes sense. It’s burning love.” “Watcher in the Sky” “This reverts back to the imperial world of Flat Earth Society members, basically. The narration is calling upon the scientific community to use whatever science we have here within this empire to stop looking at the stars and look for God instead. Can we reverse the tools that we have to watch the stars to communicate with the Lord? And is there any way to scientifically prove that the world is actually flat? Because it looks awfully flat from where we're standing. So it’s a song about regression.” “Twenties” “This is a machine disguised as a leader talking to liberal persons because we need their manpower, and without them there is no society. So it’s this cheer about the twenties, saying that it will lead to an even more hopeful thirties—but 1900s-style. It’s meant to give people hope, if you’re bent that way. It’s similar to our song ‘Mummy Dust’ in that both are more primally aggressive and have an element of greed.” “Grift Wood” “I love Hollywood rock like Van Halen and Mötley Crüe, and it just feels fitting to have an uplifting track towards the end of the record. Musically, one thing that inspired the more Sunset Strip elements of the song was knowing that it was going to throw you off with a really long curveball that felt like something no Sunset Strip band has ever done. And that enabled the more glossy bits to be even more in line with the traditional elements of an early-’80s Sunset Strip song.”

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