Ghost mastermind Tobias Forge is Loudwire’s Metal Artist of the Year. To discuss Ghost’s monumental 2018, Forge joined us at Loudwire Studios to reveal all about Prequelle, creating Cardinal Copia, killing all three Papa Emeritus’ and much more.

As 2018 began, Ghost fans were in a state of limbo. The Swedish occult act had been completely purged of its longtime members, as the musicians filed a lawsuit against Forge, publicly outing him as Papa Emeritus for the first time. There was no doubt Ghost would continue, but fans were unsure if Tobias could maneuver the band alone.

“Basically, I had to claim my own craft,” Tobias told us. “It’s not a nice feeling having to have your work authenticated. On the other hand, the idea originally was not for it to be proclaimed as a one-man solo act. Great ideas in your mind are not always functioning very well in real life. By early 2018, I had definitely come to terms with the fact that things were not what I thought them to be. Now I have to roll with that punch.”

Despite the struggles of 2017, which Forge calls one of the worst years of his life, Ghost rolled into 2018 with new concepts — most notably the character of Cardinal Copia. For the first time since the band’s conception, Ghost broke from the Papal lineage, allowing fans to experience the development of a frontman’s character rather than Forge simply presenting a replacement.

“In the past, you already saw someone accomplished out of nowhere, which I felt was kind of underwhelming from a storytelling point of view,” Tobias explains. “Ghost as a project and Ghost as a band and the mythos of what we’re trying to do was aided by a different dish, this time.”

Originally presenting the Cardinal as a timid anti-star who seemed incapable of filling Papa III’s position, Forge revealed the first step of Copia’s progression in the “Rats” video. Fans lost their minds witnessing this Michael Jackson / Freddie Mercury persona (who did ballet) front a metal band. “Rats” signaled another creative victory for Tobias Forge, who had now proven himself, without a doubt, as Ghost’s legitimate architect.

“Anything that you present to the world that’s not being received as a plastic bag with a turd in it… of course that’s going to be gratifying,” Forge says. “Despite seeing comments of the ‘Rats’ video being well-received … it’s still a growing process. Now, I definitely think better of [Cardinal Copia]. To begin with, I wasn’t very fond.”

In April, we learned Papa Emeritus I, II and III were each murdered after being kept in a storage closet for quite some time. When we asked if it was a difficult decision to kill the former frontmen and showcase their bodies at VIP events, Forge responded, “No. It was very easy. What else were they going to do? They’re not contributing, and now they are. I think it was good management. You utilize something that is useless and it becomes useful. People are happy about it, so it’s a win-win.”

After talking about the original “Dance Macabre” video and the mind-blowing fact that Metallica used “Cirice” to warm up in their practice space, Forge discussed the tragic death of a fan during a Milwaukee concert. “We were just waiting around backstage for word on what is actually happening. After maybe 25 minutes of resuscitation attempts, it was pretty clear this had not ended well at all,” describes Forge.

On Halloween night, Ghost finally finished the Milwaukee show, performing for those same fans along with the family of Jeffrey Fortune, who was honored at the gig. “That was one of the highlights of the year, I think. That felt good.”

When Prequelle was released, it garnered Ghost’s biggest first-week sales ever. Prequelle moved 66,000 copies in the U.S. alone on week one; a huge bump from Meliora selling 29,000 units in its first week.

“Sometimes, unfortunately, cool things like that have a tendency to be very different from the other side. Then you look back on it — it’s like, ‘Yeah, that was really cool.’ But the experience right there and then, when it happened, was not orchestrated the way you thought as a kid.”

Looking back on 2018, Forge likens the year to “positive growing pains,” explaining, “I’ve spent more time this year being happy, laughing, feeling positive about things … I’m working towards having a better 2019."

Watch our Metal Artist of the Year interview with Tobias Forge in the clip above. Ghost are currently touring the U.S. and will perform a landmark arena gig at Brooklyn's Barclays Center on Dec. 15.

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