Tobias Forge doesn't just front Ghost as Papa Emeritus IV – he's the mastermind behind the Swedish prog metal phenomenon. He plays multiple instruments on the band's records, while using his Nameless Ghouls to take up touring duties. But for forthcoming album Impera, he had his hands full and knew who to call to deliver the goods on the guitar front.
"It enables me to have something similar to a perspective slightly objective that way because I'm a little bit of a jack of all trades when it comes to actual playing," Forge told Loudwire of his ability to wear many hats in Ghost's creative process. "I'm an able drummer, a bass player, an able guitar player, but I'm not a virtuoso"
But Forge knows a man who is. "This time around, I actually had another guitar player coming in, mounting the massive work of actually redoing everything. I've played guitar all my life, but, unlike most guitar players who are in successful bands, they play as they tour. I am doing a whole slew of other things, so, it almost feels like every time I saw start writing again, and demoing and doing pre-production, I quickly have to go up to par again."
"I had a friend of mine, Fredrik Åkesson, the guitar player from Opeth," Forge added. "He's the sort of person who plays five hours every day. He's so amazingly talented. He can play circles around anything that I put on tape and he can do it with flair."
This isn't the first time Forge has called upon his friends in Opeth – Mikael Åkerfeldt contributed acoustic guitar to instrumental track Helvetesfönster from 2018's Prequelle album.
Forge describes the recording process for Ghost albums as "a very painful process" and his role as primary songwriter has distinct pros and cons.
"The good thing about that is I don't play one role in a band where there's five other egos," he explains. "It's easier for me to go, 'No, you can skip the solo here. I can move this solo around. I can take this little bass part... I can do this little guitar parts on the piano and on the organ.' Try saying that to a guitar player. If it's his piece and moment to shine, that's going to cause problems.
"From my perspective I can tell people that I bring in for a certain piece that I know that he or she will do better than I can, I just tell them what to do," Forge reasons. "It's already been predetermined what to do. It's not saying, "Here's free rein, here's five minutes and you can do whatever you want on it." It gives me a little bit more of a director sort of perspective on things, even though I wrote the story. Even when it comes to vocals, I listen to my own vocals and I try to be as objective as I can."
And that's when things can get painful – a kind of studio fatigue kicks in.
"This summer, I came into the studio and my ears just died — I don't like this record anymore.
"From then on, it was so much harder because I didn't like it. You get so tired of it and then when you're in the aftermath of having made a record and you occasionally listen to it because you need to you have these moments where it sounds better than you remembered. Then you hear it again a few days later it's like, 'Wow, this sucks.'"
Clearly, it's something Forge works through .
"Once you've gone over that little threshold, there's ups and downs and everything has pros and cons," he continues. "Generally, when a producer or someone comes in and is working with me, usually that person is really happy not to have an opinionated band around. You don't have to deal with someone that doesn't really carry the weight.
"I can tell someone I know who is a great keyboard player who can play exactly this little bit that I know what I want. I know what I hear and we can fake it like that. But if we want someone who can actually play like that, we can just call that person and we don't have to rely on our guy or girl to do it. That is not to say that the band that I have isn't able. They're really good at playing anything that I tell them to do, which is fantastic."
Impera will be released on 11 March via Loma Vista. Preorder the album.