Of all the things that were on our bingo card at the beginning of 2022, the new Ghost album being influenced by Def Leppard was not one of them.
But here we are, four months later, and Impera does indeed wear its love of the Sheffield hard rock titans on its ornately embroidered sleeve - not to mention Whitesnake, Europe, Abba and countless others.
For anybody who doesn’t remember the days of bleached mullets and distressed stonewashed denim jackets, Def Leppard were the biggest British hard rock band of the 1980s and early 1990s. Two of their albums, 1983’s epic Pyromania and 1987’s titanic Hysteria, were solid-platinum blockbusters, shifting more than 10 million copies each in the US alone.
Ghost mainman Tobias Forge clearly recognises the pop-metal genius of megahits such as Pour Some Sugar On Me and Animal. “I think they were great,” he recently told Metal Hammer. “Going into this record, I thought I would see if I could do it a little more like Def Leppard did it.”
But we wanted to know if this was a one-way love-in, or if the members of Def Leppard were aware of the fact they’d inadvertently influenced a bunch of bemasked Swedish Satanists. We collared singer Joe Elliott to find out…
So Joe, have you heard that Tobias Forge of Ghost has talked about how he was influenced by Def Leppard?
Yeah. I saw that he’d said he thought we were great. He talked about he was inspired by the way we constructed songs - he’s not just wearing the T-shirt. It’s proper.
When did you first hear about Ghost?
Phil [Collen, Def Leppard guitarist] introduced me to them. He said, ‘Here, have you heard about this band Ghost? It’s like this kind of Scando goth-metal but with brilliant melodies.’ I went, ‘Well, that’s an oxymoron, cos it’s usually [makes unintelligible singing noise like someone vomiting in a bucket].’ But he played me something - a couple of minutes each of a few songs.
I was really intrigued, so I asked him to Dropbox me the new album. I listened to it all, and I thought it was absolutely stunning. It’s like a whole new genre of music – it’s way more Toto than death metal or any of that stuff. It’s like the song Spillways. It starts off like Hold The Line by Toto or Jane by Jefferson Starship – one of those classic 70s songs that begin on the piano before these big, chunky chords come in.
Have you been listening to Impera a lot?
It’s been my go-to album for the last couple of weeks. I’ve got it downloaded onto my Apple Watch so I can march away and listen to it. I’ve only got a few albums on there, and Ghost are one of them.
I like the fact that they’ve got a big intro for the album [opening instrumental Imperium]. It reminds of the beginning of Master Of Puppets, weirdly. It starts off with these flamenco-like guitars, then it gets all heavy and duelling, kind of like Thin Lizzy. It’s obviously done as a walk-on for the gigs.
Are you hearing a lot of Def Leppard in there?
Not so much musically, but certainly in the attitude. Back in the 80s, when Hysteria came out, everybody heard it and went, ‘Fuck, we’ve got to make an album that sounds like Def Leppard’. They’d mix their albums to try and copy it, but nobody admitted it. I like the fact that he actually admits to liking us. He’s not worried about losing cred with his fans by namechecking Def Leppard.
What do you make of the image?-
Oh, I love that theatrical stuff. When I was 16 and saw Kiss Destroyer posters in Bradley‘s records in Sheffield, life-size, I went, ‘If it sounds like it looks, that’s my kind of album.’ Same with Bowie. It was somebody making an effort not to look like they were roadies. That was the thing with grunge and Britpop - I could listen to the music, but they looked like they were waiting for a bus. Wearing a fucking parka onstage? No thank you.
Have Ghost approached you for a collaboration yet?
Not yet. Maybe they will. We’ve got [country singer] Alison Krauss on our new album, we did stuff with Taylor Swift 10 years ago. We’re not scared of collaborating with anybody.
Def Leppard’s new album, Diamond Star Halos, is out on May 27