Complete Guide to Ghost 'Square Hammer'

Everything you need to know about the story behind the song, amp and pedal settings as well as used guitar techniques.

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Complete Guide to Ghost 'Square Hammer'
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We got a lot of suggestions to write some modern stuff, so today we are dissecting one of the best songs of 2016. Yes, we know, that there's a scandal about the identities of the band's members and relations among them, but today we want to focus on the song itself, so there won't be any mentions of their real names. So, "Square Hammer" by Ghost. Let's go!

Ghost "Square Hammer"

Writer: A Ghoul Writer
Producer: Tom Dalgety
Album: Popestar (EP)
Released: September 16, 2016
Label: Loma Vista Recordings
Genre: Alternative rock, art rock, progressive rock
Length: 3:59

Additional Information:

#1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in January 2017
#2 on the Ultimate Guitar List of Top 25 songs of 2016

Story behind the song

Ghost is easily recognizable because of its eccentric on-stage presence. Five of the group's six members wear virtually identical, face-concealing costumes. The most distinguishable member is the vocalist, who wears a prosthetic face with skull face paint, appearing as what can be described as a "demonic anti-Pope".

For a better understanding of "Square Hammer," we need to go back because previous Ghost's albums established a story-line about the Anti-Christ.

On the first album "Opus Eponymous" songs refer to the advent of the Anti-Christ.

The birth and the arrival of the Anti-Christ on Earth is the main theme of the second album "Infestissumam."

The third album "Meliora" describes establishing Anti-Christ's reign on Earth.

"Square Hammer" extends the idea behind the third album. The song is proposing people to swear to the devil instead of god. This sets the notion that the devil is no longer an abstract idea, but rather is an established entity. It also introduces the idea that the devil occupies the spirit of people.

Right before the release of "Popestar" band promoted the song with a "Summoning" video, which declared the idea, that the band shouldn't be overwhelmed with their success and shouldn't forget about their main mission.

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Music Videos

Official music video

The camera flies through a green-lit city showing the arrival of the dark entity. Papa Emeritus III takes a newspaper from a paperboy. Papa looks through the news about the Mysterious Spectre who has seized power. He also checks the press release about his role as in the first ever moving picture. The movie "Square Hammer" will be premiered at the Meliora Grand that very night. He comes out of the limo and waves to his fans. He and Nameless Ghouls enter the theater. They salute their fans and take their seats in the front row.

The movie starts with a man holding a torch amidst a gloomy and cold landscape. He discovers a secret entrance. A portcullis raises, revealing Papa Emeritus III in a role of the Mysterious Spectre. He conveys the man inside, showing him a stone sarcophagus, which starts to open. Papa Emeritus III looks surprised about this part. The projector begins to spark. A squared hammer, surrounded by electric arcs is revealed. The intertitle indicates it to be the "Square Hammer." The man picks it up as the Mysterious Spectre makes mystic passes, taking control of the Hammer's power. The Hammer glows and emits lightning.

Suddenly, the Mysterious Spectre puts his hand through the screen. Papa Emeritus III sees it but the others seem ignorant. Then the Mysterious Spectre bows and turns into a cloud of bats, which comes through the screen and chase everyone except Papa Emeritus III and the ghouls outside the theater. A phantom image of the Mysterious Spectre glows blue on the screen.

Outside, the bats ascend into the midnight sky and assemble into a giant spectre, which gets the full power. Inside the theater, the projector breaks and the film melts. Papa Emeritus III is disappointed and finally leaves. Outside, the giant figure of the Mysterious Spectre glows against the sky. A spotlight moves over it and its left eye glows. Papa Emeritus III's left eye begins to glow in answer before the end.

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Live version

"Square Hammer" is the opening track of the most of recent Ghost's shows.

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"Square Hammer" live at Aftershock Festival in Sacramento CA 2016.

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The new lineup of Ghost has delivered its very first show in Norwich, England (March, 24).

Notable covers

The song is pretty fresh and it doesn't have a lot of notable covers.

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Piano Cover by Piano Nico.

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Acoustic cover by Marc-André Gionet.

Gear and settings

Anonymity was a major characteristic of Ghost; the members hadn't publicly revealed their names, and the group's five instrumentalists are only referred to as "Nameless Ghouls", which represent one of the five elements: fire, water, wind, earth, and ether, and wear a corresponding alchemical symbol on their instruments.

Guitars

Fire / Alpha, lead guitar

Gibson RD Artist Electric Guitar

The Nameless Ghouls of Ghost have been known to carry Gibson RD's since the early days. Fire Ghoul's white guitar carries a pair of Seymour Duncan with a coil-tap switch, just like Omega Ghoul's black Gibson RD guitar.

Ether / Omega, rhythm guitar

As it was said Ether Ghoul mainly uses black Gibson RD guitar.

Omega is also known as a user of Gibson SG guitar.

From the interview with Tonedeaf:

Our guitars differ between what we’re touring with and what we’re recording with. At home, all the music is written on my guitar here at home, which is a regular black Gibson SG, which is highly regular. But that’s my go-to guitar, that’s my favorite guitar. And usually when we go into the studio, there’s nothing wrong with that guitar, but it tends to detune a bit too quickly. I’ve changed the screws on it, but in the studio, you want something reliable. In the studio, we tend to use one set of things and live we use Gibson RDs and those are really good for the live thing. Also, just for the coloration of the sound, we want to use different guitars in the studio.

Live at Aftershock Festival in Sacramento CA 2016.

Water, bass

Water Ghoul has been seen many times playing an American Special Precision Bass (UG Score 9.2) by Fender.

Amps and effects

Their amp choice didn't change too much from their previous album and the sound is mostly based on mixing Marshall, Orange and Fender amps.

From the interview about "Meliora" album:

... guitars went through at least one Marshall — I think there were two Plexis and at least one JCM800. There's also at least one Orange in there. And then we used a few different Fender heads, just because they produce this sort of fucked-up punk sound that is hard to get anywhere else. It's not a sound that is necessarily good on its own for metal, but it definitely adds a rattle when you mix it in. Whatever you can get out of a Marshall, if you put a Fender on top of it, like an old Twin or something, it makes it sound very … motor-esque. And then we had a few other oddballs.

Amp settings

Ghost emphasizes a usage of warm Mids and Treble, meaning you shouldn't be afraid to crank the Mids. So as not to drown out any tonality, tone down the Gain (and overall Overdrive + Bass for that matter), as Ghost don't rely heavily on distortion, but more on the clarity of the notes.

Tablature

These are top tabs rated by the UG community:

Tab version: Square Hammer Tab, Square Hammer Bass Tab
Interactive versions: Guitar Pro, Tab Pro

Tuning

Guitars: D standard tuning (D G C F A D)
Bass: D standard tuning (D G C F)

Song key

The song is written in D minor key.

Techniques

Song breakdown

Intro: 0:00 - 0:29

"Square Hammer" starts with the catchy main riff of the song, that is pretty fun to play and also makes for a good pick hand/fret hand coordination exercise. For the second part of the intro rhythm guitar plays power chords.

Verse 1: 0:29 - 1:00

Verses consist of simple muted power chords that have the main riff thrown in there as well.

Chorus 1: 1:00 - 1:30

The chorus is based around simple power chords as well but there are a lot of fills with vibrato being added to the riff.

Verse 2: 1:30 - 2:03

This verse and the following chorus have the same structure as previous ones and based on the same guitar lines.

Chorus 2: 2:03 - 2:35

Guitar Solo: 2:35 - 3:05

It sounds like one solo on the recording but is actually played by two guitarists, at least live.

These solos are great and really have some nice challenging licks without being overly technical. They are also quite musical as well. The first one involves using hammer-ons, vibrato, trill, bends and releases.

The second solo starts when the double-stops come in. There you need to use slides, vibrato, bend and release, and a set of quick hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Final choruses: 3:05 - 3:59

Final choruses are close the previous ones, but there is a more intensive use of power chords for the final passages.

Recommended lessons

Riffs

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Solo

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Bass cover

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Complete Guides to:

31 comments sorted by best / new / date

    micah.j.snow
    To get the right tone, you have to make a point to not pay your band members.
    sombrero_mop
    You're not wrong. If you don't pay the drummer, he can't go out all night and get shitfaced drunk. You're definitely on the right track though. 
    binadra1234
    I hope for guide of some Mastodon song.
    blackone666
    Grow some mean sideburns, play a Gibson standing up, add some bells and whistles, done.  Now seriously, I don't think there would be much difference between this guide and Mastodon's, they use pretty much the same stuff. 
    Glass_Ceiling
    This Internet new generation of people makes me sick sometimes. Someone is putting a lot of work and research to actually create this kind of stuff, it is free, nothing to pay, and people are still complaining. You do better? Do it yourself
    Eifler121
    [deleted]
    Eifler121 · Apr 08, 2017 09:51 AM
    Jamie_W
    You heard it UG, ignore the majority, only post guides to artists Eifler121 enjoys. I mean currently active act Ghost who are all over the headlines at the moment aren't even relevant!
    Eifler121
    I haven't enjoyed a lot of the ones posted so far, but they were from artists or songs big enough to warrant a thorough guide like this. That's not what it's about. Comment section is for people to post their opinion. That was mine.
    Anjohl
    [deleted]
    Anjohl · Apr 08, 2017 03:47 PM
    TrilobiteTongue
    We get it. You hate Ghost with a burning passion. Did the guy fuck you over as well or something? Geez...Move on already dude.
    AvoidingBee7
    [deleted]
    AvoidingBee7 · Apr 08, 2017 09:50 AM
    Jimjambanx
    We will forever be but a witness to your greatness, we can only wallow in envy living in your shadow.
    joe9finger
    The theme of this song and the staging live is Freemasonry, not sure how UG didn't pick up on this.
    aninevitablesuicide
    Some people at UG think maj7 chords are some mysterious, amazing device that will "unlock your true playing potential".
    MrZEDO
    I think the only reason I dislike this band is because they're marketed as metal, and tend to be grouped in with people I love like Opeth, Trivium, Disturbed, Iron Maiden, and their ilk. I don't dislike this song, for example, but it's more "60's meets goth meets indy rock" than it is metal.
    MrZEDO
    Listened to it again (via the bass cover), and I actually kinda like it and find it groovy, but it's soooo far from metal of any kind.
    mboosey123
    that has to be one of the worst reasons I've heard to not like a band, who cares what other people are saying about them man
    MrZEDO
    I wasn't saying I don't like them because other people say they are metal (though I admit that extreme genre-displacement does stir up a bit of resentment in me regardless of the genre in question). My meaning was more that when they're mixed in with bands like those I mentioned, it makes them sound horribly out of place and inferior. It's like if someone said The Beatles were a great gangster-rap group, and put them in a mix with Tupac, NWA, and Snoop Dog; it would make them seem bad at a genre they aren't part of, instead of good at the genre they are part of.