Square Hammer is a heavy metal song by the Swedish rock band Ghost. It served as the lead single from the band’s second EP (Elongated Play) Popestar. The song was a commercial success, peaking at the number one spot on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in January 2017. This marked Ghost as the first Swedish band in history to top the chart. Square Hammer became one of the theme songs in the professional wrestling show and WWE event NXT TakeOver: San Antonio.
The band Ghost was formed in 2006 in the Southern Swedish city of Linkoping. They released their first album Opus Eponymous in 2010. The album was a critical and commercial success for the band, winning a Grammis nomination. The song Ritual from the album was selected as one of the 50 Most Evil Songs Ever by the British music magazine Kerrang! Ghost went on to release other albums with increasing level of success – Infestissumam (2013), Meliora (2015) and Prequelle (2018). Cirice, the lead single from Meliora, won a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.
Apart from their music, Ghost has garnered notoriety for their eccentric on-stage presence and performance. Their fashion sense is rebellious, dark and anti-religious. Seven out of the eight members in the band don similar costumes that conceal their faces. These members are referred to as the ‘Nameless Ghouls’. The lead singer Tobias Forge assumed the character of “Papa Emeritus” before the filing of a 2017 lawsuit.
After the release of their 2018 album Prequelle, Tobias Forge took on a new character called “Cardinal Copia”. This was a step away from the “Papa Emeritus” image and its subsequent reincarnations. “Cardinal Copia” switched between a black-white tuxedo and cardinal vestments. For the face, Forge wore a prosthetic mask with black eye makeup. He also put on multi-colored contact lenses to change his eye color. “Papa Emeritus” eventually made a reappearance at the last show of the Band’s A Pale Tour Named Death in 2020.
The Title – What does it mean?
The term ‘Square Hammer’ has Masonic origins. The hammer is a chief symbol of the Freemasons, the fraternal organisation. Masons use a tool called a square, which is used to measure 90 degree angles. To be ‘square’ with someone means to be truthful and honest with them. The title Square Hammer can then be translated as ‘Truth Hammer’, meaning a tool to enlighten people.
In order to understand the true meaning of Square Hammer, you will have to trace the other albums by Ghost. The previous albums of Ghost have an Anti-Christ storyline. It begins with the first album Opus Eponymous where the songs speak of the advent of the Anti-Christ.
The second album Infestissumam continues the narrative by describing the arrival and birth of the Anti-Christ in the world. The theme of their third studio album Meliora is the reign and rule of the Anti-Christ on Earth.
Square Hammer further pushes the idea behind Meliora. The song encourages people to look up to the devil instead of God. It transforms the concept of the devil from an abstract idea to an established entity. The song also dabbles with the notion that the devil is present in the spirit of the people. God on the other hand is losing influence over people’s day to day lives.
Before releasing the EP Popestar, the band Ghost promoted Square Hammer with a summoning video. It was intended to remind the band of humility. They should not let the success of their music overwhelm them. Instead, they must remember the purpose of their music and never lose focus.
Verse 1 – What does it mean?
Living in the night, ‘neath heavens torn asunder
You call on me to solve a crooked rhyme
The first lines refer to evil. Night time is associated with acts of evil and is when negative forces are most powerful. So the evil is “Living in the night”. This evil can be interpreted as the people in power. They live high up in society and look down on others. People have to look up to the “…heavens torn asunder” to catch a view. “…torn asunder’ could imply two things. Either, God is losing control over humanity. Or, the people in power are being usurped from their position.
“…crooked rhyme” refers to the tyrannical regime imposed by the corrupt over the ones who live on the ground. These lines could be from the perspective of the devil who is being summoned.
As I’m closing in imposing on your slumber
You call on me as bells begin to chime
The entity being called upon is probably the devil. People everywhere are losing faith in God because powerful people are ruling over them. In many mythologies, the devil makes contact with people in their sleep. In this case “…imposing on your slumber” could mean entering people’s thoughts and changing their point of view.
Bells have many purposes. They serve to compliment ceremonies, make announcements, alert and warn people. Here, the chiming of the bells is a call of desperation for the existing bad times.
Verse 2 – What does it mean?
Hiding from the light, sacrificing nothing
Still, you call on me for entrance to the shrine
These lines take up on the theme of the Anti-Christ from previous albums. They address people who only remember God in times of need. “Hiding from the light” refers to not living up to the ideals of God and morality. People are also selfish, always demanding but never sacrificing. Yet, they call on to God during desperation, expecting a miracle. This describes the general relationship between religion and humans. One is not particularly religious during the good times. But the moment a problem arises, people begin to pray.
Hammering the nails into a sacred coffin
You call on me for powers clandestine
The coffin here can be interpreted as the impending doom during hardships. The people are often responsible for their own peril and hammer the nails into their own coffin. They suddenly remember God and pray to God to use “clandestine”, that is, mysterious powers.
Chorus – What does it mean?
Are you on the square? Are you on the level?
Are you ready to swear right here, right now before the devil?
In Christianity, one needs to swear to God in order to receive God’s blessings. Here, God has turned their back against the people. So the writer asks if people are ready to pledge themselves to the devil.
Using more Masonic imagery, people have to prove their allegiance to the devil. They must be “square” and “on the level”. Square refers to the truth that God has deserted the people. According to the Freemasons, being on the level means being reliable and trustworthy. So the new followers must not break their oath.
That you’re on the square? That you’re on the level?
That you’re ready to stand right here, right now? Right here, right now
The writer emphasizes the need to be honest and reliable before swearing to the devil. People must make up their minds quickly before it is too late.
Outro – What does it mean?
Right here, right now
Right here, right now
Right here, right now
Right here, right now
The outro of the song works like a chant, as if to summon a metaphysical entity like the demon.
Square Hammer is an upbeat metal song that speaks of reverence, devotion and anti-establishment. It encourages listeners to take responsibility of their sins. Praying for mistakes you could have omitted will do you no good. The idea is to be honest and trustworthy if you desire blessings.