I’ve been a huge fan of THEOCRACY for the last decade (despite not being a follower of Christianity) and their last two records, 2008’s Mirror of Souls and 2011’s As the World Bleeds rank pretty high in my personal list of all-time great power metal albums. Naturally, I was excited to get my mitts on their latest release, Ghost Ship (out October 28 on Ulterium Records) and I’ve spent quite a bit of time with it in the last month. Spoiler alert: I was not at all disappointed!
Matt Smith (vocals, producer) has written another splendid album – the lyrics do a fantastic job of telling the story of each song and help connect you to each track, and his voice remains amazing – the man knows how to deliver classic European power metal vocals, and his hooks are outstanding as always. Jonathan Hinds and Val Allen Wood return on guitar and provide a perfect platform for Matt’s voice. Jared Oldham (bass) and Shawn Benson (drums) form one of the tightest rhythm sections in power metal and really shine on this disc – they’re solid and supportive, never overwhelming, yet intense in all of the right places.
The songs run the gamut from bright and hopeful to dark and contemplative, always with the themes of Christianity behind them. Val’s lead guitar playing is beautiful – whether a melodic solo on “Around The World And Back” or some insane licks on “Castaway”, he absolutely crushes it on every song, with ample support on rhythm guitar from Jonathan. The songwriting as a whole is excellent – Matt has a talent for mixing musical styles, and it’s pretty much perfect on Ghost Ship.
The songs range from classic power metal on “Ghost Ship”, “Paper Tiger”, and “Wishing Well” to epic light prog on “Easter”, the closing nine minute plus track, and the rest of the album encompasses just about every other style in the power metal catalog. “Wishing Well” and “Stir The Embers” embrace a slightly stripped back and slowed down thrashy vibe, and a couple of ballads (or close enough to it) in “Around The World And Back” and “Currency In A Bankrupt World”.
Honestly, it would be impossible for me to choose my favorite tracks on this disc – they’re all that good. Overall, this is another excellent release by THEOCRACY, and I’ve really been enjoying it. It’s not quite the instant classic that their last two releases were for me, but it’s definitely really close, and worthy of picking up on release day. And no – you don’t have to believe in Christianity or any religion to enjoy it.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM