Label: Ulterium Records
Release Year: 2016
Genre: Progressive Metal
Matt Smith – Vocals
Val Allen Wood – Lead Guitar
Jonathan Hinds – Guitar
Jared Oldham – Bass
Shawn Benson – Drums
Since 2003 Theocracy have worked to establish themselves as one of the premiere prog/power metal bands in the world. Started as a one man project by Matt Smith – Vocals, Theocracy began to gain both critical acclaim and started to grow its audience. As a result the band also grew to include Val Allen Wood – Lead Guitar, Jonathan Hinds – Guitar, Jared Oldham – Bass, Shawn Benson – Drums. Starting off with their first self titled release Theocracy in 2003 the band would gain such praise with its power progressive metal and positive lyrical message that it would even result in a performance at Prog/Power Festival USA in their own backyard in Atlanta, Georgia.
Throughout the years since they have released a powerful body of work to include 2011: As the World Bleeds – Ulterium Records 2008: Mirror of Souls – Ulterium Records , 2003: Theocracy -Metal Ages. Their success would even place a high demand on a reissue of their self titled 2003 release Theocracy which was reissued by Ulterium Records in 2013. On the heels of their last release in 2011 As The World Bleeds, Theocracy make a long awaited and anticipated return to the global prog/power metal stage with the soon to be released Ghostship in 2016.
With Ghostship the band has shortened things a bit in the length of their songs while maintaining the integrity and focus of the band’s signature sound. The compositions stand alone yet never lose the main objective nor focus the band has always aimed for with their fans. It is with the shorter more gritty and heavier compositions that will also have appeal to a listener that is a newcomer to the work and sound of Theocracy. With that all said let’s take a look at some highlights from Theocracy’s Ghostship.
Paper Tiger opens up with thunderous rhythm section that blisters the ears wonderfully. Soon Matt Smith comes in with a powerful vocal presence. This is full of rhythm based hooks and melodies that are matched perfectly with well timed vocal harmonies. This track is a very power metal based track much in the vein of a Blind Guardian or Gamma Ray. The guitar solos are a total shred fest and will appeal to those fans of virtuoso style playing. The guitar solo’s have some various different time signatures.
Ghostship the title track of the album once again continues the bands streamlined objective with thunderous rhythm riffs and sections. The vocals really maintain with the same intensity and muscle ans the instrumental melodies. The vocals also really maintain wonderful lead and backing harmonies that exchange in and out of one another. The double blast beats also reinforce the muscular melodies. The guitar solo’s also have the hallmarks of prog/power metals past and remind me much of Crimson Glory’s work.
The Wonder Of It All totally blisters into a monster rhythm section of big double drum blast beats matched by a thunderous bass that is utilized both as a melodic instrument and a percussive instrument. This track has some serious Iron Maiden style with the galloping rhythm based progressions. In the midst of the thunderous rhythm section there are some very beautiful vocal harmonies that accent this track. The band establishes more of a European sound than that of a American sound on this track.
Wishing Well begins with a nice keyboard passage that is soon met by a more traditional progressive metal rhythm passage. This track slows things down a bit and stays more progressively based with more time signatures and changes instrumentally. It is met perfectly by traditional progressive metal vocal harmonies. The vocals set wonderfully in sync with the double blast beats with the drums. The guitar solo’s go in and out from crunchy muscular rhythm based to atmospheric chord progressions.
Around The World And Back starts out with a music box effect. The clear vocal soon comes in with a warmth soulful presence. The vocal harmonies anchor this one to a more streamline somewhat commercial sound. This track is very appealing to most progressive/power metal audio pallets. It also reminds me a radio friendly track much like Dream Theaters Another Day from Images and Words. This track has potential to be a live set staple for the band going forward.
Stir The Embers returns to the bands main streamline focus on Ghostship with gritty strong muscular rhythm based sections. The guitars really add to the muscle of this track and stay in a more rhythmic fashion. The vocals stay in step with the rhythmic backbone to the album. The solo’s also continue to shred as well. at the 3:10 mark there is a nice break with isolated drum passage in harmony with the lead vocal.
Call To Arms starts out almost in a old school heavy metal fashion with just a isolated guitar met by a very intricate rhythm based time signature. There is some interchange in the entire rhythm section. The vocals are almost a anthem and call to arms. This has such vocal harmonies that it has potential to be sung by audiences in the band’s live sets. It is also confirmed by the lyrical content.
Currency In A Bankrupt World takes off with a very easy to follow passage of instrumental and vocal harmony balancing one another. The band has really established the interchange between the instrumental and vocal in harmony by this point. It has some nice breaks instrumentally to allow room for the lead vocal to have room to breathe so the listener can follow the lyrical message as well.
Castaway starts out extremely blistering and is almost a power thrash metal intro. It is much in the vein of a Iced Earth rhythm section. This track is a straight away deliberate heavy track. The vocals even have more bite on them in both the lead and backing vocal. The band is able to accomplish this while staying on track with their main objective and focus. The guitar solo’s are totally insanely furious as well.
Easter sees the band somewhat return to the longer epic with its 10+ minute length. This starts out with a beautiful acoustic guitar that is subtly met with a electric guitar. Meanwhile in the midst of that passage the lead vocal takes a brief isolation before all instruments fire up on all cylinders. The track goes in and out of heavy power chord progressions with more slower balanced progressive passages. The vocals harmonies are absolutely stunning and really carry this track to the soul of the objective listener. The stringed section solo’s are obviously a little longer making the track a true journey to the inner audio portions on the listeners mind.
I believe Theocracy have certainly returned with a very powerful statement with Ghostship. This album will open more doors for the band to attract newer listeners and fans and reinforcing the fan base already in place. Although Ghostship is their forth offering it will bring newer people to the fan base where they will go back and start to discover their previous albums. This album is also a testament that the band can make something different that will be more appealing on a bigger scale. I give Theocracy’s Ghostship a 4.5/5 .
Video Courtesy of (Ulterium Records Official YouTube Channel)