Theocracy
Ghost Ship


4.5
superb

Review

by Friday13th USER (14 Reviews)
October 29th, 2016 | 35 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: After riding the tidal wave As the World Bleeds, Theocracy's Ghost Ship can finally sail through clear waters.

Theocracy has taken the long, laborious route to fame within the metal community.

Debuting with a solo project that singer Matt Smith has affectionately labeled a "demo" for his artistic inspiration, Theocracy was not even a complete band for its first masterpiece, Mirror of Souls. The 5-piece band finally consummated on As the World Bleeds, an album I described in my 2012 review as "defining Christian metal." I still stand by my obtuse statement that the 11-minute "I Am" is "the most epic Christian song ever written."

It seemed after such a defining crest in their career that Theocracy had an inevitable trough ahead. Given the 5 years, a scrapped concept album, and issues with keeping a drummer on board, Matt and the boys must have had a similar fear. In reality, Ghost Ship is an album that excels in Theocracy’s strengths and showcases Theocracy at its most concise.

"Paper Tiger" is a fitting opener, recalling heavy metal legends Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Razor-sharp riffs with everything we've come to expect from the best: demanding Eastern-tinged verses recalling Powerslave, a soaring chorus that never gets old, and even a "heavy-metal rap" (think "Holy Wars" or "Freewheel Burning") that gives it a distinctive edge above your average power metal. The lyrics are quite unusual for Theocracy, taking a political/social commentary stance. "On we go, with our drama flags unfurled/While they die in chains around the world, and we dance on anyway." Basically, third-world reality > first-world problems. As incendiary as that might be as we each counter with our political pet-peeves, it's hard to deny Matt has a point. There’s also no denying that Ghost Ship, as with all Theocracy albums, will make you think.

The universal nature of the themes may surprise those expecting a campy Christian album. The most obvious note on the lyrics is the prominent use of analogies. Songs like "Wishing Well" and "Currency in a Bankrupt World" tastefully put a metaphorical spin on important topics such as "actions speak louder than words" and "not finding your worth in your success." Only the final epic "Easter" is topical, applying Matt's storytelling skills perfected on “Mirror of Souls” to the resurrection story. Matt Smith is a world-class songwriter, and he continues to stretch his abilities on Ghost Ship.

Musically, Theocracy is concise and catchy as ever. The title track "Ghost Ship" has a chorus that is both epic and exhilarating like all power metal bands attempt but few achieve. Granted, "Call to Arms" has a chorus clearly stepping over the line into cringy power metal cheese ("it's time to sound the fight song" just...no), but one can afford to skip one filler track. Matt has a way of making melodies that are both hummable and interesting, filled with nuance and bombastic leaps reaching that piercing high note we all love.

Besides the epic "Easter," Ghost Ship is not as progressive as past Theocracy albums. Yet, it still excels at interesting chords and harmonies, gnarly riffs, and unbelievable guitar solos (courtesy of Van Allen Wood). All is still accomplished with shorter length and with fewer movements. I can’t help but feel this is exactly what Theocracy needed. While I was tempted to pull out my pitchfork and yell "SELL-OUTS!" at the start of "Around the World and Back," it is a moving pop-metal song that proves Theocracy could still make great songs stripped of pomp and flash. Ghost Ship has loads of heavy riffs often reaching thrash intensity on "The Wonder of It All" and the clear mosh-pleaser "Stir the Embers." This is Theocracy at its heaviest since "Laying the Demon to Rest," and this should also lay the doubters to rest.

Though a critic like myself may point to Theocracy's past 2008 and 2011 masterpieces as the band's creative peak, Ghost Ship is full of the energy and confidence of a band who has proven the world its identity and rushes ahead to claim its prize. I suspect Ghost Ship will succeed in both appeasing its core fanbase and attracting those who were on the fence with Theocracy.

"Pay the Piper, here we go…this Ghost Ship sets off to shake the world!"



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user ratings (54)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Friday13th
October 29th 2016


6079 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Latest Interview with lead songwriter/singer Matt Smith about Ghost Ship: http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com/interviews/Theocracy2016.asp

Digging: Duke Ellington - The Far East Suite

Jethro42
October 29th 2016


15107 Comments


When I saw Theocracy, I really thought it might be a review of yours ;)
Review was hard to understand for me at places, so I used Google traductor, and I realized it was finally more understandable in English than in French, probably mostly due to numerous quotation marks and maybe some expressions hard to translate in French as well.

Pos'd


Friday13th
October 29th 2016


6079 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oh no! Sorry for making it hard on you, Jethro. Yeah, I might have used a few uncommon words and phrases. But yes, you know me well :] Thanks, you should check "Easter"!

P.S. I took out a few needlessly complicated words/phrases.

Jethro42
October 29th 2016


15107 Comments


It's alright bro, It's my job to decorticate, as much as I can, a review. I caught a big part of the essence of yours, and I can see you write with confidence, and I already noticed it before. Keep them coming!
As for ''Easter'', I will do when I'll get done with my Tull binge ;)

Friday13th
October 29th 2016


6079 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

haha hard to come off a Tull binge, agreed.

Jethro42
October 29th 2016


15107 Comments


Yeah I'm into it since user Divaman put on a Tull list few days ago.

And no, please no, don't change a iota of your review for a minority like me haha!

logicisirrelevant
October 29th 2016


70 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

In the mirrors, the world is turned to GOOOOOOOOOOLD.



Great review man, love these guys.

cryptologous
Contributing Reviewer
October 29th 2016


1807 Comments


I admire the consistency of this band. Only spun their previous records once or twice each as they aren't exactly sitting in a style I in any way enjoy but they do what they do very well.

Friday13th
October 29th 2016


6079 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@logic m/ yeah man, this album doesn't disappoint.

@crypt gotcha, totally understandable. Power metal used to be my thing along with thrash and prog metal. I still have a soft spot for a few bands like Theocracy and Kamelot, though tbh I don't intentionally explore the genre anymore.

TwigTW
October 30th 2016


2780 Comments


Hey Friday--nice review--gave this a shot and enjoyed it. I was surprised by the strong and melodic vocals.

Jethro42
October 30th 2016


15107 Comments


I'm not an expert when it comes to power metal, but I detect some similarities with Iced Earth, is it possible? Easter is a nice song. Love its atmosphere. I'm soon gonna listen to the whole thing. Cheers!

I see you corrected the missing quotation mark for ''I Am'' in the first para...You beat me at it ;)

CaptainDooRight
October 30th 2016


2215 Comments


I remember this band

Friday13th
October 30th 2016


6079 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Twig Thanks, yeah Matt has a nice clear voice a bit like Styx, but he can go gritty too.

@Jethro yeah definitely some Iced Earth, though I don't recall Matt specifically citing them as an influence. I know his favorite album is Operation Mindcrime.

@Captain it has been a while since ATWB.

Snowdog808
October 31st 2016


2889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

A new Theocracy album at last! I'll have to play this real soon.

Toondude10
October 31st 2016


11599 Comments


oh hey, they came out with a new album? better check, their last one was pretty good

Digging: Face The King - Once More Is All I Am

Emim
November 2nd 2016


27544 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album absolutely rips. It's not quite as immediate as ATWB, but it just gets better with repeated listens.

Storm In A Teacup
November 2nd 2016


22229 Comments


emim likes so will check and now going to bump emery

Emim
November 2nd 2016


27544 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

In Shallow Seas does this Ghost Ship sail

Storm In A Teacup
November 2nd 2016


22229 Comments


nice, good to see you back emim

DoctorVelvet
November 3rd 2016


171 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I liked this review and I found myself agreeing with many of your points. Nicely done, overall. My main gripe is just with the flow of some of your sentences/paragraphs: I think you have the tendency to sometimes type a bunch of individual, sometimes unrelated, sentences one after another; it can just feel pretty stoppy at times. Maybe try mixing up your sentence structures? You can do this by using different types of punctuation, using more commas, and seeing where you can fuse sentences with each other. Sorry to gripe on you! Again, the content of your review is excellent.



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