Theocracy – Ghost Ship (Ulterium Records)Thursday, 20th October 2016
Blossoming from a one-man project for Matt Smith during the self-titled debut record in 2003 into a full outfit from the follow up Mirror of Souls and ever since, Georgia band Theocracy provide positive proof that persistence (and consistency) pays dividends to the good. Ghost Ship as the group’s fourth studio record establishes a potent power metal with melodic, epic, and progressive cocktail that fires on all of the necessary bells and whistles to appease most followers of the genre.
While many power metal bands from North America embrace heavier tones and heads down power moves, Theocracy adequately straddle a number of European melodic nuances and finesse qualities in terms of the harmonic guitar/keyboard passages or multi-layered vocals during the choruses that keep songs like “Ghost Ship” and “A Call to Arms” very anthem-oriented for easier long-term memory retention. At times the guitar harmonies and breaks from Jonathan Hinds and Val Allen Wood have this uplifting quality and semi-shred nature that revolves my headspace back to a period when Queensrÿche had a mindcrime lock on the scene – check out the crisp, emotive work for “Currency in a Bankrupt World” (possible song title of the year), while those who want heads down speed and thunder will dig the Sonata Arctica-ish follow up “Castaway”. Dynamically offering a more Sabbath-esque track such as “Wishing Well” aids the aural cause, the main riff and upper register vocals classic in execution.
Outside of the shorter material, the record closes on an epic note through the 10:14 “Easter” – giving the listener a great mix of the capabilities of Matt Smith as a vocalist with the restrained opening verses and arranging some amazing symphonic/ choir touches that will make people think of classic Savatage, Styx, and Queen. It’s not as easy as one thinks to dynamically take the listener on a journey while still constructing a longer arrangement that has thematic continuity – but “Easter” delivers, shifting from double bass and churning guitar/keyboard passages to a more progressive-oriented, Kamelot-ish instrumental section that will require multiple passes to fully grasp all the action. Lyrically Theocracy took in a lot of experiences from fans on the road to deliver encouragement to people looking for a sense of belonging – certainly needed in these turbulent times.
Given the good fortune to follow their career from the start, Ghost Ship has an identity and balance that will appeal to those seeking out more melodic power metal that intertwines sizzling musicianship and intricacies without overextending that ability. Theocracy excel at their craft, making this mandatory for a wide variety of ProgPower-oriented people.