Review Rating: 4.9 / 5
The beauty of hard rock is its adaptability. Guitars roar and rage with furious drums one minute, only to calm and let an emotional moment flow before kicking into gear once again. It takes a skilled, passionate band to achieve that kind of mastery, and Theocracy is no exception. Blending melodic metal with impactful lyrics, the Georgia-based band has made a name for itself with three previous records, further driving their legacy with album number four. From start to finish, Ghost Ship unleashes without hesitation, hitting listeners with intense energy and adrenaline while impacting hearts with sincere lyrics and themes.
"Ghost Ship," the album's title track, starts with a gritty guitar and dramatic drum opening. Composed of accelerating electric guitar and roaring bass, the melody throughout the verses provides an energetic and aggressive foundation for Matt Smith's powerfully projected vocals. Throughout the chorus, the tone rises as bells and chimes are added to the mixture, reminiscent of those one would expect on a ship. As the instruments blend together into one energetic melody, pieces stand out, creating anticipation in the listener for the next part. Accompanying the powerful instrumentals are equally powerful lyrics. The song is an invitation to the world's unwanted, the ghosts rejected and outcast. "We are the ghosts awakened to the light," Matt sings, "forged and branded in His name, ancient workmanship before ordained." When the chorus reaches its zenith, the call boldly sounds: "All aboard as the Captain calls His misfits, this ghost ship sets off to shake the world!"
"Wishing Well" has a slightly slower pace than its predecessors, but make no mistake - the bold energy is still there. Building with a symphony of dramatic orchestral strings, the intro quickly accelerates into metal guitar and drums. The track has a cinematic feel that reminds listeners of open seas on a ship's voyage, tying back to the album's overarching themes. Its verses express the voyage of life, often filled with pain and agony to the point where apathy feels natural and wishing it away becomes all too easy. In the chorus, bells sound as the guitar steps up in volume and intensity. "One waits for a rainy day while there are stories left to tell," Matt sings, "one more chose to look away, a penny for the wishing well, blood in the water, the saint and the martyr will stay, wish away." As we live for Christ on this earth, we can waste our time wishing for life to go our way, or we can realize that we have a role to play in His plan: to fight back against the world. The end of the song rapidly picks up the tempo, with one last admonition to live "beyond the wishing well."
"Castaway" likewise builds from the themes of "Ghost Ship," but with a unique and profound twist to the message. The signature guitar style focuses on high speed, heavily oscillating guitar chords. With such energetic guitar and furious, crashing drums, the song describes what it is like to be abandoned by the world. In their eyes, we are castaways, "so fly the flag 'til your ship comes in," Matt sings, "keep the faith my friend and one day we'll be together once again." The guitar slows down just before the chorus, quickly picks up once again and kicks into one last chorus, and ends on a profound and sincerely comforting bridge. "Marvel not if the world hates you, 'cause it hates Me too … so eye the prize for the race you've run, well done, My son, enter into all that I've prepared for you." The song beautifully ties into "Wishing Well" and is satisfyingly concluded by the instrumentals and lyrics of the title track.
The album closes with the nine-minute metal ballad "Easter." As in nearly every Theocracy album, Ghost Ship closes with an epic ballad telling a story and tying in Christ's victory - in this case walking through the resurrection. The introduction starts with raw acoustic guitar, reduced to gentle chords that support Matt's soft vocals. He sings of the crucifixion and the doubt of the disciples, pouring emotion into each word. As electric guitar and cymbals enter, he shifts the focus to Jesus' words before his death, with his voice echoing as if within the tomb itself. The best part of the track, and accordingly the hardest part of the track to describe, is the cinematic and emotional instrumentals, coupled by the passion in Matt's voice. By the time the latter half of the song comes along, the tone rises and the guitar leads to a passionate and bright climax. All the way through the end of the album, the song surges - "Easter glory, what an ending to the story, My Son, arise!"
Without hesitation, Ghost Ship is one of the best rock albums of the year. Theocracy has expressed their breathtaking ability to pack an album with both energy and substance while compromising with neither. Their instrumental and vocal mastery, combined with ingeniously poetic lyrics, guarantees that each track will leave listeners with its fullest impact. Whether packed with hopeful, flowing melodies or moments of pure adrenaline, the tracks of Ghost Ship stand as masterpieces in rock and metal.