Theocracy’s fourth album, Ghost Ship, is probably the band’s most ambitious work to date. What started as a solo effort for lead singer Matt Smith has evolved into a band that embodies a full-on, in-your-face approach to their music. Categorically, Theocracy plays to the hair metal and power metal bands of yesteryear (along the lines of Stryper and Dream Theater), with the added element of progressive rock to what they do. It all works; I really like this project. The overall musicianship, with special regard to the guitar work, is incredible. With an ability to combine those riffs and solos with well-written harmonies and fantastic production from Smith, Ghost Ship should be on your short list of listens.
The project opens with “Paper Tiger,” and it’s a great opener with its guitar work, vocals and harmonies written to catch your attention. In fact, harmonies are one of the high points of this album; check out “A Call to Arms” as well for its songwriting. The aforementioned progressive sound is found on “The Wonder of it All” and “Wishing Well,” with both tunes embracing a strong sense of dynamics, both in the tracks themselves but as well as within the overall context of the entire album. Theocracy are good at writing to keep you thinking, including tracks like “Castaway,” which includes an unexpected surprise break.
Perhaps the singular, most musical song is “Around the World and Back.” Not only is it one of Smith’s production highlights on the album, but the dynamics — opening with keys, impressing a laid-back vibe that turns into straight on rock — are once again the standout. It speaks to the band’s ability to write a complete song. “Ghost Ship” is somewhat theatrical in its approach and is arranged almost as a symphonic work. While it’s still another one of the great rockers, it’s a lot deeper musically and lyrically than that.
Speaking of overall production, there are two tunes which exemplify Smith’s true ability as a producer. “Ghost Ship” and the album’s closer, “Easter.” (The work there is masterful; if for no other reason than the quality of these two songs, I would recommend listening to this album.) The closing track, “Easter,” is definitely unique. Theocracy likes to write and record long songs, but this one comes in at almost ten minutes. While it would be easy just to call it another prog/symphonic/epic song with length for length’s sake, it goes beyond that by truly showcasing the band’s talent.
It’s no stretch for the imagination to wonder why Theocracy has a world wide fan base in the metal community. It’s a strong album from start to finish featuring classic power metal songwriting, great production from the frontman, and key attention to the dynamics of how a full album should lead the listener. With album releases like Ghost Ship, that worldwide fan base will surely increase.