Artist: Theocracy

Album Title: Ghost Ship

Label: Ulterium Records

Date Of Release: 28 October 2016

I can only think of one reason why I have never previously dabbled in the world of Theocracy: religion. As many of you may know, my personal life has meant that religion and I are uncomfortable bedfellows, to put it mildly. I don’t deny anyone the right to believe whatever they wish. However, I don’t like people spouting their beliefs on me. That’s why I tend to steer clear of bands that have any kind of religious connections.

According to the dictionary definition, the word ‘theocracy’ refers to ‘a form of government in which a deity is the source from which all authority derives.’ And so, when I heard that there was an American band of this name, I simply chose not to investigate further.

However, of late, I have heard a few mumblings about this band in relation to their new album ‘Ghost Ship’, the fourth of their career. The mumblings were positive and, when emanating from the corners of the internet that they were, I simply could not ignore Theocracy any more. I therefore dug the email with the promo link attached out of my deleted box and bravely pressed the download button. And damn it, this was the right thing to do.

Formed by Matt Smith as a one-man project, Theocracy has grown into a fully-fledged band featuring Smith on vocals and joined by lead guitarist Val Allen Wood, guitarist Jonathan Hinds and bassist Jared Oldham with Shawn Benson filling in on the drums for this particular release.


Now as you might have gathered, I have no knowledge of the previous three releases, so I can’t comment on the lyrical content and whether or not it is as overtly religious as I fear. But what I can say is that having listened to ‘Ghost Ship’ frequently since I saw the error of my ways, I haven’t detected anything too hideous on this album in terms of preaching. I am so glad and not a little relieved because the music itself is so good that I would have hated for it to be completely ruined by the lyrics.

So what of the music? On ‘Ghost Ship’, Theocracy deliver a highly melodic form of metal which is instantly accessible but which is pleasantly heavy and muscular, not to mention rather grandiose and dynamic. I’m genuinely smitten as just about every track on this album delivers something that plants a big smile on my face, be it a huge hook-laden chorus (of which there are many), a blazing lead guitar solo, blistering drumming or something altogether epic. And dare I say it, but that there are a few subtle progressive moments in terms of the transitions, tempo changes and the variations within the songs. It all adds up to something very impressive indeed.

If the preceding six paragraphs haven’t whetted your appetite enough, allow me to delve into some of the songs in more detail.

A furious drum roll opens the album as part of the impressive melodic power metal composition by the name of ‘Paper Tiger’, which wastes no time in making an impression and which takes no prisoners from the off. The pace is high, the rhythm section is interesting and the riffs make an impact as they chop and scythe with real intent. And then the chorus kicks in. I wasn’t prepared for how good or how huge the hooks would be. I was impressed on a first listen; by the third, I was blown away.

The title track is no different. It might offer a slightly slower tempo and darker atmospheres but the melodic hard rock-like chorus is yet another winner as far as I’m concerned, turning the song on its head in the process, drawing slight parallels to the likes of Avantasia and Edguy in the process. The keys put a stronger stamp on this song, giving it a more dramatic feel all-round. The bass work is great and the lead guitar work is quite delicious.

The opening to ‘The Wonder Of It All’ is breathless, featuring double-pedal drumming, excellent scything riffs and a real heavy metal attitude which is great. And then, yet again, the chorus comes from nowhere to bathe the track in a warm melodic glow, making me smile from ear to ear in the process. I’ve yet to mention him, but Smith’s vocals are tremendous throughout, displaying an impressive range but delivering it in a way that perfectly fits the music rather than fighting against it. This is highly addictive stuff.

As the songs come and go, so do the memorable melodies, huge choruses and the razor sharp, tightly delivered performances from all corners of the band. It is fair to say that the quality rarely drops below a very high standard, mos notably in terms of the overall songwriting which comes up trumps time after time on ‘Ghost Ship’.

‘Wishing Well’ offers another hummable chorus, ‘Around The World And Back’ by contrast, takes the collective foot off the pedal to deliver something more akin to a melodic hard rock/AOR workout. It isn’t exactly a ballad, but it’s not a million miles away. It is here that Smith’s vocals really call to mind those of the aforementioned Edguy’s Tobias Sammet, not that this is a negative comment in an shape or form.

The hard rock swagger of ‘Stir The Embers’ also delivers the darkest moments within the entire record as well as being more overtly progressive and arguably the least instantly memorable song on the album. ‘A Call To Arms’, as the title suggests, is a Sabaton-lite battle cry put to music and is a real stomper of a track whilst ‘Currency In A Bankrupt World’ is delightfully moody song with yet another killer sprawling chorus.

And the last word is offered by ‘Easter’. It’s the longest track on ‘Ghost Ship’ at a smidge under ten minutes and this extra length allows Theocracy to indulge in something appreciably more epic, convoluted and extravagant but no less entertaining. I love the diversity on offer here, from heavy and symphonic to quiet acoustic, from aggressive to highly melodic. The drama within this mini opera is palpable and is a fitting way to close the record.

With ‘Ghost Ship’, Theocracy have really delivered the goods and in so doing, have gone from being avoided like the plague, to being glued to my stereo. That’s put the cat amongst the pigeons; awkward. However, whatever my prejudices, there’s simply no getting away from it; Theocracy have produced one of the most consistently enjoyable and addictive melodic power metal albums of 2016; huge kudos to them for doing so too.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.0


If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Arkona – Lunaris
Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld


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