Theocracy – Ghost Ship (Ulterium Records)

Theocracy – Ghost Ship (Ulterium Records)

Essential listening.

Christian metal alert!! If those two words cause a disturbance in your trousers – and not in a good way – I advise you to step away from whatever device you’re reading this on now, as there’s nothing for you here… But if you ain’t bothered by such spiritual matters – and why should you be? good music is just good music, after all – then buckle up and hunker down – we’re in for a hell of a heavy metal ride!

Religious or not, the first thing that has to be said about this album is that it rocks bloody hard. Deeply entrenched on the power metal side of the prog fence – and chorus-laden Euro power at that – Theocracy are not scared of a melody, that’s for sure, but by god those guitars pack some punch. The riffmungous intro to The Wonder of it All is easily the equal of anything Symphony X have come up with in a while… but even at their heaviest this band knows just when to inject the Eurovision-style catchiness – and it has to be said that this is a winning formula that, though repeated often on Ghost Ship, never gets old.

Vocalising keyboarder Matt Smith has a monstrous range, and though in his upper reaches he does resemble Stryper’s Michael Sweet overall he has a tone to his voice that’ll be more palatable to non committed but interested bystanders. And thankfully that small point of similarity is the only time you’ll hear the word Stryper come from these lips. Theocracy are very much their own men.

The dissonant keyboard symphonics behind the opening Dioesque riff of Wishing Well make for a nice, darker counterpoint to the melody overload going on everywhere else, but even this is very brief as Smith leads the band into a chorus that’ll have Tobias Sammet wondering whether someone’s got at his unreleased song files; It’s goosebump raising stuff, backed up by some more ridiculous playing from guitarists Jon Hinds and Val Allen Wood, both of whom have secured tenure in metal guitaring’s first division on the evidence of this album.

Around the World is pure pomp nirvana – Styx or Saga could both have penned the song in their prime – mixed with the delirious overkill of Europe in their mid-eighties halcyonic state, and it’s simply one of the best songs I’ve heard by anyone all year. And as if this all wasn’t enough, the AOR-tinged Currency in a Bankrupt World brings to mind the very-much missed Crimson Glory as fronted by Midnight; a spine-tingling chorus, more melodic mayhem in the axe department – my God Nurse, the screens!

All in all then, a near faultless release from a band who’ve been threatening to be this good for some while; In fact, I’d go so far as to say this is a must-buy release if you are a fan of melody-saturated power metal.

Ghost Ship is out now.

Scott Adams
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