About Me

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Greetings! My name is Matthew, and I love to listen to all types of metal. Since I’m a Christian, most of the bands that I listen to reflect my faith or have positive, uplifting lyrics. The other thing that you should know is that I love to write – in fact, I want to write epic science fiction for a living.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Adorned Graves - "Out from the Depth of the Grave" Review

 
      Gloomy, relentless, sludgy -- like the Biblical leviathan surging up out of the darkest depths to herald the destruction of the world.    Rhythmic, aggressive, invasive -- like a Panzer tank crushing debris beneath its treads.  It's hard to imagine that these styles might stand side by side, but Adorned Graves' Out from the Depth of the Grave is a manifestation of these separate visions.  The German metal outfit plays old school thrash metal with an overlaying veneer of doom metal.  Out from the Depth of the Grave is the band's first full-length album, despite being together since the early '90s in some shape or form.
     Adorned Graves released an EP entitled Hand of Death in 2015, and Out from the Depth of the Grave follows in its footsteps.  The songs on the new album are generally longer, more cohesive, and moodier than the EP.  Adorned Graves are masters at interspersing slow, doom-laden passages with vibrant, up-beat thrash assaults.  If you crossed Black Sabbath with Metallica, or Trouble with Tourniquet, you might get an idea of what the band sounds like.  With such variation, Out from the Depth of the Grave stays interesting even with 11 tracks clocking in at almost an hour of metal mayhem.  Adorned Graves' vocalist and rhythmic guitarist Cailin Lef Graever, along with drummer and backup vocalist Deafon Graever, display numerous styles in the vocal department.  There's mellow singing, death growls, gang vocals in the vein of The Crucified, and spoken passages.  Guitarist Andreas Wormser shreds through wave after wave of grinding doom riffs, vitriolic thrash attacks, and atmospheric leads.  All of these things combine to create an engaging, unique record that is a bold odyssey of song writing.
     Out from the Depth of the Grave begins with the atmospheric introduction to the track "Out of the Deep."  It's a cry to God from the midst of despair, much like Job's impassioned plea as he donned sackcloth and lamented the loss of everything that he once held dear.  The harmonics and almost operatic singing is reminiscent of Saviour Machine's vocalist Eric Clayton.  The song then begins to climb in dynamic range and scope, sounding similar to a Veni Domine track.  The album's second track, "Opus One," is a fairly straightforward thrash number.  The vocals are similar to Metallica's "Creeping Death" in some spots, and bring to mind Tourniquet in others.
     "Primal Ocean" is one of the strongest efforts on Out from the Depth of the Grave.  The song starts with spoken lines in Hebrew and then an atmospheric guitar riff kicks in, sending shivers down the spine.  The pounding drums are relentless on this track, accompanying sludgy riffs that push it slowly into thrash metal range.  Some bands have dueling guitars -- Adorned Graves has dueling styles, and the stylistic shift is well executed on "Primal Ocean."    Track four on Out from the Depth of the Grave is a short thrash number.  "Hydrophis Archaios" reminds the listener of Mortification's early thrash metal with its high octave vocals and furious riffing and drumming.
     A brief spoken intro leads into the album's sixth track, "Psalm 88."  "Psalm 88" takes a step back for a moment to immerse the listener in roiling waves of sonic destruction at half speed.  It's easy to hear the Candlemass influence in the opening riff, which is thicker than honey and about as friendly as a cornered rattlesnake.  The song, with its dynamic contrast and time changes, is a testament to Adorned Graves' skilled musicianship.  "Invocation to Liwija" serves as an introduction to the next track, "Gorge of Liwija."  "Gorge of Liwija" is an epic 9-minute song in the vein of Maiden's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," with seasoned doom and thrash riffs, interesting drum fills, and passionate vocals.  There's a strong Lament for the Weary influence on this track, which makes sense, as Seventh Angel were one of the most successful bands at integrating doom and trash.
     "S.alvation O.f the S.ea" is a fun number with crunchy guitar riffs and shouted vocals.  The track would fit well as a B-side on Mortification's Post Momentary Affliction.  "Adorned Graves" is the tenth track on Out of the Depth of the Sea.  It's back to "doom and gloom" for a moment as the song has a 2-minute intro before the vocals come in.  Mid-track, the band kicks it into full throttle, with aggressive guitar playing in the vein of Slayer.
     Finally, the end of the journey has arrived.  The weary traveler sinks down in the shade, shrugging the dust from his sandals.  He dips his hands into a cool trough full of water, splashing it over his dirty face.  Then he drinks deeply until he is sated, closes his eyes, and slumbers.  The acoustic guitar and atmospheric vocals of "Source of Life" imparts such a mood on the listener.  The soaring guitar riffs midway through the song surge with a life of their own.  The melody is euphoric and invigorating, like a fine cocaine.  It's something that I would expect Extol or Opeth to write, but its surprising nature doesn't detract from its brilliance.
     Out from the Depth of the Grave is a thrash and doom metal masterpiece.  It's difficult to point out any faults.  Perhaps a few of the songs could be trimmed in length a bit, and more variation of melodic instrumentation could be used (keys, violins, etc.).  Adorned Graves has achieved something that most bands set out to do, but never accomplish.  The band has successfully merged multiple styles of music in an original way, all while giving tribute to the masters of yesteryear without regurgitating an album that's been done before.  If you're looking for a fresh musical vision, and you like thrash or doom metal, then look no further than Adorned Graves' debut album Out from the Depth of the Grave.

Rating:  9/10

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Demoniciduth - "Enemy of Satan" Review

 
     Out to punish the demonic forces by any means necessary, black metal band Demoniciduth returns with their second full length album Enemy of Satan.  The Swiss metallers have also released a split album and more recently, an EP.  Demoniciduth plays aggressive, raw black metal in the vein of Immortal and Horde.  There's a strong influence from Horde in the shrieking guitar attacks and the band's lyrical philosophy.  Demoniciduth has been flying under the radar for a long time, but after signing with Vision of God records and releasing Enemy of Satan, the band certainly deserves more followers.
     On the band's previous EP The Valley of Decision, death metal was in full force.  The band has returned to their roots on their newest album, and while there are a few death metal influences, it's essentially black metal at its core.  The recording quality on Enemy of Satan is superb, especially considering the subgenre.  The guitars are played by Lord Ekklektus, and it's one of the reasons that the album delivers.  The guitar riffs churn like a throbbing and rage-induced medusa, delivering a raw, sonic punch to the throat.  Vocalist Taanak continues in the tradition of Steve Rowe by also holding down the bass on the low end.  Finally, drummer Sir Krino is no slouch as he rips though the 8-track album with interesting fills.
     Enemy of Satan roars out of the gate with "March of the Dead," an instrumental track with memorable melodic guitar riffs.  Then it's on to "Christian Metal Worldwide," a song that displays churning guitar riffs and vitriolic shrieking.  The distorted backup vocals, more in the vein of death metal, provide variation.  "Christian Metal Worldwide" is the band's mission statement as much as it is a punishing black metal opus.
     "Destiny" is a shorter song with pounding drums and guitar riffs that smell distinctly of Antestor.  "Crucify" is Enemy of Satan's fourth track, and it could have been a B-side on Horde's Hellig Usvart.  Taanak screams "crucify!" with bloodcurdling emotion.  Later, thick, distorted guitar riffs accompany a time change mid-song, making the song stand out as one of the strongest on the album.  "The Holocaust of our Generation" has some intriguing harmonics that bring the song closer to A Hill to Die Upon territory.
     Enemy of Satan's title track, "Enemy of Satan," reminds the listener of the Spanish black metal band Hortor.  The passionate vocals juxtaposed against the churning guitars leave no doubt as to Demoniciuth's convictions.  "Enemy of Satan, fear not the serpent!"  I'm a sucker for memorable lines, and this song hits the nail right on the head.  "Megiddo Massacre" begins with a thumping bass guitar riff, an instrument that is often under-utilized in metal.  The song boasts innovative guitar riffs and tight drumming.
     After a furious assault of 7 black metal tracks, Demoniciduth backs off the pedal for a moment with Enemy of Satan's album closer.  "Dogs of Antichrist" is not a new track, having previously appeared on the band's album Dogs of Antichrist.  The treatment that the song receives, however, is new.  The song is lengthened by more than a minute to provide an atmospheric intro.  The ritardando in the electric guitar riff vis a vis the pounding bass guitar is a tribute to the band's excellent musicianship.
     It's difficult to levy criticism at Enemy of Satan.  There could have been more dynamic and melodic contrast, and the guitar sounds just a little thin in one or two spots.  The album could have been a bit longer, but that's about it.  Enemy of Satan is one of the best Christian black metal albums to be released in years.  If you're a fan of traditional black metal, you'll find something to enjoy on Enemy of Satan.  It seems that Jayson Sherlock, the one-man wrecking machine behind Horde, would be proud that his vision has helped to birth a band like Demoniciduth.

Rating:  9/10

 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Arvinger - "Rast" Review



     From the cold, mountainous region of Norway hails the folk metal band Arvinger.  In 2011, Arvinger released Helgards Fall, a folk metal album infused with viking elements.  While cohesive, it suffered from poor production quality and lack of distribution.  After a six year gap, Arvinger has finally released new music in the form of an EP entitled Rast.  Folk metal is a fairly niche genre, and outside the Ensiferums and Finntrolls of the metal world, it's hard to become noticed.
     Arvinger is also a folk metal band claiming Christian roots -- and the Christian folk metal bands that exist can probably be counted on two hands.  For comparison, Rast sounds like an early version of Holy Blood crossed with Evroklidon.  The folk elements, including keys, violin, and female vocals, are all standard fare for this subgenre of metal.  The vocalist, Djerv, shrieks in a similar manner to the now defunct black metal band Evroklidon's voalist Artaaroth.  Djerv sounds like he is in physical pain as he screams in a high octave, which delivers a sonic attack that will have any metal fan headbanging in no time.  This diatribe is softened by the symphonic and folk elements.  For an EP, Rast does a tremendous job of establishing atmosphere and ambiance. 
     The album begins with the title track, and fades in to mellow operatic singing.  Then, a full viking metal composition assaults the ears.  In the middle of the song, female vocals help to create an almost epic atmosphere.  The initial verdict?  "Rast" is a solid opener.  "Til Evig Tid" opens with violin dueling against the guitar, reminiscent of Eluveitie.  Throughout the song, the guitar work is solid, providing rhythmic backing to the folk aspects.
     After hitting the loud dynamics full throttle, it's time for the EP to quiet down a bit.  "Bifrost" is a short instrumental Antestor style, meaning that it's a composition that can stand alone and is downright beautiful.  Now it's time for Rast's finisher.  "Blodspakt" has a really unique intro in which the percussion and keys shine.  Once again, the Evroklidon influence is notable, as the shrieked vocals take a background to a strong rhythmic guitar line.  The song smooths out into a catchy folk metal tune with enough impetus to wrap things up. 
     Overall, Rast is a strong effort from these Norwegian metallers.  It's unwise to draw too many conclusions from an EP, but if this is the direction that the band is headed in, it's a good one.  Rast is definitely more accessible than Helgards Fall, and will hopefully get the band noticed by a record label.  If you're into folk, viking, or black metal, there are elements on the EP that you will no doubt enjoy.  Don your spangenhelm, set your face into your best Viking grimace, and get ready to bang your head!

Rating:  7.5/10

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Nothing But Void - "Final Surrender" Review



     India isn't a country that is well-known for metal of any kind, especially not Christian metal (outside of the doom metal band Dalit), but progressive metalcore band Final Surrender seeks to change that with their recent album Nothing But Void.   The album is a solid release that will please fans of August Burns Red, As I Lay Dying, and Oh, Sleeper.  Like a cake, this album has multiple layers -- so let's eat our dessert one layer at a time, and see what Nothing But Void is all about.
     In 2013, Final Surrender released their debut album Empty Graves on Rottweiler Records.  While the band has also published other works, including some EPs and singles, Empty Graves was the defining release by the band up until this point and it will serve as a proper litmus test to gauge where the band is at.  The first thing to point out is that the production quality on Nothing But Void is considerably improved from the previous album.  The instruments, especially the guitars, sound much cleaner and crisper.  It's a solid, modern metalcore sound that permeates the record.  On the other hand, the band has somewhat moved away from the term "progressive" on the new release.  While there are some moments that fall into that category, there isn't nearly as much folk influence on Nothing But Void.  It's a good and a bad thing -- sometimes the "folk" moments came across as overwrought and a bit quirky, and sometimes they helped set the band apart from the competition.  Overall, my biggest critique of the album is that there are portions that sound a bit too generic.  Particularly, the band borrows a lot of influence from Oh, Sleeper on Nothing But Void.  It's also difficult to make a lasting statement with only 7 songs.
     Nothing But Void kicks it into high octane with the opening title track.  Furious drums and guitars contribute to the monolith of sound, and a well-executed retardando towards the end of the song reveals that the band is full of well-versed musicians.  The record continues with "Inescapable," whose metallic, sweeping guitar licks immediately bring Oh, Sleeper to mind.  It's a solid offering with an excellent melodic interlude mid-song, even if it does overly rely on breakdowns.  On to the next layer of the cake.  Will it be sweet and delicious, or dry and unappetizing?  "Walls of Silence" almost slips into deathcore territory at a couple of points, but the unique aspect of this song is definitely the drumming.  Jared Sandhy is a beast on the percussion.  However, a few of the guitar riffs on this song fall into the category of "insert generic metalcore riff here," leaving a bittersweet taste in the listener's mouth.
     "Exasperate" features some amazing vocals from band member Joseph Samuel.  The guitars also shine on this track, creating a syncopated melody that rattle around in the listener's consciousness.  It's a favorite tactic of metalcore giants August Burns Red, and it works well here.  The fifth layer of our proverbial dessert, "Failing Structures," has an almost post-hardcore vibe to parts of the song.  The opening to "Altruistic Veneer" could easily have fit on Haste the Day's Dreamer record, but unfortunately the song slips into a slew of breakdowns that might be great in the mosh pit, but fail to translate to musical originality.  Nothing But Void closes with "Tear Down the Walls," and it's a brilliant piece of music.  It features electronic elements and creative guitar hooks that are reminiscent of the deathcore band Blood of the Martyrs.  This is metalcore as it was intended -- an original take on the fusing of multiple genres.
     Having reached the bottom of our 7-layer cake, and sampling from each layer, this critic is at once immensely satisfied and left with a bit of indigestion.  Nothing But Void is a proficient album, but it falls a bit behind the creative curve that Final Surrender is known for.  Hopefully, next time around the band will release a longer album with at least 10 tracks, and perhaps they will slip a few more "Indian" moments into the mix.  Overall, Nothing But Void is a solid metalcore release that shows great promise, but fails to deliver on a few key ingredients. 

Rating:  7.0/10

Friday, December 16, 2016

Death Requisite - "Revisitation" Review with Guest Writer Mason Beard

Death Requisite - Revisitation Review
Release Date:  November 25, 2016
Label:  Rottweiler Records
Genre:  Extreme Hybrid Metal

Co-written by Mason Beard and Matthew Michel 
 
Track Listing:
  1. Revisitation
  2. Vivens Sanctuarium
  3. Veneration
  4. Nova Creatione
  5. Redemptio Per Deicide (Working title: Crimson Saviour)
  6. Castigation (Working title: Ineluctable Castigation)
  7. Recapitulation

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     Metal bands are a dime-a-dozen.  Stages across the world are filled with death metal bands, symphonic metal bands, and black metal bands.  For every competent group, there are a dozen lackluster ones.  Death Requisite not only defies this trend with their album Revisitation, but skilfully incorporates each of these subgenres into their melting pot of sonic devastation.
     With four EPs and a full length album under their belts, Death Requisite are certainly experienced musicians.   The band has notably changed stylistically over time, evolving from a more straight-forward melodic death metal to full-blown symphonic death metal.  Unfortunately, as is the case with many bands who release records independently in the underground scene, Death Requisite has been flying under the radar for some time now.  Revisitation is as epic as the album art suggests; it is an outstanding mix of progressive and symphonic death metal filled with passionate growling, deliberate drumming, shredding guitar riffs, and soaring keyboards.  While the production quality is a bit thin in spots, particularly in the orchestration, it doesn’t detract from what is on the whole an improvement for the band in almost every area.
     “Revisitation” exhibits death metal and thrash metal, but also melodic metal. There are several weird time signatures played by drummer William Lee on this song. The song ends with almost a minute of keyboards and symphonic instruments.
     “Vivens Sanctuarium” incorporates more symphonic instruments and melody. The song has many weird instruments, backing operatic vocals, and of course, the normal metal instruments, which are played with skill. The bridge is very worshipful. If you listen hard enough, you hear vocalist Vincent St. James saying “I love you, I love you my lord!” The guttural vocals at the end make me want to put them in the same genre as Abated Mass of Flesh, but Death Requisite are a little more refined.
     “Veneration” has more thrash metal and death metal than symphony, but near the end there is plenty of all. The track was put on Rottweiler’s The Pack Vol.1, so if you want to hear that, go listen to it there if you haven’t already downloaded the album.
     “Nova Creatione” is probably one of my favorites on this album. The melody and pure speed of this track is incredible. The vocals are probably my favorite part about the track. “Father!” Both Guitarists, Joseph Moria and Dave Blackmore do fantastic jobs on this song. “He died on the cross, he lived his life for us…”
     “Crimson Savior,” or as everyone now knows it, “Redemptio Per Deicide,” is a great track for a single. The track is fast-paced and delivers a swift punch in the face with its brutality.
     The song “Ineluctable Castigation” begins with atmospheric guitars similar to Hope for Dying’s “Acceptance.”  It then breaks into vitriolic death metal with background operatic vocals, furious drumming by Sir William Lee, and keyboards reminiscent of Dimmu Borgir.  The soaring guitars and growled spasms make it one of the more memorable pieces on Revisitation
     Death Requisite slams on the breaks with the ending of the album.  “Recapitulation” is a full-blown symphonic track that lasts over 17 minutes.  As a stand-alone song, it certainly awes the listener.  I had to double check to make sure that I didn’t accidentally hit shuffle and that it wasn’t Mozart or Bach the first time that I heard it.  There’s a real thematic brilliance to it, as “Recapitulation” wouldn’t be out of place with soundtrack greats such as John Williams’ Star Wars or Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings compositions.  However, the song seems to jar a bit with the rest of the album.  As I pored over my library and revisited tracks where bands successfully used intense, symphonic elements, there seemed to be two possible solutions.  Some bands incorporated the symphonic elements into groups of songs spanning a chunk of the album, as in Believer’s “Movement” triumvirate or Ne Obliviscaris’ “Painters of the Tempest” trilogy.  Others, such as Becoming the Archetype and their seminal track “Elegy,” focused on building a symphonic theme and weaving it into the metal portion of their music. It also seems similar to the Solamors project as well. In both of these scenarios, the bands each incorporated metal elements into their songs.  “Recapitulation” would have been easier to swallow in this manner.  It would be very interesting to see Death Requisite release an entirely symphonic or orchestral album one day…
     Death Requisite brought their A-game this time around. With a new lineup, they brought this album to light. They have been laying this out for a long time and now that it’s finally here… well, let’s hope that there will be some sick reviews. I hope this album goes farther than it already has! It totally brings the death metal to the long dead scene. Buy the album, and if you don’t, you are missing out.

Rating:  8/10

About the Writers


Matthew Michel
Matthew is a high school English teacher who spends his time reading, writing, and listening to metal.  He’s founder of the web forum Christian Headbangers, pilots his own metal blog called Matthew’s Metal, and writes for the online webzine Metal Utopia.  In his spare time (which there isn’t much of), he also enjoys fishing, playing video games, and collecting Magic cards and CDs.


Mason Beard


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Mason is a young gun in the metal writing scene. He has founded his blog, The Bearded Dragon’s Metal, and writes for Indie Vision Music. He is also starting to play drums for bands, including Decaying in Decades and Misanthropogyny. He also enjoys movie, video games, and hanging out. Oh yeah, and metal and hardcore.






Thursday, November 17, 2016

Becoming Saints - "Oh, the Suffering" Review



     Becoming Saints wear the label of metalcore on their sleeves, but their debut album Oh, the Suffering boasts moments of melodic hardcore, metalcore, and post-hardcore.  These elements all weave together to create a diverse record that unapologetically grabs the listener by the throat and hurls them into the most pit.  Moments of melodic intensity appear between the brutal breakdowns, and in the tradition of the spirit-filled hardcore bands of the late 90s and early 00s, Becoming Saints is a band that is as much about the message as they are about the music.
     With an EP under their belts already, Becoming Saints doesn't waste any time, but gets right down to business with the first song on Oh, the Suffering.  The strength of Oh, the Suffering is felt in the opening two songs.  "Built for War" hits heavily and lingers, and its melting pot of stylistic choices are reminiscent of Onward to Olympus' This World is Not My Home.  The ending of "Built for War" is stunning.  An anthemic clincher segues into a creative breakdown that perfectly juxtaposes against a slamming bass riff.  In fact, if more bands created breakdowns in this manner, the current hardcore scene wouldn't be so dull.
      It's unusual that I'm able to compare a song to Life in Your Way, particularly because that band has constructed a unique and fresh version of melodic hardcore, but the dueling sung and growled vocals on "Push and Pull" definitely give off that vibe.  Unfortunately, the band begins to slip toward mediocrity with the song "Lost."  While the chorus is solid, the track is brought down by generic breakdowns.  Even crushing vocals from Living Sacrifice legend Bruce Fitzhugh barely pull this one out of the mire.  I'm sure that the breakdowns are more invigorating live, but in the end they are the Achilles' heel of Oh, the Suffering.
     "Oath" is an adrenaline-soaked rendition of hardcore with snippets of melody that offset the more brutal portions of the song.  "Mother Teresa" features spoken lines from the miracle-working lady herself and serve as an interlude on Oh, the Suffering.  Unfortunately, it's difficult to understand what she's saying. 
     "Vox Mortem" is a warrior's anthem.  One conjures up an immense Viking warrior, his great red mane flowing in the wind, his bulky frame overshadowing lesser men.  With one stride he clutches two of his enemies together; with one swinging motion he crushes their skulls in his callous hands.  Then it's on to "Unbroken" and some stellar riffing by guitarist Kory Olson.  The atmosphere in the background of this song creates an almost epic feel, and parts of it draw influences from Soul Embraced. 
     "This Heart Yours" is plagued by too many breakdowns; even so, it boasts one of the best choruses on the album.  Ready for another sonic break?  "De Paso" is an instrumental that shelters the listener from the ravaging gusts of the world.  The spoken passages on "My Fall Your Gain" create a somber mood.  These lines transition into a soaring chorus that is filled with passion and panache.  You can really feel the intensity of a focused group of musicians on this song.
     "One Shot" is exactly that -- a bullet straight to the chest, one that knocks you out every time.  The cyclical nature of the chorus and the intricate background melodies are marks of advanced musicianship.  The guest vocals by Emily Wold also serve to make this song one of the strongest on the album as the band pushes the envelope of post-hardcore.  The denouement of Oh, the Suffering is an intriguing choice, but the almost stoner vibes that the song gives off would probably be best served as a melodic interlude elsewhere on the album.
     At the end of the day, Becoming Saints is doing a lot of things right.  Fans of bands like For Today, Life in Your Way, and Your Memorial will find portions of Oh, the Suffering to fall in love with.  Oh, the Suffering is a promising debut album, and if the band continues to improve in its musicianship and vision, they may become one of the top contenders in the metalcore scene.  

Rating:  7.5/10

Monday, October 31, 2016

Theocracy - "Ghost Ship" Review (Halloween Special)


     It's All Hallows' Eve, the time of year when ghouls and goblins dance on top of graves and in the middle of our streets.  Jack-o'-lanterns leer at us around every corner, and children bounce along on hay rides in the settling gloom.  So let's kick back and turn up the volume as we stuff our faces with delicacies of every chocolatey and sugary stripe, sipping cider next to a roaring flame.  As your ears perk up, you hear the first notes of Theocracy's fourth album Ghost Ship sailing out of the dense fog, tantalizing us with its strong brand of melodic power metal and eerie album art.  The cover is something right out of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and like the namesake in that series of films, it's a classic for the ages. 
     Many critics have harped on the fact that Theocracy draws from a well of influences that include European power metal bands such as Sonata Arctica, Edguy, and Blind Guardian, but the band doesn't merely ape these artists.  They have formed their own brand of power metal here in the United States, and have dared to dream of a musical vision that is known both for its epic songwriting and its grounding in the Christian faith.  Hot off the heels of its predecessor, As the World Bleeds, and daring to challenge Theocracy's opus, Mirror of Souls, the new album Ghost Ship does a more than adequate job of living up to the band's stalwart legacy.
     Ghost Ship leaps out of the gate with the opener "Paper Tiger," and while the title of this track suggests a dual fragility and ferocity, the ferocity wins out in the end.  It's immediately apparent that guitarist Van Allen Wood is no slouch.  Accompanied by Jonathan Hinds on rhythm guitar, he capably shreds his way through the first track.  Theocracy also experiments with what I will tentatively call a "rap" at the end of "Paper Tiger."  It's similar to a vocal style used on the song "I Am" from the previous album, except this time it's grittier and faster. 
     Then it's on to the title track, "Ghost Ship."  This song is strongly influenced by the past musical styles of the band, featuring obvious thrash roots and a crunch that has been present on songs like "Laying the Demon to Rest" and "30 Pieces of Silver."  But there's also a raucous posturing by the lead guitar as it whizzes overhead (show off!) and eclipses the other instruments on the song.  Arguably, it's one of the standout efforts on Ghost Ship.
     "The Wonder of It All" continues in this thrashy vein, and Matt Smith demonstrates why he is one of the premier vocalists in metal today.  His voice soars between lower and higher octaves with ease.  Personally, I'm a huge fan of the lower, more baritone aspect of his voice.  "Wishing Well" begins with orchestration that segues into an anthemic monster.  It will certainly give me pause the next time I cast a penny to make a wish.  Theocracy shows off their song writing skills on "Wishing Well" as it builds to a crescendo and then backs off into a melodic bridge, but the ending is pure angst framed by pointed drumming.
     The beginning of the song "Around the World and Back" comes off as a bit gimmicky with the sound effects, and the band arguably loses a bit of steam at this point.  But Theocracy "Stirs the Embers" again, as guitar riffs surge like waves slamming into the shore on the next song.  The two dueling guitars bounce off of each other with perfect timing, and some of the riffing on this song puts modern-era Metallica to shame. 
     "A Call to Arms" features heavy syncopation, which gives the song a pointed edge and musical focus.  The chorus is one-hundred percent "We Will Rock You" material, and you'll be singing it as you drive to work and humming it as you take a shower.  "Currency in a Bankrupt World" slacks off the pace for a moment, but its rolling melodies and impetus are as infectious as The Walking Dead
     "Castaways" heralds our ears with an aggressive early '90s thrash riff, and as the bass guitar kicks in, it's clear that even Fast and Furious can't hold a candle to this pace.  The imagery on this song does an excellent job of complimenting the album's nautical theme. 
     "Easter" is the band's opus, and while it's obvious that this is one of the most technically proficient and passionately inspired songs on the record, it doesn't quite hold up to the epic qualities of "Mirror of Souls" or the frantic pace of "I Am."  After debating inwardly with myself about this track, I've come to the conclusion that what bothers me is its lyrical content.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not critiquing the band for what the lyrics represent, but rather their approach to it.  They come across as rather cookie-cutter in the end.  It lacks the originality of the lyrics of the two aforementioned songs.  Of course, this is merely a quibble, as the tremendous uplifting atmosphere of the song wins out in the end.
     By any standard, Ghost Ship is a phenomenal album.  Fans of power metal, thrash metal, and heavy metal will find moments to enjoy on Ghost Ship.  Theocracy is a talented bunch of musicians, and it's hard to believe that this vision started with just one man, Matt Smith.  So, let's not wait any longer.  Grab your headphones and a cup of cider or ale, as it's time for the ride of a lifetime.  Hold on to the nearest railing or spirit (on second thought, you might want to just grab the railing).  All aboard the Ghost Ship!

Rating:  9.5/10