Artist: Ghost Ship Octavius
Album Title: Ghost Ship Octavius
Label: Independent Release
Date Of Release: 2015
What I’m about to say might shock you. There are some of you who might even vehemently disagree. But it is true, I can assure you.
I am human and I am fallible.
I know this for sure because I have dropped the proverbial ball from a great height. As you can see from the heading above, this self-titled album by Ghost Ship Octavius was released in 2015. Two years ago! Many of you will already be well aware of its existence and may even have it nestled within your collections. But I missed it. As I feverishly tried to cover as many releases as I could, this record passed me by. And by that, I mean that it really passed me by. I had to be gently nudged by a reader to even learn of its existence and to check it out.
And by heavens I’m glad of the prodding because this album is right up my street and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to it over the past few weeks.
For those poor, unfortunate souls like me who are in need of a bit of background, Ghost Ship Octavius was formed in 2012 and this impressive record is their debut. Mind you, the quality of this album is hardly a surprise given the clientele involved. As a huge fan of Nevermore, my attention was initially drawn to the fact that the beast that is Van Williams sits behind the kit. Conducting a little further research has led me to understand that God Forbid guitarist Matthew Wicklund is also involved, as is Dagna Silesia who has worked with another member of the Nevermore alumni, Warrel Dane, on his solo material alongside Wicklund .Completing the line-up is vocalist Adon Fanion, a relative unknown but as it transpires, the owner of one hell of a set of pipes.
On paper then, the prospect of this band is very exciting. The reality is equally so. No damp squibs present, no deflated expectations. ‘Ghost Ship Octavius’ is a melodic progressive metal monster that’s not afraid to dip its toe into the realms of other metal subgenres.
Before I dissect a few of the tracks in more detail, there are a few more general aspects to this album that need to be mentioned. First, there are the performances of each member of the band which, as you might expect are highly professional throughout. But, intrinsically linked to this is the song writing. Well-executed instrumentalism only goes so far and will ultimately fail if it is not used to create strong compositions. Ghost Ship Octavius do not have this problem, as the music is incredibly well-conceived.
Being a melodic metal band, you’d expect there to be plenty of big choruses and hooks to pull you in. There are. Just about every one of the eleven tracks on this record provides some satisfying and addictive ear candy, be it overt or more subtly-placed.
Being a band with progressive leanings as well, you’d also expect the songs to have a fair amount of variety to them and for the music to offer something a little bit different. They do. There is more than enough virtuosity and technicality from each corner of Ghost Ship Octavius to supplement the melodies and the more immediate aspects of the music. Furthermore, there are several eyebrow-raising moments where the band goes all-out to intrigue and test the listener, something I really enjoy and fully welcome.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a more intangible aspect to ‘Ghost Ship Octavius’ that has an effect on me, and that’s the vibe of the record. Melodic and progressive it certainly is but it is also extremely heavy and quite dark. As befits a moniker like Ghost Ship Octavius, there’s a slightly menacing and brooding underbelly to the album that I find compelling and refreshing for a melodic metal band. The lyrics, the atmospheres, the vocal delivery and a million other minute ingredients lend the music on this debut a morose and haunting aspect. I love it.
Throw in a robust production that also allows sufficient clarity and space for everything to be heard, even Silesia’s impressive bass work, and it becomes evident pretty quickly that we’re on to a real winner here. Everything about Ghost Ship Octavius screams quality, focus and purpose. It only serves to heighten my embarrassment for missing out on this album when it was released.
The album opens with ‘Saturn and Skies’. It isn’t a long track but it immediately throws down the Ghost Ship Octavius gauntlet. It has a vague Nevermore feel to it in the riff department, but this is a theatrical, dynamic and ambitious composition that has its own strong identity, changing tack frequently within its relatively short existence. Fanion’s vocals immediately come to the fore, displaying a huge range but also impressing thanks to his ability to convey emotion with genuine power and conviction.
‘Alive’ has a sinister edge to it, driven by the monstrously powerful rhythm section of Williams and Silesia. Wicklund indulges in several wailing solos but they are as melodic and emotive as they are dextrous and technical, meaning that they genuinely add to the song. A mix of all-out blastbeat-led power and quiet, contemplative sections, complete with string and piano embellishments adds to the sense of drama and theatrical grandiosity that permeates the entirety of this record.
The stomping opening of ‘Silence’ is delivered with pin-sharp accuracy, ultimately giving way to one of the best choruses on the album. After about the third spin, the melodies get right under my skin and they don’t let go. Its strength lies, I think, in the fact that it is so powerful yet is also quite subtle, with Fanion showing restraint in his delivery, allowing his voice to be at one with the music rather than overpower it.
If the preceding few paragraphs have whetted your appetite, allow me to then introduce you to ‘In Dreams’. Buried within the middle of the album, it was the first Ghost Ship Octavius track I heard and was the one that made me realise the enormity of my mistake. Having listened to it several more times, I have to declare it to be one of the very best melodic metal tracks that I have ever heard. Everything about it is just about perfect. The riffs, in keeping with the entirety of the album, are fantastically muscular, the solos are exuberant, the bass is glorious, the drumming is thunderous and the vocals are superb. Then there’s the chorus, which is completely killer; hook-laden and hugely powerful, it slays.
It’s on this track that Fanion also produces arguably his best performance, full of anger and frustration during the chorus but something more measured, thoughtful and sorrowful in the quieter passages. I can neither confirm nor deny that I might have got a bit carried away when listening to this song on my headphones whilst walking the dog in my neighbourhood. But hell, music is meant to move you right?
Elsewhere, the introduction to ‘Pendulum’ is a thing of real beauty if you’re a sucker for the sound of a wailing guitar solo. It also ups the ante in terms of the band’s use of symphonic embellishments and is a wonderfully grandiose piece of music as a result, particularly in the more melodic mid-section onwards where there’s the sense of a group of musicians cutting loose a little bit. ‘Bloodcaster’ on the other hand, is one of the songs where the aforementioned eyebrows are raised thanks to its overtly quirky and borderline avant-garde nature juxtaposed by some of the most extreme music to be heard anywhere on the record.
‘Epitaph’ is a shorter blast of exuberant heavy metal underpinned by an insidious melody whilst ‘Burn Away’ has more of a power metal feel to it. Immediately melodic and up-tempo from the get-go, it then settles into more of a ballad-like composition. Fanion offers his most sensitive performance within yet another strong chorus, accented by a delicious piano that weaves itself nicely into the song.
I could go on because truth be told, ‘Ghost Ship Octavius’ doesn’t contain any filler material at all. This is a brilliant example of how wonderful melodic metal with a progressive edge can sound when done properly with care and skill, not to mention a clear vision and clarity of purpose from every member of the band. Become familiar with the name of Ghost Ship Octavius because if this is how good they sound on their debut album, just imagine what they might produce in the future. The mind boggles but I can’t wait.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day