Artist: Ghost Ship Octavius
Album Title: Delirium
Label: Iceburn Multimedia
Date of Release: TBC – digital release 21 September 2018
One of my most embarrassing moments as a music reviewer involves Ghost Ship Octavius. For some reason, one that I still cannot fathom, I completely missed the release of this band’s self-titled debut. It was released back in 2015 and yet it took me until 2017 to find out about it. When you consider that the music could be best described as melodic heavy metal with strong progressive tendencies, my faux pas seems implausible. If you then consider the fact that this band features Matthew Wicklund (God Forbid) on guitars and Van Williams (Nevermore) behind the drum kit, my mistake becomes inexcusable.
I vowed and declared then and there that I’d not make the same mistake again with Ghost Ship Octavius. And yet, blow me down with a feather if I nearly repeated my error. There I was, blissfully going about my business, scrolling through my social media timelines when I saw an acquaintance make a positive comment about a new GSO album. New Ghost Ship Octavius? Really? How did lightning nearly strike twice? If ever the Man of Much Metal was to initiate Def Con Three, it was now. Thankfully, the wonderfully genial Matthew Wicklund was at hand to help save the day and within a few hours, I was hurriedly downloading ‘Delirium’, the sophomore effort from the American band that made such an impact with me via the debut.
In my defence, it seems like GSO could do with some help on the promotional front because a band like this should really be more central to a lot more metal fans’ radars. The buzz surrounding this new release should have been electric, but I heard and saw next to nothing. Let’s hope that ‘Delirium’ changes things for the better in that case. And, so it should. This new album is absolutely huge, right up there with the best of the year as far as I’m concerned.
Of the debut, I wrote:
“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.
Being a melodic metal band, you’d expect there to be plenty of big choruses and hooks to pull you in. There are…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.”
And exactly the same can be said in 2018 with their sophomore release. Only, the guys in the band take what they did with the debut and push things to the next level – if that’s possible? Of course it is possible and ‘Delirium’ is the evidence. Right from the very beginning of the record on a very first listen, I was presented with chills up and down my spine. In my book, that’s a very positive attribute indeed.
There isn’t time to settle or ease in to ‘Delirium’ gently because the opening track, ‘Turned To Ice’ only offers a few seconds of theatrical-sounding panache before it bursts into life with a great riff, energetic drumming and the wailing of lead guitars over the top. It isn’t much longer before vocalist Adōn Fanion comes marching into battle. No longer an unknown entity, he comes out fighting, clearly looking to build his reputation further and apparently unphased by the added scrutiny this time around. His opening delivery is full of controlled venom, gritty and commanding as well as demonstrably angry. But as the spine-tingling chorus enters the fray, he softens and takes on a different persona, full of melody both when singing quietly or belting out the big, pleading notes. Behind him, atmospheric synths swirl and an understated lead guitar line wails almost forlornly. Tinkling piano notes, commanding bass and expressive guitar work dominate the verses, whilst Williams reminds us of why I’ve missed his playing since Nevermore ceased to be. He lays down a powerful beat but the embellishments are inspired, especially the brief, cheeky blastbeats within the chorus.
As opening statements of intent are concerned, this does the business and more besides. I must have listened to it over 20 times and it just gets better and better with every spin, as I notice new things, such as the swooping and soaring lead guitar solo that was initially overshadowed by that chorus. Or the pounding heaviness right before a final foray into the chorus.
What I absolutely adore about this record, as demonstrated in this opening salvo, is the sense of theatre and drama within it. It is just so dynamic, with plenty going on at each turn for the listener to digest, almost like a heavy metal opera of sorts. The variety and the changes in mood and atmosphere keep me rapt from start to finish. Personally speaking, I just cannot help but get caught up in ‘Delirium’, swept along for the thrill-ride that this album is.
‘Delirium’ might be relatively immediate-sounding, due in large part to the copious hooks and melodies throughout, but it is also a deceptively complex recording too that occasionally delves into the realms of thrash metal, progressive rock and power metal. I daren’t think to hard about the number of layers and individual recording tracks that feature in some of the songs, because I bet the answer is mind-boggling. You get the core instruments, but on top, there are synths, keys, orchestration, vocal choir effects and a whole lot more besides.
Then there are the clever shifts in tone, tempo or rhythm, with transitions so smooth that they almost slip by unnoticed. Ghost Ship Octavius prove here that progressive music doesn’t have to be impenetrable or hard work. This is testament to the quality of the musicianship displayed by the core trio, who created everything on the record by themselves. Matthew Wicklund plays the guitar and bass, Van Williams handles the drums and percussion, whilst Adōn Fanion adds the guitar, bass, violin and keys to his vocals duties.
At this point, I need to return to the strongest element of ‘Delirium’ – the songs themselves. It is a tall order to pick out highlights, but this I must do given that there are eleven songs on the record that together, clock up to the better part of an hour’s worth of material, with rarely a dip in quality to be heard.
It all comes down to personal taste, but aside from the opener, I cannot get enough of ‘Ocean Of Memories’ which has a more upbeat, occasionally wistful vibe to it. It makes great use of light and shade, allowing Fanion to sing softly in the quieter, more introspective sections and then unleash his full range in a bolder chorus. There’s a more theatrical feel to the latter stages too, that reminds me a little of the likes of Beyond Twilight in terms of its delivery.
‘Saturnine’ by contrast is a full-throttle, pedal-to-the-metal blast of heavy metal excess. Huge riffs, pounding rhythms, sparingly-used quasi-gruff vocals and bucket loads of groovy goodness are all central to the song’s success. Williams unleashes his best extreme metal blast beats and again, there’s a towering monolith of a chorus to top things off and slightly soften the edges.
The title track breaks open the acoustic guitars during an intro that’s almost like an interlude within a larger song. The lead guitar that overlays the acoustic strumming is beautiful but after a minute or so, heavy guitars fade in and totally change the direction of the track. It takes a harsher, more confrontational tone until another magical chorus beaks free of the thrashier shackles, albeit still darker in tone to others that have gone before. The lead guitar work is expressive and wonderfully indulgent before we get a glorious reprise of the intro mid-way the song. Again the guitar sings eloquently over an acoustic backdrop whilst an authoritative bass rumble dances along with surprising playfulness.
What follows is two bona-fide anthems of epic proportions. ‘Chosen’ is more of a power metal-meets-ballad song that mixes up the heavy and soft expertly and generally plies a mid-tempo despite the double-pedal percussion and gentle increase in pace towards the latter stages. Then there’s the chunky and groovy stomping break-down at the heart of the track alongside an utterly killer chorus. Plus the lead guitar line that ‘sings’ the vocal line near the end is inspired.
‘Edge of Time’ follows, quietly and serenely at first before launching into more hugely anthemic territory. The synths and choir effects that accent the central melody and mesmerising lead guitar line are stunning. I’m embracing yet more shivers and goosebumps along my arms as the hairs stand on end. Fanion sings his heart out on this track, whilst toning things down beautifully during the well-placed acoustic-driven lulls in intensity that only serve to give the grandiose and epic chorus an even greater impact.
‘The Maze’ has a lilting, almost folky feel to it, especially within the opening segment and the closing track, ‘Burn This Ladder’ is deliciously dark, ominous and brooding, whilst retaining a dramatic, yet melodic intent. It is a slow-burner but once it gets inside your head, it is one of the songs that remains in my mind the longest.
It is no exaggeration to restate that ‘Delirium’ has to be one of the strongest releases that 2018 has delivered to date. It is a truly excellent blend of heaviness, melody, theatrics and powerful bombast with enough complexity to give the record plenty of longevity. Ghost Ship Octavius deserve to be dining at the top table of heavy metal because ‘Delirium’ is a genuinely killer record. Check it out or miss out.
The Score of Much Metal: 9.75
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Decembre Noir – Autumn Kings
The Odious Construct – Shrine of the Obscene
Fauna Timbre – Altering Echoes
The Moor – Jupiter’s Immigrants
Revocation – The Outer Ones
Riverside – Wasteland
Ethernity – The Human Race Extinction
Dynazty – Firesign
Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Brainstorm – Midnight Ghost
Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned
Kingcrow – The Persistence
Cast The Stone – Empyrean Atrophy
Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold
Helion Prime – Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster
Madder Mortem – Marrow
A Dying Planet – Facing The Incurable
Árstíðir – Nivalis
Mob Rules – Beast Reborn
The Spirit – Sounds From The Vortex
Aethereus – Absentia
Unanimated – Annihilation
Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 1
Redemption – Long Night’s Journey Into Day
Distorted Harmony – A Way Out
Tomorrow’s Eve – Mirror of Creation III – Project Ikaros
Atrocity – Okkult II
Lux Terminus – The Courage To Be
Kataklysm – Meditations
Marduk – Viktoria
Midas Fall – Evaporate
The Sea Within – The Sea Within
Haken – L-1VE
Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher
Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse