Artist: Ghost Ship
Title: The Good King
Label: Mars Hill Music/ BEC Recordings
Release Date: 06/11/13
Reviewer: Josh Hamm
- Lion Man
- Jude Doxology
- Son of David
- The Truth
- Holy Holy Holy
- The Gospel
- Behold the Lamb of God
- Where Were You
- What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Mars Hill Music is beginning to really pique my interest. Last year we had the pleasure of The Modern Post’s debut album, a solid set of 80s inspired worship, and earlier this year we had Citizens’ debut album as well. Now we have Ghost Ship’s album The Good King, with an alternative rock sound with folk sensibilities seeping through every once and awhile.
Named Ghost Ship as a reminder that they are vessels of the Holy Ghost, The Good King is undeniably one of the most in your face declarations of the Gospel in modern worship. And not necessarily meant to be taken in a negative, preachy connotation; it’s simply that every single song makes mention of God, and most make mention of Jesus and his sacrifice. It’s much more worship set in a firm grasp of theology than the sometimes over emphasized relationship songs sometimes maligned as “Jesus is my boyfriend/girlfriend” songs.
Still, there is not a terribly new sound to be found on this album: it’s alternative rock/pop with some folk elements. It works well for them, but on the whole I didn’t come away blown away by the sound. It’s also difficult to get into at first. “Mediator” is a somewhat lacklustre opener; it’s enjoyable but feels like filler and does not have a strong hook. “Orion” does though, as a tasty guitar lick cuts through the silence as Huxford begins to question God, ““I ask God what have You done/ everything I love is gone/ why must I endure this pain/ won’t You come and save me?” He’s then answered in a Job like manner: “Can you bind the lion’s form, or bind his path?” But it is ultimately a song about man realizing that God is with him and we need Him to guide our way.
“Lion Man” though, is where the album really gets interesting. It is an oddball of a song, featuring gritty vocals, harsh drums, and distorted guitars – it’s an aggressive, bordering on angry song that has elements of rock similar to Ascend the Hill’s O Ransomed Son. It’s a song that taps into the untamed, dangerous side of God and Jesus: “He could have killed us where He stood/ the Lion Man will not be tamed…/like a lion if He had been we would all have been devoured/ like a man He tasted death/ He drank destruction to the dregs.” It’s by far the most interesting song musically and lyrically on the album, because the picture it paints at Calvary is far from the Kinkadian one sometimes portrayed.
The album is full of filler and highlights, full of great songs, good songs, and ho hum songs. One of the better ones was the ballad “Son of David,” telling the story of the blind man Bartimaeus. It has a narrative feel to it, sung from his perspective. In fact, that’s one of the things I appreciate about The Good King, is that even though their sound isn’t always cohesive, they often tell stories through their lyrics. Another highlight is “Holy, Holy, Holy”, as it opens like Fleet Foxes with gorgeous gang vocals and a lush soundscape. Unfortunately the middle of the song plays fairly typically, albeit still a good rendition of the hymn. At times they revisit that lush sound and gang vocals, to great effect, but it’s not until the end that the song really takes off. The last minute is virtually only drums accompanying an organ, with Huxford’s voice leading while a choir sings in the background. It’s beautiful.
However, my favourite song stands as the penultimate track, “Where Were You.” It starts slowly, ponderously even, as the lyrics question the brokenness of the world and how sin and suffering could be present. The classic problem of evil. In the second Job like response on the album, the song then details God’s response, using breathtaking imagery and slowly building the tension of the song. The entire song is full of rhetorical questions: “where were you the day that I spoke and/ told the sun to split the night open/ calmed the morning dawn with his light to show?/ who shut in the ocean with stone doors/ marked the reach of tides on the new shores, on the day the waves rose and first broke forth?” You truly need to hear the entire song and just let yourself be overwhelmed by the beautiful descriptions and powerful sound. It climaxes with Huxford shouting out his lines “Can you hunt the prey for young lions?/Can you use the stars of Orion?/ Is this whole world bending beneath your will?” It ends with the beautiful sentiment, reversing the beginning, as the narrator says: “ I’ve spoke with things I did not understand/ things too wonderful for me/ although I had no right to ask/ my God knelt and answered me.” I can tell you that this is likely the only song on the album that will I will be clamouring to listen to a month from now.
Overall: Ghost Ship is on solid footing with The Good King. It is heartfelt worship that has a focus in theology through a scripture based storytelling that is a delight to listen to. Although some of the songs aren’t as strong as they could be, there are moments of grandeur and joy riddled throughout.
RIYL: The Modern Post, Citizens, Ascend the Hill, All Sons & Daughters
Buy the album: iTunes