Delirium marks the trio’s treacherous, emotional journey through prog-metal’s dark waters.
The new release from Ghost Ship Octavius,Delirium, on Denmark’s Mighty Music label, chronicles the band’s further voyage into the waters of progressive metal. Simultaneously powerful, technically challenging and even uplifting on occasion, all this leads to a filler-free, 60-minute journey through 11 tracks. Each song is densely packed with precise drumming, haunting keyboards and vocal melodies and riffs which hit like tidal waves.
Vocalist and guitar player Adon Fanion, guitarist Matthew Wicklund (God Forbid, HIMSA) and drummer Van Williams (Nevermore) demonstrate a collected ability to navigate between energetic and tranquil tones, exploring themes of confusion, isolation and independence. Previously available only as a download, Delirium will receive worldwide distribution through Mighty Music on Feb. 22.
An Interview with Ghost Ship Octavius
What challenges did you face writing and producing a follow-up to a universally acclaimed debut?
Matthew Wicklund: For me, the challenges were the same as last time. I am always writing new music and just wanted everything to be as good and interesting as possible. So, the writing part comes very naturally, but we are all perfectionists to some degree and it was a lot of work to get everything just right and to make something that we were collectively happy with. I’ve been known to do up to 30 versions of one song before it is finished. The production was also challenging because we did the drums for the first time in Van’s home studio and handled the rest from Envisage Audio in Seattle. We were also a lot more hands-on for the whole process, so it was a lot more work this time around, but a great learning experience for us as well.
What was the creative goal and vision for Delirium?
MW: It started with the instrumental composition basically, which was to create dark, moody and somewhat emotionally adventurous and dynamic music. We always have a theme in mind centered on the band’s aesthetic, which is ghostly, frozen, haunting and grandiose in nature. That’s kind of the tricky part, to make it sound large, epic and enchanting without venturing too far into the land of self-indulgence.
We want to keep the music tasteful at all times even if there are choirs, string sections and three guitar solos per song. It would be very easy to get carried away. Also, I think creatively we wanted to explore more emotional and introspective elements in the songwriting this time around. It’s all really just a snapshot of where we were creatively in this time period.
How did you go about establishing the emotional tone of each song?
MW: For the most part, I just start writing and whatever comes out naturally is what I go with. Although if I write several slow or mid-tempo songs in a row, or I start noticing too much of the same mood coming out, I will make a conscious decision to write something heavy, fast, or angry, to balance everything out. I think it is fun to explore a lot of different emotions on a record to make it feel dynamic and interesting throughout. When writing, I try to think of the music as a direct reflection of what I am feeling or imagining in my mind. I kind of lose myself in the creation and at times, it feels like the songs write themselves. Maybe it is the songs that are setting my emotional tone. Overall, it was just about writing a dynamic collection of music that covered a lot of emotional ground.
How would you describe the songwriting process?
MW: Most of the music was composed instrumentally first and then Adon would work out the vocal parts, lyrics and melody afterwards. So, the instrumentation set the vibe and then the lyrics and melody were built to fit within the rhythmic and harmonic structure of the composition.
Delirium features strong, clean vocals. What techniques do you use to keep your voice strong?
Adon Fanion: I don’t have a real name for my technique, but I suppose you can call it belting. The sound comes from deep down, almost primal and relies on the strength of the abdomen to produce it.
On this album, my goal was to do a better job than the last album. I am always learning and trying to implement new techniques and skills and the music of Ghost Ship is the perfect playground for all of these things, since it necessitates big vocal arrangements and many layers, as well as a lot of different styles in dynamic areas.
AF: Van adds so much to the arrangements when it comes to almost every aspect of the music. After hearing his ideas, I often re-approach bass syncopations or rhythmic accents in the arrangements somewhere. Sometimes I will become inspired with the groove vocally, too.
His playing is always far more interesting and creative than what I hear or imagine when writing, so I’ll usually prefer to work on songs without drums until hearing him contribute his ideas. Then, when he creates something, there’s always so much power and passion behind it that it’s like a creative explosion.
Delirium may not be a concept album in terms of a narrative, but its themes are complementary and offer a sense of an emotional and physical journey. Was that a conscious decision?
AF: It was definitely a conscious decision. We had a lot of creative energy and variance of emotion over the course of writing this album’s music. I imagined the frozen universe that these stories are set in, the man like me, or someone else and the vast spectrum of emotional experience we suffer from.
Some of the songs have the same theme but different perspectives and ideas, such as “Ghost In The Well,” “Far Below” and “Burn This Ladder.” Each song illustrates the ghost in a different way. First, the story of captivation, then the story of loss and the man who will dive into the depths to reclaim those remains, the story of release, total realization and the end of the story. Although we rearranged the track order in a non-chronological way, it’s coherent in themes and ideas and often makes sense even shuffled.
Would you say the band members’ individual resumes have helped Ghost Ship Octavius establish a presence in the prog-metal scene?
MW: I think the fact that Van and I were in bands before added some credibility and created immediate curiosity, which certainly helped get us attention. In the progressive world especially, I think Van having been a member of Nevermore probably helped the most.
At the same time, I think it may have created some expectations with fans and made some people naturally want to compare GSO to the bands we were known for in the past. Overall though, it has worked out great and I believe that we have shown that although we are naturally influenced by things in our pasts, GSO is a unique band with its own sound and identity. The resumes helped but we still had to prove ourselves as a new band and we are thankful for all of the supporters around the world that believe in what we are doing.
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