Captain Hawk – Ghosts of the Sea Review

Charting Uncharted Waters: Captain Hawk's Pirate Rock Opera Sets Sail...

Released By: Symmetric Records

Release Date: April 2nd, 2024

Genre: Symphonic Metal/Rock Opera

Links: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61554881996771&mibextid=ZbWKwL

 

Line Up:

Elina Englezou – Balalaika, Ocarina, Songwriting

Bob Katsionis – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Drum Programming

Aggelos Pavlos – Violin

Vassilis Koilakos – Ud

 

Guest Vocalists:

Yiannis Papanikolaou – Captain Silas Hawk

Stratis Steele – Quartermaster Ian Smythe

Marios Karanastasis – First Mate Pete Glynn

Christos Kounelis – Navigator Mister Thomas Knox

Mike Livas – Demon Vythos

Iliana Tsakiraki – Siren Thelxie

Fany Melfi – Sea Witch Nerissa

The Fantasy Choir – Pirates and Sirens

 

Tracklist:

1. Northern Winds

2. Into the Storm

3. In the Captain’s Quarter’s

4. The Crone

5. Get the Pistol!

6. Ghosts of the Sea

7. Father

8. Diamonds, Emeralds and Rubies

9. Daughters of the Ocean

10. Coming Home

 

 

 

Pirates and metal are certainly not a new combination, with the classic German heavy/power metal band Running Wild in particular having great success over a long career, inspiring many bands to follow suit and create their own brand of pirate-themed metal. Likewise, the comedic folk/power metal band Alestorm has been quite successful over the years, as have many others. However, while there have been many such bands, I don’t think I had ever heard of a pirate-themed rock opera before, at least not until now. Arriving at the dock and preparing to set sail is Greek musician/songwriter Elina Englezou, who had previously teamed up with former Firewind keyboardist Bob Katsionis to create a rock opera titled Goditha. Now, the pair have reunited for a new project titled Captain Hawk, recently releasing their debut album, Ghosts of the Sea. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at first, but as a fan of pirates and rock operas, I was intrigued by the concept. I can say that while it may not blow anyone away with its metal aspects or its songwriting, it’s definitely a fun, epic listen with some excellent vocals and storytelling.

As expected, the album has an epic, very cinematic feel to it, with a major focus on vocals and symphonic elements. Englezou herself plays Balalaika and Ocarina, and there’s also an Ud player in the lineup, as well as a violinist and a choir. So, it’s no surprise that folk and symphonic elements often dominate the music, with the latter, in particular, being the main sound. Katsionis is in charge of all metal instruments on the album, including drum programming, so fans of his can expect some instrumental flourishes at times, with the guitar work in particular shining during some excellent solos and brief instrumental bursts in between verses. However, while he’s a very talented musician and does have some room to showcase his talents, he clearly holds back quite a bit for most of the album, giving plenty of room for the vocals, folk, and symphonic elements to shine. It’s clear he was brought in to create music to accompany Englezou’s work, without fully overtaking it, so fans expecting an overly heavy or technical metal album may be disappointed. However, he does a very good job as always, with some very nice melodic playing throughout, and while the guitars and keys are often secondary during vocal parts, they do sound great when given the chance. The programmed drums are also solid, doing a good enough job of maintaining rhythm, and while I’m not particularly good at picking up on these things, I never found the fact that they’re programmed to be a distraction. Production is solid, though unsurprisingly priority is given to the vocals and symphonic arrangements, as well as drums, with guitars often being towards the back of the mix, though they’re still clear enough for their presence to be felt at all times.

Obviously, though, the album is less of a metal album than it is a rock opera, and on that front, it’s a very fun, well-made album. As I mentioned before, symphonic elements often dominate the sound, often giving the music a cinematic feel, along with the choir vocals. Folk elements are also used quite a bit, both from the folk instruments as well as occasionally from some folk-sounding guitar melodies, adding to the epic feel. Like on most Ayreon albums, there’s always a group of singers involved, sometimes singing together and sometimes alternating lines, each playing their own respective role. Guests include Diviner vocalist Yiannis Papanikolaou, Stratis Steele from Endomain, Mike Livas from Prydain, and Enemy of Reality vocalist Iliana Tsakiraki, among many others. It’s a solid cast of Greek metal vocalists, with each of them doing a great job. No one really steals the show, but instead, they each perform their role perfectly and work effectively together, making it a great team effort. Lyrically, the album tells the story of Captain Silas Hawk and his pirate crew as they set off by orders of the local King, to return with any kind of treasure they can find. It’s an enjoyable story, with many twists and turns, and following along with the lyrics makes for the best listening experience. Listening casually is still enjoyable, but it’s clear the album is meant to be treated as a story, with the songs mostly blending together, and while it’s all entertaining when listened to as a whole, there are really only a couple of tracks that stand out well on their own, with the rest working much better as part of a whole.

Indeed, while the songwriting is solid, it’s also quite samey, with most tracks largely moving at a slow to mid-pace, with bits of heaviness here and there as well as the occasional speedy section, but most vocal sections are very melodic and move at more of a relaxed pace, to allow room for the vocals and lyrics to dominate. Kicking things off is Northern Winds, a track that immediately lets listeners know what to expect. It starts off with bits of narration and a sweeping orchestral score before the metal instruments kick in and the track starts moving at a moderate tempo, with solid musicianship giving way to excellent vocals throughout the verses. The chorus, in particular, is very fun, upbeat, and catchy, with some nice choir vocals. While all singers sound great, Papanikolaou especially shines as a powerful, gruff-sounding captain, while Disharmony vocalist Christos Kounelis excels on this track and many others, thanks to his deep, super-smooth voice.

Next is Into the Storm, a track that gives plenty of room for all four pirate vocalists to shine. The track opens up with a soft, folk-infused passage with some very soft vocals from The Silent Wedding vocalist Marios Karanastasis before picking up the tempo a bit and turning into an epic blend of folk/symphonic metal, with some nice melodic guitar work and a ton of folk and symphonic elements. The verses are especially fun as they keep alternating between different vocalists, while the chorus speeds things up very slightly and is quite epic and intense, telling the story of the pirates rescuing an old woman from a sea storm. Excellent gang vocals open up In the Pirate Quarters, a slow-paced, atmospheric track with some nice melodic guitar work. The verses are slow and have a thick atmosphere, alternating vocals between Papanikolaou and an animated, creepy-sounding Fany Melfi who works very well with him. The chorus also lets those two work together, and features some rather explosive drums, moving at a faster pace, and having a very catchy tune. The track ends with the rest of the pirates noticing something is going on between the two, which is quickly followed up on in the following two tracks.

Another folk-infused track is The Crone, telling the story of the pirates being lost at sea in a fog, while the Captain and the old lady hide in the cabin, ignoring the crew’s pleas for help. The track starts off slow and soft, but as it progresses it becomes more folk-infused, with some cheery melodies, while the chorus is quite intense, fun, and catchy, and there’s some nice folk-infused, melodic guitar work throughout. My personal favorite track is Get the Pistol!, which features the rest of the crew plotting to take the ship over, after losing all trust in their Captain. It’s one of the heavier tracks on the album, as well as one of the most epic and intense, starting off with choir vocals and sweeping orchestral arrangements, before some nice melodic guitar work kicks in and turns into an epic symphonic metal track, with a slight power metal feel. Verses are fairly soft and relaxed, largely vocal-driven, while the chorus has heavier guitar work, intense drums, and some fantastic vocals and lyrics. It speeds up halfway through and is perhaps the catchiest chorus on the album, while also featuring the super badass line “Get the pistol, the musket, the cutlass, the sword, cause tonight we are taking the ship for our own.” Simply epic! The narration throughout the track is also fantastic, and in general, I find this album uses narration very well, quickly utilizing it to help tell the story, without it ever becoming distracting or having it take away too much from the music.

Things take a darker turn on the title track, as the crew is lost in a dark sea, without their Captain to help them. It’s a soft, dark, and atmospheric track, with the verses having a ballad-like feel to them, while the chorus is a bit more epic and upbeat, with some great choir vocals. For the most part, though, it’s a very story-driven track, with excellent vocals and lyrics, while the music is fairly minimal, aside from some intense moments during the chorus and an excellent folk-infused instrumental section towards the end. One of the most intense tracks is Father, which begins with some excellent humming vocals before some nice, folk-infused melodic guitar work kicks in, continuing throughout a rather relaxed opening verse. The chorus is much heavier and features some intense, fiery vocals from Mike Livas, portraying a demon hunting down the Captain, who finally emerges from the cabin to help his crew.

The pirates finally fulfill their objective on the upbeat track Diamonds, Emeralds & Rubies, an epic symphonic metal track, which never fully speeds up but moves at a fairly upbeat tempo throughout the verses, and it has some nice melodic guitar work throughout, accompanied by some intense, sped-up drumming during the chorus, as the pirates find a cave filled with everything they desire and more. However, they encounter a group of sea creatures on Daughters of the Ocean, another track which opens up softly as a ballad before becoming a bit heavier and more intense during the chorus as the pirates fight their unwanted company off. The track features some beautiful operatic vocals from Iliana Tsakiraki, who performs as one of the Sirens, and does a fantastic job. Closing out the album is the triumphant-sounding Coming Home, which sees the crew heading back home, singing about the rewards and celebrations awaiting them. It’s the fastest-paced track on the album, moving at a fairly quick pace and having a nice mix of folk and symphonic elements. The verses are upbeat but still fairly calm and melodic, while the chorus increases the tempo and is one of the most fun, epic, and catchy choruses on the album, with a very happy sound to it, as well as some excellent choir vocals, as usual.

The idea of a pirate-themed rock opera is something I had never thought of before, but I was immediately intrigued when I discovered Ghosts of the Sea and decided I needed to give it a listen immediately. I’m glad I did because it’s a very fun album, with excellent vocals and lyrics, as well as some solid instrumental work throughout. It’s very much the kind of album that works best when treated as a whole, and with lyrics on hand, as the story and vocal performances are the highlights, followed closely by the folk and symphonic elements, while the metal portions are well done, but largely feel secondary on most tracks. Captain Hawk is a very fun project, and whether or not it ever gets a sequel or Englezou and Katsionis decide to do something else together, I’m certainly glad they made this album and gave me something I didn’t know I needed to hear.

 

Ratings: 8/10

Written by: Travis Green

My Global Mind – Staff Writer

Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.

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