By Sean Willett
It would be an enormous understatement to say that Ghostkeeper’s newest album, Horse Chief! War Thief!, has been stuck in my head. This collection of 11 songs from the Calgary-based roots-rock band attached itself to my brain like a hungry leech to an exposed leg, and it has been feeding on my thoughts ever since.
A big reason for this is undoubtedly Shane Ghostkeeper’s fantastic vocals, which gift each track with a distinct, energetic feel that is carried throughout the album. His voice has a twang to it that serves as a perfect match to the punchy, string-filled instrumentals that make up some of Horse Chief! War Thief!’s best songs. The backup vocals of Sarah Houle are also fantastic, and help add a very ethereal feel to some of the album’s less conventional tracks.
These less conventional songs ensure that Horse Chief! War Thief! never feels stale. My favourite tracks are undoubtedly the very rock-oriented “Horse Chief! War Thief!” and “Turn Up the Heat,” but songs like the haunting “Golden” and the pulsating “The Children” help to flesh out the atmosphere of the album. This range of different sounds allows Ghostkeeper to explore a variety of different themes in their lyrics, as the band effortlessly alternates between social commentary and mythic storytelling from song to song.
It would have been easy for Horse Chief! War Thief! to have just been made as a one-note collection of catchy rock songs. But because the album was crafted as a coherent whole — instead of merely a collection of singles — the strongest tracks are able to pack a much stronger punch and avoid the trap of repetition.
Horse Chief! War Thief! gives roots-rock fans a lot to love, though listeners should be wary — once Ghostkeeper sinks its hooks into you, it is hard to dig them out.