Reviewed by Peter John Willoughby
Theocracy is a progressive metal band from Georgia. However, they are signed to Ulterium Records in Sweden and have much more in common with European melodic power metal bands. The self-titled debut album was a one man project with all the instruments and vocals done by Matt Smith. Due to the worldwide acclaim within the metal community, he went on to form a band and released 'Mirror Of Souls'. The new album 'As The World Bleeds' is mastered by Mika Jussila (Nightwish, Stratovarius). The line-up is Matt Smith (vocals), Val Allen Wood (lead guitar), Jonathan Hinds (guitar), Jared Oldham (bass) and Shawn Benson (drums). Their sound is characterized by huge choruses, epic arrangements and progressive elements, which finds them being compared to Dream Theater or Stratovarius. In a bold move, they open with an 11-minute magnum opus "I Am" that focuses on the main elements of metal and melody with progressive roots and multi-layered vocals. "I am the thunder and the glory and the blinding light/I am the still small voice that tells you what is wrong and what is right/I am the sacrificial lamb a guilty world reviled/I am the father ever waiting for his lost and wayward child". Then "The Master Storyteller" takes it up-tempo and shows off crisp and crunchy guitar in an immediately catchy way. "Nailed" takes it further and almost verges on thrash metal territory, whilst still allowing space for soaring vocals and shredding. "Never fight it anymore/For the burden on my life has been released/Nail it to the door". I don't know whether it's due to the time of year, but 'The Gift Of Music' has a decidedly Christmassy feel to it with the intricate guitar work and vocal harmonies. Whereas '30 Pieces Of Silver' has a tempestuous theme in keeping with the conflict between greed and shame. 'Drown' is a thoughtful, reflective piece with "Like Peter all those years ago, who looked away and sank below/When I sink in seas of doubt/Will You take my hand and pull me out?" Finally, the title track is another progressive movement that starts with keyboard and gentle vocals before ramping up the power chords and using speed metal guitar to rampage throughout. With mankind turning its back on God, it pronounces "As the world lies bleeding/The giant is no longer sleeping/All we've sown now reaping/Blindly we just carry on, but the glory is gone." Hugely impressive stuff.
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