Theocracy Theocracy (Metalages) 2004

1. "Prelude" (1:36)
2. "Ichthus" (4:39)
3. "The Serpant's Kiss" (11:56)
4. "Mountain" (4:48)
5. "Theocracy" (6:00)
6. "The Healing Hand" (11:36)
7. "Sinner" (6:08)
8. "New Jerusalem" (5:10)
9. "The Victory Dance" (5:02)
10. "Twist of Fate" (11:30)

This is one of those releases that many, many people were telling me that I had to get. I had received a few emails telling me how Theocracy are "the best new power metal CD ever". I almost hate it when people put such lofty tags on a CD such as "the best power metal CD ever" because usually this leaves me disappointed once I hear the CD. However, Theocracy did not disappoint and while I wouldn't say this is the "best ever" I would say that this CD is very, very good. This is especially true when you take into consideration that Theocracy is actually a one man project. I would also say that the power metal tag associated with Theocracy isn't quite fitting. When I think of power metal, I tend to think of Iced Earth, Metal Church, Brainstorm, Hammerfall, etc. Theocracy have more in common with the current crop of prog metal bands than the aforementioned bands. Matt Smith does a great job on this CD. His vocals aren't terribly unique or charismatic, but they do work well with the music and are very enjoyable. I would imagine if Matt had a vocalist with a bit more charisma Theocracy would indeed be "one of the best" bands ever. One of the biggest complaints I have read about this CD is the fact that Matt uses the dreaded drum machine. Despite people's complaints, it's really not distracting at all. As a matter of fact, I would be willing to bet that most people wouldn't have even noticed it was a drum machine had a drummer been listed as a member of the band. Probably the most enjoyable thing about this CD is the epic tracks, all of which are over eleven minutes in length. This is where you can hear influences from such bands as Yes, Kansas, Dream Theater and Rush. (I'd be willing to bet that Matt is a big fan of 1970's progressive rock.) While some songs of this length tend to drone on and become boring, I found each of these tracks to have plenty of dynamics and energy. Never once did I find myself wanting to forward past as song. "Serpant's Kiss" in particular is probably one of the best cuts on the CD. I would say that the entire CD is pretty solid and is certainly one of the finer Christian metal releases in some time. I am anxiously looking forward to a follow-up release.

Ghost Ship Theocracy - Ghost Ship (Ulterium) 2016

1. Paper Tiger (5:13)
2. Ghost Ship (4:39)
3. The Wonder of It All (6:38)
4. Wishing Well (5:01)
5. Around the World and Back (4:57)
6. Stir the Embers (4:07)
7. A Call to Arms (4:39)
8. Currency in a Bankrupt World (4:41)
9. Castaway (4:43)
10. Easter (9:53)

US power metal band Theocracy are a band I discovered back in 2004. I picked up their very first album and liked it well enough, but for whatever reason I didn't really follow the band after that. (Save for their Christmas songs which I love.) I haven't actually heard that album in quite some time but I recall it being fairly progressive, with epic length songs and highly influenced by the European power metal sound. Well, a decade later and I finally have another Theocracy album in my collection and this is actually quite different from what I remember them being. This album is very good but it's not exactly what I expected either. I was expecting something a bit more progressive and this is mostly straight-forward, melodic power metal. The European power metal sound is definitely a good comparison. They do have some heavier moments but never really touch the US power metal sound, nor are they overly progressive or technical. Frankly I think that is a good thing. Overly technical tends to be overly boring at times and this album is definitely not boring. In fact, it's pretty darned memorable to the point that I wanted to immediately spin it again after my initial spin. Matt Smith has since gone from being a one man band to having an entire band with him being only the lead vocalist. From what I remember, his voice is considerably improved.

Musically the band does some of the speedier tracks one would expect from a power metal band. However, the tempos are varied throughout this album, even within each song. The album ebbs and flows nicely with a mixture of emotions painted with a musical brush. There are plenty of heavy moments but also some very subdued (fare I say mellow) sections. As with many other power metal bands there is some orchestration mixed in as well but this is definitely not overdone. It is especially noticeable in the epic closing track "Easter". This song stars out with a calm vocal and acoustic guitar performance and builds from there. The orchestration builds about mid-way through the song but we also get some of the heavier riffs on the album. The orchestration never really distracts from the songs like it does in many European power metal bands who over-do it with the orchestration.

Lastly, we have “Easter”, the near ten-minute epic that closes the album. Lyrically it does, in fact, talk about the story behind the holiday (hint: no bunnies are involved), and musically it feels like a mix of most of the sounds found throughout the album, starting out slow and calm, mostly relying on the vocals and some light guitar work, before the midway point where the orchestra shows up in a big way and we get one of the heaviest and best riffs on the album. Aside from that part the song is more relaxed than the band’s previous epics, though it’s still an excellent track in its own way, with its upbeat, catchy chorus being one of its highlights, and obviously Christians will enjoy the lyrics a whole lot.

Overall, Ghost Ship is an excellent power metal album with some progressive and symphonic leanings, and it features a nice mix of heavier, faster tracks, light, and super melodic tracks, as well as some surprisingly subdued sections, with everything coming together to make a very memorable album. Theocracy has always been my favorite Christian metal band, and once again they have delivered. Longtime fans of the band should find a lot to enjoy here, and I’d also recommend the release to any fan of power metal or melodic metal in general, looking for some uplifting lyrics to go along with their heavy riffs and huge choruses.

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