Theocracy's sophomore album, Mirror of Souls meets the same high songwriting standard set on their self-titled debut. The production and the performances have all been taken up a level on Mirror of Souls though, and the 23-minute title track perfectly sums up everything Theocracy is about. The album has received spectacular reviews so far, and is available online and through retailers worldwide!
The new Theocracy album "Mirror of Souls" was released November 26th in Japan by Soundholic Records. The Japanese version contains the bonus track "Wages of Sin," exclusive for this release. Release dates for Europe and North America are November 21st and December 9th respectively.
"Mirror of Souls" was produced and mixed by Matt Smith and mastered by Mika Jussila [Nightwish, Stratovarius, Children of Bodom], and the booklet design was created by Felipe Machado Franco [Iced Earth, Ayreon, At Vance].
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Best Christian Album Ever!| Posted December 02, 2008
I've been holding off on reviewing this album, since my review is based on a promo copy download (I just couldn't wait for its December 9th release date to hear the whole thing.) But, since this amazing Christian band seems to be virtually unknown here (is that because they play Heavy Metal???), they deserve my support.
Theocracy were a recent discovery for me, but these guys are the band I've been searching for since becoming a Christian last year. I grew up listening to secular Heavy Metal, by bands like Iron Maiden, Megadeth, etc. Then I got into secular Progressive Metal, by bands like Dream Theater, Savatage, etc. Now that I'm following Jesus, I've sold or given away my collection of Metal CDs, in favor of Christian music. So, after that personal rant let me say that this one CD has EVERYTHING that I loved musically about all of those other CDs, but with very well written Christian lyrics that minister to my soul. Worth mentioning here is the title track, Mirror of Souls, which is the best lyrical description of Christianity that I've ever heard, and it came to me as a blessing when I most needed that kind of focus, since I'm on my own journey into learning more about the Christian life.
On Eagles' Wings will give you a good idea of what this album sounds like. Especially notable is the amazing "choir style" vocals in the choruses, which is the trademark sound of Theocracy. It's even more amazing to realize that Matt Smith, their songwriter, singer, and guitarist is responsible for every voice in that "choir", with studio overdubs.
I pray Theocracy are able to minister to others as powerfully as they've been able to minister to me.
Majestic| Posted May 14, 2012
5 years ago, Matt Smith released a solo album under the monicker Theocracy. It was under the Metal Ages record label, which unfortunately fell through. So, what has Smith been doing in 5 years? For starters, he's gotten immeasurably better at production - this album sounds so much cleaner than the debut. He's also found a new record label - Ulterium, home of fellow Christian Metal acts Sinbreed, Innerwish, and Harmony. Finally, he's gotten a few new band members together - Guitarist Jon Hinds and Drummer Shawn Benson, which means no more drum machine!
For those unfamiliar with Progressive Power Metal, it is characterized by complex, heavy, and fast guitar-based music, oftentimes with symphonic overtones. The singing is almost exclusively clean - that is, no screaming - and the vocalists tend to be top-notch. Smith is no exception - his range is amazing. While most bands of the genere focuse on soloing, there is a noticeable lack of solos on Mirror of Souls - Smith even says "I suck at writing solos" in an interview. So, the lack of solos is forgiveable - I'd rather not have them then have them feel forced or poorly written.
The album begins with A Tower of Ashes, which features an orchestral opening punctuated by guitars before breaking into a fast-paced power metal song. The lyrics are about how we place our pride above God, and how that sense self-inflation is just an illusion that crumble into dust. On Eagles' Wings, the first single, is more Hard Rock than metal, but it's ridiculously catchy and still fairly heavy. The lyrics are about praising God, even in the hard times. The bridge is incredibly empowering.
Laying the Demon to Rest is definitely not a song you'd expect from a power metal band. 2 parts Thrash and 1 part Prog, it quickly became a fan favorite. Characterized by incredibly heavy riffs, a haunting first verse, choral refrains, and fast-paced, almost hardcore, part in the bridge, the song definitely fits the bill of Matt's "wanting to do something people wouldn't expect." Lyrically, the song is about spiritual warfare. Bethlehem is a ballad in the vein of "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)." It features counterpoint vocals towards the end, and is almost Christmas-esque, speaking of Christ's birth. However, with lyrics like "When all the world was sleeping deep in darkness, a child in Bethlehem fulfilled the promise. The ancients prophecied a great deliverer, the one to break the curse of sin forever. He didn't come with any worldly fanfare, no royal treatment, just a dark cross to bear. In Bethlehem a brand new dawn is rising, a star to guide the way, forver shining. New hope was born for all creation that night, for through the darkness came the brightest light," it's so much more meaningful than the typical hallmark fare heard on the radio at Christmastime.
Absolution Day is a fast-paced, heavy song that's part praise and worship, and part sermon. The first half of the song creates a mental image of a courtroom, where a man is being sentenced to death, a sentence which the man knows he deserves. However, a man steps forward and says "Wait! No more! I will take his penalty, place the judgement all on me, and let him go free." It's an obvious metaphor for Jesus dying for our sins. The man then responds with the only appropriate response - praise: "Adonai, I raise my hands to the sky in praise, for You have taken my sins away, behold today is my absolution day." The second part of the song - from the bridge onward, is about justification - and how it's only possible through faith, not works. Smith writes that no priest, church, holy water, laws, or sacraments can make him righeous in the eyes of God - but God has provided a way for "absolution for all who believe" by the death of Jesus.
The Writing in the Sand is a slower, melodic song about the well-known story where Jesus interrupts an execution by stoning, saying "Let him who is without sin caste the first sonte." However, Smith gives it a twist, and writes from the perspective of one of the men about to stone the girl. Martyr is faster, heavy song, written in dedication of those who suffered, and ultimately died, for the faith.
The title track is so theologically complex, I was still finding new metaphors 4 years later. It's an incredibly diverse song, musically, with slow melodic parts, heavy fast parts, orchestral parts, and piano-driven parts. Part I, The House of Mirrors, is about a man (from hereonout known as "the narrator") entering a room full of mirrors. In each one, he sees himself differently. Each mirror has a name attached to it, and he figures out that he's seeing himself the way other people see him. They see him as an almost unanimously moral man, and he is filled with pride. He then sees a massive golden door, which he suspects will take him further into paradise, but leads him outside into a storm. The storm is a metaphor for sin, and the golden door, temptation. It's fairly accurate, as Lucifer often disguises sin as something good and righteous.
Part II, The Stranger in the Storm, finds the narrator lost in the storm - lost in sin. He is ready to give up and die when he sees a light - which will ultimately turn out to be God, giving hope to sinners. He quickly heads toward it, but finds an impossible chasm in his way - which is, of course, the separation from God caused by sin. He is approached by a stranger, Jesus, who built a bridge for him - which He did when He died on the cross. The man crosses the chasm and finds another door - above this one is a plaque which reads "Let all who would see reality enter The Hall of Truth." The narrator enters the door.
Part III, The Truth Revealed, is the narrator crying out that, despite all the good things he saw in the House of Mirrors, he still almost died in the storm, and he just wants to know the truth. So, he looks into a final mirror - one which overpowers all the other mirrors. When he looks in, he sees a creature with rotting, diseased flesh. It's eyes are pure black, and it is a horror to look at. The narrator quickly flees the Hall of Truth, and is about head back outside, when the stranger stops him. He explains that the man in the mirror is, in fact, the narrator. The mirror showed him his soul, and when he saw what sin had done to it, he wanted to flee, go back to his old life, that of sin, when the Holy Spirit convicted him. Finally, the narrator acknowledges that Jesus can save him, and asks for forgiveness. The two approach the mirror together, but the only one reflected back is Jesus - He ha taken the narrator's sins, but still remained Holy.
The interesting thing is that it acknowledges there are multiple steps to redemption. Jesus' death made it possible, but it doesn't guarantee anything - you need to actually accept His grace and repent of sin, and ask forgiveness when you stumble.
On the Japanese Edition and the Digibook rerelease, there is a 9th, bonus track, Wages of Sin. The song is the shortest song on any Theocracy record, not counting "Prelude," and is largely a Hard Rock song, with power metal undertones. The song condemns judmentalism, saying that sin has been costly enough without supposedly righteous people looking down on those they see as unrighteous.
All in all, this is a fantastic release, and if you're a fan of Hard Rock or Metal, you'll certainly enjoy this record.
Unbelievable| Posted January 15, 2011
5 years ago, Matt Smith, under the name Theocracy, released one of the best albums in Christian music. So, the question on everyone’s mind is – will they, now a three-piece, experience a sophomore slump or up their game even further? Well, without a doubt, the latter.
If you read my review for Theocracy, their self titled album, you know I found it to be exceptional, with only two real complaints – the production and the drum machine. Well, both problems have been taken care of, and Theocracy managed to not make anymore. In fact, not only did they fix the problems, but they also have grown and developed into their own form of Power Metal. Not only can they no longer be compared with relative ease to bands like Iron Maiden and Blind Guardian, the diversity makes it hard to draw abstract comparisons as well, though, if I had to, I’d say Sonata Arctica, Blind Guardian, and Dream Theater are close.
“A Tower of Ashes” begins with an organ intro, before some nice riffing kicks in, all eventually giving way to some speed metal licks. The song speaks of how we construct our lives with pride, but in the end it’s just “a tower of ashes and lies.” “On Eagles’ Wings” should be a radio single. Simple, catchy, yet heavy and epic. The bridge is very powerful, with layered choral and counterpoint vocals. The song speaks of recognizing your blessings, and thanking God.
“Laying the Demon to Rest” is the heaviest Power Metal song I’ve ever heard. It almost sounds like thrash (which isn’t a long shot, both evolved from Speed Metal). It has a Dream Theater quality in the intro too, with an eerie keyboard taking the lead for a few bars. The bridge however, is completely amazing – it features a breakdown with a solo that leads into dueling solos. And, despite the absolute devastating heaviness, the chorus is still catchy and melodic, featuring a choir of Smith’s vocals. Bethlehem is a beautiful metal ballad about the coming of Christ. It also features counterpoint vocals during the final chorus.
“Absolution Day” is really the only throwback to their first album. The speedy licks are a nice breather from the heavy riffs that dominated Laying the Demon to Rest. The song is two-fold – it speaks of the overwhelming joy of being forgiven on Judgment Day, and also speaks of how anything religion or manmade will fail to get you into Heaven and that “Faith alone’s the key – absolution for all who believe.” “The Writing in the Sand” tells the story of “let he who hath no sin cast the first stone” from a new perspective – one of the would-be stoners. The song itself is a mid-tempo rocker, offering a breath of air after the intense Absolution Day.
“Martyr” is just heavy. The song is about receiving glory for dying for your faith. The song also features an interesting section in the bridge that shouldn’t work, but does. The bonus track, Wages of Sin, is another radio-made hard rock song about certain people who would have people punished, making a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice. It’s a great introduction to your non-theocracized friends.
The title track stands at 23 minutes long, and is epic in every way. It has fast parts, slow parts, heavy parts, soft parts, epic parts, stripped down parts….pretty much everything you could want. The main theme is imputed righteousness, though it also touches on themes such as not relying on other’s opinions and instead looking to God and Christ being a literal, physical savior, not just a spiritual one. I won’t spoil anything for you, but it’s a fantastic story and a fantastic piece of music.
If you like metal, get this album. If you’re a Christian, get this album. If you a metal loving Christian, you should have had this album before you read the review.
Great CD!!| Posted July 31, 2010
This is a great CD that Theocracy has put out. The music is excellent power metal to go along with some of the best lyrics in Christian music. The lyrics manage to be clearly and unashamedly Christian, Biblically and theologically accurate, and poetic all at the same time.
Laying the Demon to Rest is an excellent song that is about spiritual warfare and is the heaviest most aggressive song on the CD. Absolution Day is a great song about Christ taking the punishment for our sins. The title track Mirror of Souls is a 22 & 1/2 minute epic masterpiece that is worth getting the entire CD for just that song. All the other songs on the CD are great too. Also while the music is heavy the vocals are pretty much entirely clean and easy to understand which I like, and while 8 songs the CD is over 60 minutes which makes it much longer than an average CD.