Review Summary: As the World Bleeds defines Christian Metal.
Stryper may have gotten Christian Metal rolling with their platinum selling “To Hell With the Devil”, and critics might applaud the experimental thrash of Tourniquet and Believer most, but if there’s one release that gets to the heart of this often derided sub-genre, it’s Theocracy’s latest.
As the World Bleeds opens with “I AM”, an eleven minute song written from the perspective of God. From the magnificent opening riff to the final high notes “All hope that was, all hope that is, all hope to be, I AM”, this song is a progressive masterpiece. Sweeping crescendos, a breathtaking triune counterpoint harmony section, and a tastefully short Dream Theater-like riff fest are only a few highlights from this song that epitomize epic metal. It’s not a stretch to say “I AM” is the most epic Christian song ever written.
Though Theocracy has great metal chops, the most striking aspect of As the World Bleeds is its lyrics.
In the world of progressive and power metal, song lyrics have erroneously been ignored as a second rate aspect of music. We’ve all heard lightning fast guitar solos and crazy time signatures with a guy doing his best Bruce Dickinson imitation, but how are we supposed to feel the power with pointless lyrics? I think the reason power metal has been labeled “cheesy” and progressive metal has been called “pretentious” is because the silly lyrics don’t conjure the same emotions as the excellent music. If you are not Christian, then Theocracy might sound just as cheesy as any other fantasy-obsessed power metal band. However, to those headbangers who consider their faith in God the cornerstone of their life, this music speaks not only to the neck muscles but also to the heart.
Vocalist/songwriter Matt Smith pulls off the near-impossible task of writing straight-forward, Christian-themed lyrics while avoiding cliché pitfalls. Every song off As the World Bleeds comes from a different perspective and hits different topics based on the Christian worldview. “Nailed” is a heavy prog-thrasher written from the perspective of Martin Luther nailing his beliefs on his church’s door. The seven minute “The Gift of Music” is a beautiful metal ballad that describes music as one of God’s greatest gift to mankind and how it personally impacted songwriter Matt Smith (the thrash metal outro ala “One” is a nice touch too). “Altar to the Unknown God” tells the biblical story of Paul visiting the Greeks in Thessalonica, and the title track is a dark analysis of mankind’s failure and its tendency to blame God.
Lyrics aside, the music is still very well put together. Like other reviewers have stated, though Theocracy follows the trends of other great bands such as Symphony X, Edguy, etc. they refrain from completely mirroring one band and instead select the best elements of their influences. Maybe the album’s greatest flaw would be that you’ll crave the more progressive pieces like “I AM” and the title track and may find the straight-up power metal tracks “Master Storyteller”, “Hide in the Fairytale”, and “Light of the World” as less satisfying. Still, I can’t think of one album that has a better ten song set.
Though “As the World Bleeds” doesn’t break new ground style-wise, it’s the only Christian Metal album that captivates me more than the big names in metal.
"As the World Bleeds"