THEOCRACY – As the World Bleeds (2011)

61LBkrysfHL._AA160_It’s possible that Theocracy may be one of the best and most under-rated bands in the world.  While the boys from Atlanta boast a huge underground following, for some reason they have not gained the notoriety they deserve.  Their latest album, As the World Bleeds should have catapulted them onto a bigger stage.  It is filled with progressive metal that rivals bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X.

But what sets Theocracy apart is their approach to songwriting.  While all the songs are valuable in their own right, a few in particular tunes stand out.  Nailed follows a man who seeks desperately to receive salvation – but he travels a path of works-based righteousness that leads to emptiness and frustration:

I’ve been working for my whole life to get to the other side
And try to achieve true righteousness
All the scourges and whips I cracked
The flesh I ripped off my back
It only led me to emptiness

Here I am, a broken man who’s done all that a man could do
And found that it’s only filthy rags
Monasteries, religious schools, indulgences, laws and rules
It all added up to nothing and darkness and death
Vanity, Heartache, and emptiness
Efforts all fading away
The flesh and defeat that it brings
‘Till You guide me and show me things
That my eyes have never seen before
As I burst forth from the belly of the beast
Never fight it anymore
For the burden on my life has been released
Nail it to the door

Nailed these ninety-five things I’ve learned
They’ll say that I must be burned
For God has no place for heretics
All the things that they try to sell
It’s trickery straight from Hell
To turn it into a den of thieves

See these madmen peddling the wares of dead men’s souls
Collecting on a debt already paid so long ago
There’s fire in my spirit, and fire in their eyes
For now they’ll want to burn me alive
Yet freedom rings
Unworthiness is all I bring
The blood of Christ is all I claim
This grace revealed everything
That my eyes have never seen before
As I burst forth from the belly of the beast
Never fight it anymore
For the burden on my life has been released
Nail it to the door

Of course, the context reveals that the identify of the man:  This is the German monk, Martin Luther who rediscovered the doctrine of justification by faith alone and published his astonishing biblical conclusions for the world to see on the castle door at Wittenberg.  Of course, not everyone is as pleased with these lyrics that celebrate the Protestant Reformation.  But Theocracy is merely rehearsing the God-centered resolve and resolutions of Luther.  Soli Deo Gloria!

30 Pieces of Silver is a fast-moving epic metal tune that gets inside the head of Judas Iscariot:

All the treasure in the world so blinding
30 pieces of silver shining
Tell me what’s the price you seek
To place the kiss of death upon His cheek?
Blood money and the serpent winding
30 pieces of silver shining
Treasure fades away
What a price to pay anyway

Drown explores Peter’s faltering faith and the struggle of every believer to trust Christ in the face of adversity:

I see a ghost, a spirit
Walking on the water
He bids me come to Him
Without a boat
To walk upon the sea

So I jump over the edge
And take a step upon the water
I’m getting closer
As I feel the sea move
Underneath my feet

I feel the wind and hear
The roar of waves
That crash around me
And when they get their hold on me
I feel I’m going down
Please don’t let me drown

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?
The devil and the deep blue sea
With open arms awaiting me
But I won’t go down tonight
If I keep my eyes on You, I’ll be alright

Altar to the Unknown God recounts Paul’s address to the philosophers at Mars Hill.  It is a bold denunciation of the propensity for humans to erect idols and bow down to gods of stone and a challenge to pay homage to the one true God:

Build a fire and fan the flame
Sacrifice without a name
Offerings on the altar to the unknown god

Multitudes of gods cover our landscapes and our lives
Images of deities and halls of sacrifice
Philosophers and scholars and sophisticates we are
Our gods are our religion and religion is our god

A stranger came to town one day
And fearlessly proclaimed
“The unknown god you worship
On this altar has a name”
He said, “This god is not an image
Or a statue of the dead
In Him we live and have our being
As your own poets have said”

He dwells not in temples
Built by human hands
He needs no assistance
Or service of man
The nameless you worship
Is greater than all
Your idols of death
Never answer your call
All nations He formed
From the flesh of one man
He marked out their times
And the boundaries of lands
Your life and your breath
He bestows with the day
So seek Him and find Him
For He is not far away

As the World Bleeds is a classic Christian metal album with songwriting that is biblically informed and combined with soaring and melodic vocals, screaming guitars, and a relentless rhythm that matches the intensity of the lyrics.  If you’re looking for elevator music to calm your gangled nerves, you might look elsewhere!  But if you’re after face-melting, progressive, epic, Christocentric metal, Theocracy is is for you!

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