Friday, July 31, 2009

Theocracy - Mirror of Souls

I realize that this disc came out in 2008, but I didn’t get it until recently. Having heard so much hype about this release and the band in general, I’ve learned to take some of the hype with a grain of salt. Having said all of that, once I got a copy of Theocracy’s newest release ‘Mirrors of The Soul’ (through Amazon download… hey I had a $25 credit towards something there and this is what I finally chose… the rest went somewhere else!)

Boy I will tell you, this disc is phenomenal!! (I hope to actually get a real one but until then….). Now I’ve not heard the first project, but to give a description of what Theocracy sounds like on this release? Stratovarious in style with heavier guitars, beefier drum sounds…. (I really noticed it last evening because right after listening to MOS I listened to Strat’s ‘Infinite’ that’s when it hit me). The arrangements struck me as similar in style.

Yet I think Theocracy may have an even stronger sense of the ‘the hook’. Melodic with strong chorus’s such as ‘On Eagles Wings’ or ‘The Writing In the Sand’… simply fabulous.
The opening number ‘Tower of Ashes’ starts with crunching guitar, guaranteed to get the ole hair flying, before it takes off onto into an excellent fast tempo smasher with soaring vocals. The aforementioned ‘Wings’ is next which flows into one of the albums true highlights ‘Laying the Demon To Rest’… Shawn Benson and Jon Hinds really strut their stuff here. There are elements of progressive song structure with power/speed metal moments but not the excessive ‘noodling’ that drives some folks crazy. Combine all that with EPIC chorus’s that are stinkin’ infectious. A true winner.

“Bethlehem’ opens with an acoustic start but winds it’s way to a powerful conclusion. Matt Smith’s vocals simply are phenomenal. ‘Absolution Day’, ‘The Writing In the Sand’ is a classic , ‘Martyr’ and the epic closer ‘Mirror of Souls’. All simply carry the same high quality song writing and most important to me MELODY without sacrificing POWER! Those melodies stick in yer head long after the disc is over and you MUST hear it again. It's not optional.

The production end of things is of such high quality that I at a loss frankly….

There are fast songs, mid tempo, as well as slower tunes. I really sensed a European feel which only adds to the richness of the recording.

Lyrically a more sophisticated and deep release than most bands. Not the same surfacy 'Jesus Loves Me' rehash but depth that provides elements for reflection. Since my MP3's didn't come with a lyric sheet (ya think!) I've been able to discern many of the lyrics and undoubtedly the time put into constructing them was considerable.

Or just bang yer head! A definite buy if you haven’t already…. …. You can check some song samples on their myspace. Ok I'll for somemore to review....

9.5 AXES PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Crucified - The Complete Collection

I was very excited to hear that Tooth & Nail were going to release a compendium of 'The Crucified'. They were one of a handful of bands who should've been big no matter what. Frankly it seemed to me that The Crucified would never get their due. Lots of people talk about them and say XYZ, but until you hear 'em or see them you can't really appreciate what they brought to the table then and now.

"The Crucified - The Complete Collection" is one of the best collections of any band that I can think of. They've put it all on here. It's two CD's full of music and 1 DVD of handi-cam material shot from 1987-1993.

On CD one all four of their underground demo's are here in one place for the first time. Their original demo when they were called 'KGB' is here, recorded sometime in 1985. When I interviewed them back in 1988 for White Throne Magazine (where they graced our cover) I remember trying to the band to let me hear it or get a copy and it was like Fort Knox. "Forget it. It stinks...." Well after finally being able to hear it I must say it reminds of early Undercover (who were a big influence). You can hear a genesis of what was to come. Finally being able to hear it, is really cool. It's was a bit more grindy than Undercover, but has aged gracefully.

Their 2nd demo entitled 'Take Up Your Cross' is presented in it's entirety and it still brings back strong memories for me. Put out in 1986 I played it to death and frankly has held up well over the years. 'Seal Number Four' makes it's first appearance here in all it crossover glory. Conviction, Be Warned, Silent Scream and a multitude of others still show their punk/hardcore influences but the metal influences were definately seeping in. This demo and the KGB demo both are enhanced by the digital transfer. The drums on TUYC are punchy and tight. Mark's vocals cut through like a chainsaw... How does he and did he do it?

Their 3rd demo 'Nailed' also appears released in 1987. It's a bit drum heavy (sorry Jim) but this demo is Hardcore all the way. You will not find any real crossover here. 'In Your Image' made it's first appearance here and was an instant fan favorite. 'Christian Punk', 'Death To Death' and 'Disposal' were favorites of mine back in the day and they still are. The power and ferocity of the music is just as potent now as it was back in 87.

Their 4th demo was the 'Live at The New Order' recorded at The New Order church in 1988. Of all the demo's this one I thought suffered a little from the transfer. It came across to me a little thin soundwise on my CD. But it is hardcore/speedcore. All of the live material came from their previous two demos. The audience was definately into the show. When I got the original back in the day I was excited, I wondered if the recording was from one the shows I saw The Crucified at in So Cal.

There are also two new songs that had been recorded in 1993 for a 3rd album that never occurred. Too bad because this material is AMAZING. Each of their demo's and albums show a progression as musicians that one rarely sees. These cuts should be played LOUD AND OFTEN. 'Straining Life' and 'Power of God' with POG being slightly more my favorite. Both of these songs have that metal/crossover vibe taken to the next level. That was in 1993.... Man oh man..

The 2nd CD is a re-release of their debut self title album on Narrow Path. Sounds great ( the re-mastering helped a bit) as opposed to the original (which I still own). This album should've made a bigger splash than it did, but I'm very glad to have been inspired by it. It was and still is an exciting album. My 17 year old son digs it (he's a big Megadeth/Metallica fan). 'Die Hard', 'A Guy In a Suit and The Pope', 'The Insult Circus', 'Confidence' and ten other tracks that just bleed from the disc...

Also on the 2nd CD is a REMIXED version of 'The Pillars Of Humanity'. Having been the owner of the original for the last 18 years the remix is brilliant. Mark's vocals are much clearer and more forward in the mix. Jeff's bass tone is monster and Greg's guitar (with the monster Mesa Boogie Tone) is a bit more in balance with the rest of the band. 'Mindbender', 'Focus', 'The Wrong One' were high points for me on 'Pillars' and they just sound even better. Jeff's drums pound with authority and great tone. Definately a highlight of the package.

The 3rd disc is collection of live performance clips and 'behind the scene' type stuff. Here you can really see some of the guys humor and the power of their live performances. The audio isn't always that great, but frankly it doesn't matter. If you haven't seen them live this is a really good representation. I had the opportunity to see them, perhaps 5-6 times back in the day. I even got to sit in on practice (I have a recording of it still). The intensity is always there as is there honesty and integrity. I must admit on the first clip on the dvd I saw a brief glimpse of a familiar blond haired guy for a moment in the front....

Lyrically what's to be said. Honesty, Integrity and not a bunch of Raw Raw for Jesus stuff. Real life stuff, very appreciated by this reviewer. The guys were always cool with me with, I talked with them and even spent the night to do the interview in 88. Maybe I'm a homer but these guys are the real deal.

Oh Yea !! There are LINER NOTES. I missed 'em for a week. In a 'secret pocket' behind the DVD.
It was cool to see a photo of The Crucified out in front of The Omni in Oakland, saw that show! A nice interview/biography/history of the band. Some very cool photos.

This collection is a must..... Play Loudly

Keven Crothers

9 AXES PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket