Theocracy returns after an extended hiatus with Mosaic, their first album in seven years. First announced in 2020, the album has met delays as the band hunted for a new record label. But at long last the album is finally approaching its official release date. I will admit I had some trepidation leading up to listening to this album. Surely, they couldn’t top my lofty expectations that I had spent seven years building in my head. From the first note to the last, I am extremely thrilled to say they did. Theocracy has created an album that sounds like Theocracy but is fresh and a natural progression for their sound.
Flicker opens the album with a thrashy riff that feels like Theocracy but sounds completely new. Matt Smith’s vocals as usual more than impressed during the verses and the chorus, with the band backing him up ably. This song demonstrates the main focus of the songwriting on this album: catchy anthemic choruses that get stuck in your head and linger far after the album is gone. At the end of the song, we get a blistering guitar solo by new guitarist/backup vocalist Taylor Washington, demonstrating just what he has the capability to do. The song is great, even if it ends a bit abruptly.
Anonymous sees the band hearkening back to Ghost Ship, with a sound that is directly reminiscent of their 2016 offering. Once more a soaring chorus mixes expertly with chugging guitars and pounding bass. This is standard Theocracy, using all of their ingredients to create a moving and powerful song. I can see this song becoming a favorite of many of their fans.
Mosaic starts with a calmer introduction, a welcome change of pace from the previous songs on the album, but soon escalates in true Theocracy style. This is the first song on which I can really feel the difference that new drummer Ernie Topran brings to the style of the band. His style isn’t as flashy but serves to highlight the flourishes and grooves his bandmates are laying down. That said, his drumming is no less impressive for that, as his moments are just as impressive as anything that has come before. As the title track of the album, it more than lives up to its station.
Sinsidious (the Dogs of War) sees the band going heavy with one of the more thrashy riffs of the album. The song opens with a more extended instrumental section and concludes with one, letting the rhythms and textures speak for themselves. A few effects here and there are new experiments for Theocracy, though the classic style of Theocracy remains throughout. Overall, this seems like a mature version of The Wonder of It All or Wishing Well from their previous offering. Return to Dust is a straightforward rocker that is no less powerful for its brevity. It leans into the power metal side of their roots, with soaring vocals, anthemic choruses, and a great guitar solo.
The Sixth Great Extinction is a wonderful balance between the melodic and heavy sides of Theocracy. An awesome breakdown lurks within, guaranteed to get your body moving. Another fantastic solo, capped with the continued awesome presence of Matt Smith’s vocals, brings this song home. Deified sees Jonathan Hinds perform his first solo of the album, bringing the song home. His style is very different from Taylor Washington‘s, providing a nice contrast to the previous songs. A relatively straightforward song, it once again features an anthemic chorus with a powerful message. The Greatest Hope is something completely different that Theocracy has never done before on an album. Beautiful and moving, the song really stretches the band’s repertoire and shows that they still have many tricks up their sleeve.
Liar, Fool, or Messiah is my personal favorite on the album. A rocking chorus, a powerful instrumental section, and a driving beat by Ernie Topran, this song is a highlight of the album. Since first hearing this song, I’ve had the lyrics bouncing around my head for days and I keep coming back to this song in particular.
The album closes with the massive Red Sea, an incredible 20-minute magnum opus for the album that flies by. It has all the signature style of Theocracy and melds in eastern influences, biblical scripture, and the famous counterpoint and choral sections of Theocracy. Everyone gets in on the action in this song, closing the album out with style and class.
Overall, this is a fantastic album. A true mark of a mature band that knows what they want to do and aren’t afraid to take swings to get there. The only nitpick for the album is that Jared Oldham’s bass frequently gets lost in the mix. But in the end, it is clear: Matt Smith and Theocracy used those seven long years to deliver an album that is incredible and easily stands at the top of their catalog, offering something for even the most disinterested listener to enjoy and appreciate.
Final score: 9/10
“Mosaic” Track Listing:
- Sinsidious (The Dogs Of War)
- Return To Dust
- The Sixth Great Extinction
- The Greatest Hope
- Liar, Fool, Or Messiah
- Red Sea
“Mosaic” will be supplied in various formats to Theocracy’s loyal followers worldwide on October 13, 2023 via Atomic Fire Records, and can be pre-ordered now.
- CD-digipak (EU)
- Jewelcase-CD (US)
- Various coloured vinyls (orange/black marbled | transparent/blue | crystal clear/black high melt)