I've been listening to the album virtually non-stop since I got the pre-release, so my wife has heard it several times. She summed it up well when she observed, "It's Stryper!" Screaming twin guitars, soaring vocal harmonies and a powerful rhythm section are common to both bands. The guitar solo on "The Gift of Music" cetainly called to mind Stryper's "Soldiers Under Command." However, founder Matt Smith's lyrics have greater theological depth than any other hard rocking band I can think of since Resurrection Band, and the band has more of a prog/power metal flavor than Stryper, with only three songs less than five minutes long. In fact, the album opens with an 11-minute epic titled, "I AM," presenting the nature of God from the beauties of creation to the story of redemption.
I had decided to order the songs from favorite to least favorite, but found that the more I listened to any given song, it kept rising to the top. In the end, my least favorite was "The Master Storyteller," but as I listened to it again (and again), I realized it could easily have been my favorite tune on any other record. As The World Bleeds is a fantastic collection of well-crafted songs, but if I had to pick one favorite, it would be "Hide In The Fairytale":
day and night / Jekyll & Hyde in the fairytale / this is much more frightning / darkness and light / feed the new man and tear the veil / see the old man dying / soul sickness nailed to a cross
That one is closely followed by "Light Of The World." Then again, "Altar to the Unknown God" just might leapfrog them all to the top spot, and I haven't yet mentioned the great guitars and lyrics of "Drown" (picture Peter walking on the waves) or the powerful account of Martin Luther's story in "Nailed"; you get the idea--there are no fillers here to pad out the project. In fact, you get to savor over an hour of music and if you're like me, you'll offer up a prayer of gratitude for Theocracy during this Thanksgiving season.
The bottom line is that I haven't heard a consecutive pair of guitar-oriented Christian rock albums as consistently good as Mirror of Souls and As The World Bleeds since Stryper's Soldiers Under Command and To Hell With The Devil. Can it really be a quarter of a century since the yellow and black attack? Then again, my first-born daughter showed up in 1985, the year Soldiers Under Command exploded onto the scene, and now we get As The World Bleeds in 2011, just months after my daughter gave birth to my first granddaughter. I'm getting old, but great music never does. Hopefully my little Éowyn will grow up to marry a guy who still enjoys Theocracy in 2035!