In the corridors of melodic and progressive power metal, there exists a band that transcends the boundaries of conventional metal music. Theocracy, a musical entity forged by the visionary genius of Matt Smith (vocals), has carved its own niche in the realm of metal, weaving intricate melodies, lush instrumentation and unwavering passion into their sonic tapestry. As Myth of Rock delves into the interesting case of Theocracy and its fantastic new album, “Mosaic”, Dimitris Zacharopoulos found himself on a journey both celestial and earthly, guided by Matt!
Congratulations for your new album. Which are your feelings now that you release a new album after seven years?
Thank you! It is a big relief to finally have it out there. In some ways it feels like the album has been finished for so long that I’m glad other people can hear it at last.
Please describe us the recordings and the whole production process of this new album.
The recording went pretty smoothly. It’s always a lot of hard work of course, but after five of these I know what to expect. Plus everyone in the band is a real pro, so that makes it a lot easier. We recorded it at my studio here in Georgia in the U.S., in Athens (different Athens, haha!) as always. Really the circumstances surrounding the production were most noteworthy: we took a bit of a break after the last album, but then the pandemic happened, and then we had a lineup change and a label change, so it all took longer than we anticipated.
Where would you trace the differences between “Mosaic” and your previous album, “Ghost Ship”?
That’s a difficult thing for me to answer while I’m so close to it, but from initial reactions, it seems people find Mosaic to have a more prominent thrash element. The guitar tone this time around is more aggressive, and I think that adds to this perception. Ghost Ship had those thrashy moments, as all our albums do, but a lot of it was more firmly rooted in some of my earliest influences, like old Queensryche. So this album may feel a bit heavier, though there was no conscious effort to move in that (or any) direction. Beyond that, having two new members playing on this album (Taylor Washington on lead guitar and Ernie Topran on drums) obviously affects the sound as well.
Theocracy is a power metal band. What drew you to power metal, and how do you believe Theocracy contributes to the genre?
Power metal is certainly a big part of what we do, but I guess one thing we contribute to the genre is the unique way we blend melodic power metal with thrash riffs and progressive elements. I think another is just the quality of the lyrics—there are good lyricists out there in power metal, but there is also a lot of stuff that’s cheesy and not so great. We try to set a higher standard in that area. As for what drew me to power metal, I loved the big dramatic melodies and the speed.
Which are your specific influences (musical and literary) that shape your creative process?
I guess I try not to be influenced by too much when I’m working. I’ve seen some musicians say they won’t listen to any music while writing or recording, but I’m not that extreme. It’s interesting—early on in a career, you very obviously chase your influences and musical heroes, because you’re learning how to write. But as time goes on and you develop your own style, you don’t even think about it (or at least I don’t). I’ve learned that even if something seems different for us, once the five of us play and sing it, it sounds like Theocracy because it’s coming through our filters.
Your lyrics often explore themes of faith and spirituality. Can you discuss how your personal beliefs influence your songwriting? Are there any messages that you try to convey to the fans?
Sure, I’m a Christian, so that influences all the lyrics and songwriting, and it all comes from that perspective and worldview. But within that, we cover a variety of topics, as you can hear on Mosaic. There always has to be some personal thread that I can relate to for me to write it, whether it be something that I’m going through myself or not. The songs on this record range from very personal themes of loss, to historical conceptual pieces, to racism and current events. So it’s quite a wide range, and we try to mirror reality in that way. Life is far from one-dimensional, so hopefully our music reflects that.
The music industry can be challenging. What are some of the biggest obstacles Theocracy has had to overcome in your career?
There are major and minor obstacles. Changing band members is always difficult, because there is so much that goes along with that. I’m thankful that we have great guys in the band, because there are millions of musicians who can play, so in the end, how well you get along is more important. It sounds funny, but one of the biggest obstacles for us is scheduling. When you factor in families, jobs, and geographic locations, it can be very difficult to get all five of us in the same room at the same time. That can make touring a challenge, obviously, but even just finding the time when everyone is available to rehearse can be difficult!
If you had the chance to collaborate with a famous musician in a song of yours, who would he/she be?
That is a good question. I don’t really care to collaborate with anyone for Theocracy, since I think of the band as the five of us, and all the guys are so good at what they do. But I do have a solo album I’ve been writing for for many years with some other singers in mind, so I’d love to do something for that. Ray Alder from Fates Warning is one that comes to mind. I also have a side project called Project Aegis, in which we’ve released three songs for charity, with all kinds of amazing singers and guitar players. So that has kind of scratched the “guest collaboration” itch for me. I suppose the ultimate for me would be to one day have Chris DeGarmo play on something I’ve written.
You left Ulterium Records and you are now in Atomic Fire. How did this come up?
Emil Westerdahl, the president of Ulterium Records, told us that he needed to step away from doing bigger new releases for the sake of his family and health. He offered to use his connections to help us find a new home for the release of Mosaic, and we were fortunate enough to have several offers from reputable labels. Atomic Fire seemed like the best fit, because their founders came from Nuclear Blast, so they have that muscle behind them but their roster wasn’t too big yet. We didn’t want to sign with one of these labels that releases 10 new albums a week, and all the albums come and go with no attention. Plus, they were Theocracy fans already and loved the music, so it has been a great relationship so far.
Looking forward, what can fans expect from Theocracy in terms of new music, tours, or any other projects on the horizon?
We definitely plan to do some sort of touring for Mosaic, we’re just not sure yet if that’s going to start in the U.S. or Europe. We’ve done five or six European tours, but our shows here at home have been more sporadic and spread out, so it would be nice to do a proper run here in the States. I imagine it will be a bit of both, but we’ll see. Thanks for the support!