The Phantom Tollbooth

Strength of Many
Artist: Theocracy A.D.
Label: Independent release
Time: 45:30 / 10 Tracks

This second CD by Hawaiian hardcore survivors Theocracy A.D. finds them departing from the metalcore of the last release (Welcome to Our Island) and moving into more straight-forward '90s hardcore full of screaming and aggression but not much else. Their Christian prose and lyrics are reminiscent of old school death metal bands:

                         490 years of prophecy,
                          Were commanded of His will
                          483 done only 7 left,
                          Then it will be fulfilled.
                          Jacob's trouble soon will come,
                          To this worldly race.
                          His wrath will then be poured against,
                          Those who did not seek his face.
                                                ("The Time is Now")

The lyrics touch on a variety of Christian issues while using terminology and themes that you don't hear much. They sing about the restoration of the temple and the ensuing sacrifices, and about "shepherds" to be "fattened and slaughtered" because they don't feed the flock.  And surprisingly, you can understand almost all he has to scream.

Theocracy A.D. has been around in demo cassette form for years, as the thrash/death band Bloodbath. They finally moved up the production ladder with their debut CD as Theocracy A.D., but the sophomore Strength of Many actually drops back a bit in quality. For one, the songs are stricken with that common disease of hardcore repetition; you can't tell the songs apart.Perhaps even more of a problem is the way the drums were recorded. They are by far the loudest element, and occasional timing screw-ups throw the listener off. The bass drum is the featured instrument, and I know it wasn't planned that way. In today's music scene, a band is only as good as they sound, and this doesn't quite cut it.

That is a shame because these guys have promise. They sound a lot like N.I.V. and other West Coast hardcore. Had the mixing been better, the album would have been much stronger. The style the drummer plays fogs the mind of the listener and doesn't let you hear the guitars; instead getting an actual song stuck in your head, you get a rhythm.

All is not lost, however; some songs are good, the best being "Instrument of Death." This track starts off with a cool percussion segment that uses different percussion instruments to get a cool little riff going, just right for the pit. But for the most part, Strength of Many is a formula hardcore album. There isn't too much that would catch the ear of the listener and bring them back for more. They sound more like the local band that everyone likes, and everyone thinks are real cool guys...which they probably are, but being cool can't always be picked up on a microphone.

Justin W. Jones    (7/12/99)