Metal guitarist Taylor Washington pulls double duty with Paladin and Theocracy

Atlanta metallers Paladin will open for Athens’ own Theocracy on Friday at Boggs Social & Supply. For Paladin guitarist/vocalist Taylor Washington, the show is not only an opportunity for his band to once again bring their signature brand of power metal to the masses, but also his debut as Theocracy’s new lead guitarist.

Formed out of the dissolution of Washington’s previous band, Sybaritic, Paladin finds the frontman joined by bassist Andy McGraw, drummer Nathan McKinney and co-lead guitarist Alex Perra. “Children of Bodom is a big influence,” says Washington, referring to the Finnish metal legends. “For me personally, I really like early Dream Theater, Symphony X, a bunch of ‘80s stuff too, like Extreme and Racer X.”

Credit: Courtesy of Paladin

Credit: Courtesy of Paladin

The influences reflect Washington’s fascination with the technical possibilities of heavy-metal guitar, an interest that developed in tandem with his discovery of the guitar in high school. While largely self-taught, he found additional insight into the instrument when he attended the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media in the mid-2000s.

With a firm lineup of veteran musicians in place, Washington and company set about recording what would eventually become their full length debut, 2019′s “Ascension.” The result is an album that straddles the gap between European power metal — a neoclassical genre with an emphasis on instrumental virtuosity — and the Bay Area thrash movement of the early to mid-1980s, the American metal movement stemming from the San Francisco Bay Area that saw the emergence of Metallica, Exodus, Possessed and numerous other metal legends.

To the uninitiated music consumer, listening to a die-hard metalhead discuss the seemingly endless array of metal subgenres can be a confusing narrative to follow — much akin to hearing a sommelier wax at length about subtle variations in different blends of wine. But power metal is a unique beast for the sheer brightness of its tone and subject matter. Whereas many metal bands are mired in demonic darkness, power metal embraces the dawn breaking on the horizon and soars euphorically towards the light. That fundamental essence is on full display in Paladin’s music, where electrified classical-guitar passages erupt across the eardrums in tandem with sweeping cascades of melodic, falsetto-heavy choruses. It is a bombastic sound, to be sure, but one that rewards the curious listener with joyous, life-affirming energy.

Paladin ultimately signed with Prosthetic Records after being recommended to the label by former Fozzy bassist Randy Drake. “We had a few [record labels] that were interested,” says Washington. “But we really wanted to work with Prosthetic because it seemed like it would be the best fit for us. They’re a good-size label and they’ve put out some really successful releases. They’ve spawned a bunch of bigger bands’ careers.”

Credit: Courtesy of Paladin

Credit: Courtesy of Paladin

Friday’s performance at Boggs Social & Supply provides Paladin with the opportunity to rekindle the momentum of their career which, like so many, entered an open-ended hiatus with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID has left a two- or three-year-sized gap in my memory,” he laments.

More thrilling for Washington, however, is his unveiling as a full-time member of Theocracy, a fellow Georgia-based power-metal band with overtly Christian themes that has generated considerable buzz in recent years. “Matt [Smith, vocals] originally tapped me to see if I’d be interested in writing and recording all the solos for their forthcoming album,” Washington explains. The positive results of the recording project led to Washington becoming an actual member of the band. He had previously filled in on bass with Theocracy for a handful of European tour dates.

Paladin found themselves grouped in with Theocracy, given the spiritual symbolism present in many of Washington’s lyrics. Nevertheless, he’s quick to refute the suggestion that Paladin is a Christian band. “We’re not a religious band at all but with some of the content and phrasing I use, I definitely see how it could give the impression,” he says.

The career setback of COVID-19 notwithstanding, Washington is hopeful for the future and enthusiastic about the upcoming concert. “I’m excited,” he says. “Also very nervous because I have to play not only with Paladin but turn around and play a full set with Theocracy. It’ll be my first time playing with them on guitar.”

Washington’s affable nature suggests that what he calls nervousness may be more accurately attributed to good-natured humility. His already documented skills on the electric guitar are more than proof-positive that he can handle the demands of two high-profile gigs.

Credit: ArtsATL

Credit: ArtsATL


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