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Deep in the heart of an unknown galaxy lies a planet engulfed in fire and destruction, where war has begun and hope is about to end.
That little sentence basically sums up the music of Empyrean, a forceful blast of fiery death metal, cyber/industrial passages, and full-blown, epic film score symphonies. Coming in at nearly 50 minutes, the album doesn't stop for a second, with only the 'Cryostasis_Simulation' interlude track halfway through. There are a few similar bands that could have influenced Mechina, such as Neurotech, Fear Factory, The Faceless as well as symphonic metal bands like Epica or Therion and other possible influences of soundtracks from famous films such as the likes of 'Star Wars' and 'Avatar'. All of these influences does give the impression of too many elements put into one album, however it is definitely an interesting approach.
Empyrean flows through each songs to the reaction of being a soundtrack of an epic cyberspace movie, which is absolutely great, if slightly incoherent. The album throughout has trademark death growls, clean male, sampled female vocals, and a 'mechanical' choir placed around the album, but rather disorderly, creating chaos around Empyrean. The same goes for the music; a range of death metal built up around orchestral and electronic samples is simply hectic, and if only Mechina took a bit more time arranging the album, we could have something really fantastic. The metal instrumentation and guitars sounds doesn't sound to be pushed enough, compared with the vocals or symphonies, which take the most command of the album and feels very claustrophobic at times.
Each song cannot be divided up thanks to its current flow of steady sound into the next track, so picking out a highlight is tricky to find. A personal recommendation would go to 'Anathema' with its bombastic choirs, ethereal female, and powerful male vocals assembled like a vigorous stance in the battlefield of outer space. The production of the album isn't as crystalline as a quality movie soundtrack, but there still is plenty of room for improvement in every department and Mechina have more than enough talent to make it work. Empyrean is a real nugget of sound just waiting for you to embrace and discover its energy.
On the whole, Empyrean is a superb album full of exciting and very experimental elements consisting of death, industrial, symphonic, cyber, and even gothic metal elements scattered throughout. Mechina have possibly made their own sound with Empyrean and have an undeniably promising future ahead. Get ready to enter your spaceship and fight your way through till the end.
I've been a fan of Mechina for a few years now, the little-known band with a massive sound. I heard an early version of the song "Anti-theist" and was instantly hooked by the Fear Factory-esque riffs combined with the orchestra and electronic elements to create an amazing sci-fi atmosphere. When Conqueror, their second album, was released back in 2011, I was completely blown away and Mechina secured their spot in my list of favourite bands. The album was incredible, but not perfect (disappointingly short songs for this type of music being my biggest complaint). Nevertheless, I followed the band and was ecstatic when the announced the successor to Conqueror. The release date was set for 1/1/12, exactly a year after Conqueror, and I waited patiently.
This release date, unfortunately, was delayed by a few months at first, and then all the way to 1/1/13. I was disappointed, of course, but understood that the band believed they couldn't put together a satisfactory album in just a year. However, they released the single Andromeda in the spring of 2011, which made many fans happy. The near 10-minute song was nothing short of magnificent and was the second in the musical equivalent to a film trilogy that the band was creating (Conqueror being the first, Empyrean being the third).
When pre-orders for Empyrean began a couple of months ago, I quickly paid my $20 for the disc. The band posted teasers and even full songs from the album (though only for a few hours at a time). Hearing parts of the finished product made the waiting even worse, but what I heard was amazing. Eventually, my copy arrived in the post on 10/1/13. I immediately put the disc into my PC, put on my headphones and prepared myself for what might be one of the best albums I will ever hear, certainly one of my favourites this year.
I only had to hear the instrumental intro to know that this was greater than Conqueror and Andromeda. The orchestras and electronics are some of the best I've ever heard, not just in the metal genre, but including movies and video games. The band's wall-of-sound production is great: this was made with surround sound systems in mind.
The orchestra is very much the star of the show. This is some of the best composition I've heard. Obviously influenced by the Halo and Mass Effect series, as well as Hans Zimmer's work in Inception and the recent Batman movies, Joe Tiberi is one of those composers that is shamefully unknown. Hollywood, you're missing out!
A new element in the band's sound is female vocals. I'm not sure if they are a product of the excellent programming, because they sound quite real, but the only woman credited on the album is a voice actor who appears in track 7. Regardless, "she" complements Dave Holch's vocals very well. A wise decision to include these.
Speaking of Dave Holch, his vocals are on top form on Empyrean. His growls are better than before, and his soaring clean vocals, reminiscent of Burton from Fear Factory, bring the atmosphere to new heights. There are some effects used on his voice, but not excessively so, mostly used to reinforce the sci-fi sound.
The industrial chugging riffs are back, and there are moments where they take the lead instead of the orchestra, which is a welcome feature- this is a metal album, after all. They aren't the most memorable or creative, but they're nice and heavy, and work well with the phenomenal drums to create a solid rhythm.
The lyrics continue the interesting story of a futuristic battle between humanity and faith (both internal and external) found in the last two releases, with a beautiful ending promoting freedom and logic and all that good stuff. They read almost like a film script, which complements the film score-like orchestra.
Regrettably, the bass isn't very audible. As we hear in the majority of metal, it adds to the heaviness, but it's not utilised as a proper instrument on its own. Another of my complaints carries over from Conqueror and Andromeda- no guitar solos. Hopefully we can hear these on the next release.
In conclusion, this is a brilliant release. If you like atmosphere, you'll find it in spades. Some metal purists might not like that the guitars take a back seat to the orchestra, but if you've got an open mind and a enjoyment for sci-fi, you'll appreciate this gem. Buy it now!