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This orbital firestorm. - 65%

Diamhea, January 6th, 2014

Mechina definitely have a unique concept here, and if Empyrean delivered for its entire duration it could have been something special. Sadly, the bloated nature of music this layered and aspiring makes for an especially draining and tired listening experience. The guitars are buried behind walls of programmed synths and saccharine female vocals. I'm making the assumption that the female cleans are programmed using software (similar to recent Skyfire) due to a lack of credits on the album, but I could be wrong. They almost always sound like Enya and summon a Middle-Eastern atmosphere, so much of Empyrean ends up sounding like the soundtrack to Gladiator with chugging guitars, swirling keyboards, and a more structured rhythm backbone behind it.

The prime complication is that there isn't a whole lot of variety to the proceedings. It doesn't help that every track intentionally bleeds into the next, blurring the lines between the actual songs. For example, half of the build up to "Imperialus" exists on the tail end of the proceeding track, so just listening to it alone guts some of its potential. Regrettably, the listener almost has to sit down and approach Empyrean as a single, exhausting experience. The guitars are primarily atonal chugging patterns in lock-step with the drums. I can count the number of times the guitars appear without syncopated drums behind them on one hand. The opener, "Asterion" features the best of the riffing, after that you almost forget about the guitars because the atmosphere begins to shift as one nears the middle of the album.

Empyrean makes a strong case for itself from the beginning of "Interregnum" to the end of "Anathema". These three tracks should be viewed as one single song, with an engrossing atmosphere and a great sense of subdued aggression on the keyboards. This subdued aggression was discarded by the band for their 2014 release Xenon, which featured more brash synth arrangements that ended up sounding like modern Nightwish and gutting the atmosphere. The auto-tuned male vocals add more than they detract, pushing the already faceless death growls farther into the background. Amarantos' bass is barely audible, but it does boast a natural, flat timbre which coexists well considering the clashing styles present here.

Empyrean ends up crumbling under its own weight at this point, with only the title track leaving anything of an impact out of the remaining material. It features some more impressive keyboard melodies and clean male vocals, proving that the shorter, less progressive material is the most memorable and searing. The overlong closer "Terminus" drives the aforementioned point home, being doggedly difficult to navigate, the overlong beast that it is. People draw a distinction to Fear Factory here, but Mechina lacks the songwriting skill of the former, and this album is just way too bloated. There was promise here, but the band just didn't deliver on 2014's Xenon, making Empyrean their most impressive album.