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Too much orchestral bombast. - 60%

Diamhea, January 31st, 2014

While Omega Arcane pushes Shade Empire's synthetic concept into brave new directions, it also falls victim to many modern trappings that simply weren't an issue in the past. This admittedly came out of left field to me, as Zero Nexus embodied a fairly compact, accessible amalgam of the panoply of disparate elements that embody Shade Empire's basic approach. It wasn't amazing, but it definitely had it's moments; moments that Omega Arcane can't replicate even if it wanted to by virtue of the bombastic orchestrations. Savolainen, for some reason, feels the need to layer most of these proceedings in programmed swells of brass sections and organic strings. It comes off as flippant and pulls the band into a direction that doesn't serve their darker, more traditionally gothic characteristics very well.

In the past, the keyboard arrangements embodied an approach akin to a daring balancing act; the band often lived or died by the potency of Savolainen's industrial surges. While it didn't always work, when the risk paid off it paid off well. On Omega Arcane, most of the keyboards end up sounding like modern Nightwish. The overlong opener "Ruins" is a good example of this theme. It makes false promises and acts like it is building up to a detonation of energy, but when Shade Empire's sludgy mid-paced riffs take over, you can't help but feel underwhelmed. "Malicious Winds" might be the only song here that successfully straddles the line from an orchestral standpoint, and even in that it still comes off as a poor man's "Silver Fix". "Until No Light Breeds" is without a doubt the best song here though, featuring more of the artificial, mechanized trinkets of terror that are more commonly associated with Shade Empire. I knew it would be buried somewhere.

The guitars feature an overdriven, gritty sounding tone that is similar to Zero Nexus, but much of their efforts are in vain as they can't hope to steal the spotlight from the attention-hogging orchestrations. It's not that the orchestrations are executed poorly, but Savolainen is most definitely not playing to his strength as a composer here. "Nomad" and "Traveler of Unlight" are decent as they feature a more synthetic disposition, but this only serves to drive the point home that the blaring, organic arrangements simply do not fit. "Nomad" actually reminds me of Intoxicate O.S. at times, so that rivals "Until No Light Breeds" for the top spot on Zero Nexus. I hate to keep dwelling on the keyboards but it really is that big of a hurdle, as they keep repeating the same licks and run up and down predictable scales.

Even Räsänen can't hope to break free, as his blasting is restrained and workmanlike in an effort to keep the keyboards in check. It almost is as if he can't let loose for fear of the keyboards falling behind. While Harju normally steals the spotlight, he is even an afterthought here, buried behind the organic swells and distortion. There are a couple of instrumentals near the end that bear mentioning. "Devolution" is throwaway, but the title track has it's moments. It doesn't need to be twelve minutes long, but it goes through a number of movements, taking care to touch on all of the band's past elements. It is almost bittersweet by the time the final notes ring out, as you realize that Shade Empire simply do not live up to their potential in Omega Arcane's case.