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Shade Empire, by and large, should be right up my alley. Black metal with industrial overtones? With death metal? However, so far, Shade Empire just haven't delivered that knockout punch of an album, and I hate to say it, but I'm overall I'm disappointed by this band. On any given album, they'll have several moments of sheer genius scattered throughout the album, but will often surround it by chugga chugga chugga guitars. I mean, what is the point of having two guitarists if most of this album is chugging? And that's not the only flaw I start noticing cropping up. Simply put, I really am convinced that the songwriters in this band have quite a banal imagination for what makes their music good, and that results in a good chunk of Zero Nexus being simply average, simply there, not participating or really advancing anything, and this makes for a rather uneven listen which severely cheapens an otherwise well-made industrial death/black album.
I mentioned chugging, and Zero Nexus has too much of it, much like the successor, Omega Arcane, and this limits the sonic possibilities of the music. That is, there's only so much you can do with music, composition-wise, when the guitar simply plays the tonic 5th interval, known colloquially as power chords, and no matter how much the dancing electronics try to dress it up, it's dampens the effect. But this in it of itself does not damn Zero Nexus by any stretch, nor does it prevent it from being good. Many bands simply have the guitars do power chords yet end up being awesome and producing quite fulfilling music. It almost feels like this is a level beyond that; that the guitars were simply tacked on afterwards as an afterthought a good chunk of the time, since they do 0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0 repeat way too much on this album, and I would go so far as rating this a good 15 points higher if they had the balls to just do those sections with generic chugging without any guitar at all.
As well, the chugging is not helped by the disjointed songwriting. This is best evidenced by the closer Victory, which has moderately good symphonic intro, yet then has an unrelated generic melodeath verse/chorus/verse/chorus section that could have been written in five minutes, it's so generic. And then we get the genius of the song after that, in a slow, psychedelic ending, replete with a moody sax solo and beautiful cleans, reminiscent of fellow countrymen Oranssi Pazuzu, almost. While the vocals at the very end were quite cheesy, that's the kind of ending I could get behind. Too bad, though, it's COMPLETELY unrelated to the verses/choruses, as well as the intro. And this pervades the album. We'll have moments of brilliance, and then filler. Unrelated filler, I might add. We also have songs that have mostly filler and wait until the end to do anything interesting with the melody, like Serpent Angel or Blood Colours the White. The only song on here I can honestly say is good the whole way through with a thorough lack of filler is Harvesters of Death. The opening song I would say is almost entirely unmemorable, and while the beginning of Adam & Eve is something I can shamelessly get behind and thoroughly ass kicking, the goofy, almost "tough-guy" middle completely screws it up, especially with the "gentle" female singing elsewhere in the song. This pattern continues for pretty much the rest of the album, with moments of genius where this concoction works, and moments where they seem to forget what makes good songwriting.
However, there are definite strong points. For starters, the drums are amazing. Räsänen put in a true clinic here, and covers all his drums and cymbals with a galactic panoply of fills, rolls, blastbeats, etc... but isn't afraid to occasionally slow it down and mix it up. As well, the fills and beats vary widely, and I can never accuse the drummer here of overusing any particular beat. The keyboards, likewise, are immaculate and feature sparkly leads, dense choirs of layers, and integrate quite nicely with the programmed electronics and other whizzes and doodlies. In a way, the performances of the drummer and the keyboardist make the guitars seem all that barren -- the riffs are there, and when they come, they are great, but most of the time there is no need for 2 guitarists. I dunno, it kind of feels like bait and switch; that is, they will set you up with a fast paced intro riff or section, and lead up to what appears to be something big, and then when it comes time for the payoff, they fall short. The opening song, 9 to 1, does this as well, and doesn't really get going until about a minute in, after setting us up with intro section after intro section, and then the riff they deliver is flaccid and kind of a waste. The song doesn't get going until the middle, which sucks because that's the opening song, and that's supposed to be the best song here. The next song, Adam and Eve, suffers from the opposite problem -- the beginning and end are great, but the middle blows. They set us up with some beautiful female vocals in an "epic" fashion, then deliver what I can only call black metal Rage Against the Machine worship, which is NEVER, and I repeat that, NEVER a good thing.
One thing is for certain, though: Shade Empire are capable of producing an album worthy of 95% or more. While the successor, Omega Arcane, saw Shade Empire moving away from the disjointedness and unsure songwriting of Zero Nexus, it also saw the band solidify their emphasis on chugging and unimaginative songwriting. I honestly wish the guitarists would start riffing consistently and put out an album that is one hundred percent kickass, and stop wasting their time with the mundane. I mean, this album is performed competently enough, and listening to it I can really get into it, but I feel like Shade Empire played it "safe" and, on the brink of creative genius, held back and restrained themselves. This kills a lot of the dynamics and aggression -- too many times I was expecting the band to open up a can of whoopass and really knock me down with their blend of symphonic industrial black/death metal, only to be disappointed by more mid-paced chugging. Too many times did they rely on 0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0 repeat kind of "riffs", which, coupled with the (at times) ineffectual songwriting and you have an album that doesn't know what it wants to be, tries to please everyone, and ends up pleasing no one. I mean, for antichrist's sake, they're playing industrial death/black metal; I don't think it's too much to expect for them to at least fuck with my head a little. I mean, they're very close to the avant-garde in terms of overall style, yet they are so afraid of experimentation, and I wish they would just let loose and do highly bombastic things JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN.
But they don't. They just chug away with the symphonics in the background. This is average, and could have been so much better, but wasn't.
After two well-received if, in my opinion, spotty albums, Shade Empire heaved up a massive effort with Zero Nexus. The smorgasbord of melodic thrash, technical death metal and synthesized chaos with an industrial sheen they're going for manifests with a brighter, colder light here. They sound less confused, less influenced and more their own. It ain't perfect, but it's worth a listen. For reasons I shall now divulge.
The opening two bursts of adrenalin, for example, are both tight, technical tyrants, bristling with mechanically precise drumming, pinpricking synths and the slavering, throaty rasps of Juha Harju. Janne Niiranen and Juha Sirkkia can really move their Finnish Finngers, whipping out a buttload of tight-ass riffs and executing volatile pace changes while drummer Erno Rasanen would hold his own in a premier tech death band easily, even though he is downplayed by the clanking mix. Which is deliberate, I can only assume.
'Cause the mix sounds great - right from the kickoff, as the needling, modernistic thrash riffs on '9 In 1' bloom with the harshly industrial drum sound and the celestial synths. The aforementioned synths eerily complement the Obscura-like switches between pacey kicks and epic blasts on 'Adam & Eve'. Best possible songs to introduce this album and real iPod fodder.
I've obviously established with my typed masturbation that Zero Nexus opens like a boss. The album's middle is a bit wobbly however, with a few tracks feeling too derivative to deliver the sizzling pizza of technical and industrial promised with the openers. 'Blood Colours the White' clearly has some Dimmu Borgir machinations going on, think Puritanical Miscellaneous Enemas or whatever it was called, a load of power chords and electronic sounds. The ethnic-sounding chants in the mid-section are quality though. 'Flesh Relinquished' and 'Serpent-Angel' get all Nightwish, era-2002ish, with grandiose synth backing, tinkling keys and choral sounds. The vocals on the latter ineptly ape Dani Filth for some reason. 'Whisper From The Depths' tries for and almost achieves a gloomy, schizophrenic switch-back between maudlin mysticism and malevolent chugging, but feels unfinished. Awful male clean vocals.
There's plenty to invest for though, if the idea of techy stuff with extra atmosphere has piqued your interest and you need a fix now that Fleshgod Apocalypse have probably jumped the shark. 'Harvesters of Death' is appropriately tense, and again reminds that behind all the wash of cold keyboards and ambitious trappings is a decent technical death metal band. With, I might add, a penchant for captivating climaxes of atmosphere - the development of this one from aggression to emotion is excellent. 'Ecstasy of Black Light' meanwhile finally catches the same mix of vicious and voluminous the album's beginning had, with great, grinding melodic death metal type riffs and aching leads. Another fucking terrific last minute as the song builds in some post-rock and trance influences.
'Victory' is among the best progressive and or technical death metal pieces I've heard. Here is its very own paragraph. There are nine and a half minutes of very convincing badassery. Huge choral opening. Fuck-you thrash riff verses. Beautiful power chords-keyboards combo in the chorus. Sweet breakdowns. Madcap, sneering snarls. More cool ethnic chants. Fucking saxophone solos. Post-rock guitar strumming and narration for the lead-out. Huge acapella growl for the signoff. Press repeat.
There are some awesome-as-fuck songs, lots of cool guitar riffs strewn around and a host of ideas that clearly have had a lot of effort put into their realization. It's the best things these fellows have come up with. However, partly due to the amount going on, and to a little bit of inconsistency despite the apt way the album's various sounds are tied together throughout, I can't promise an enthralling ride all the way.
You love this band or you hate it. This release sees a blast of hyperspeed melodic death metal with a hefty dose of black metal, mostly heard in the vocals. It is, at times, catchy as hell: 9 in 1 is the best singalong chorus I've heard in a long time. This album is a big slab of visceral yet very melodic metal, most of which being very much firmly in the vein of 9 in 1. There is occasionally an injection of something quite unexpected: the female vocals in Adam and Eve took me by surprise. The concept of almost Gothic cleans chucked into melodic death releases isn't a new one, but I wouldn't have expected it in this particular vein of melodic death metal, where the songs really do seem focused on speed and heaviness than melody and sing-song. Compare this to In Flames, for example, which has always focused more on Iron Maiden-style harmonizing than their extreme metal influences; here, clearly, the extreme metal influence is far more prominent.
The 9 in 1 video is unintentionally quite funny (scattering pills over the floor which, upon closer inspection, appear to be Mentos), not to mention a little cliche, but the music gripped me very quickly; it was the first Shade Empire I had heard, and I was hooked. What stood out to me was the way Harju punctuates his black metal rasp with the occasional death metal growl and something which I can only describe as goblin noises. Seriously. Close your eyes and you expect him to start whispering 'Myyy preeciiouuuusss...'
The other instrumental focus is clearly the synth work; it's very prominent in the songwriting. This is reflected in the mix; quite often, the synths, drums and vocals end up burying the guitars. I actually find the effect quite enjoyable, if anything: as a massive fan of all things Devin Townsend, I find it doesn't hurt to take some focus off the guitars every now and then. When this is done well, it works, and makes heaviness out of other things than guitarwork. The drums are incidentally fantastic; the man rarely plays the same beat for any massive length of time, which makes the songs a whole lot more organic.
All this interplay goes to make the album really quite powerful but, as ever, I have to say it all gets a bit formulaic. After half the album, much as I love the production, I find myself yearning for a bit of guitarwork rather than the overbearing synths. Effectively, this album is one to be taken in small doses. On a song-by-song basis, it's genius, but the album as a whole ends up dragging along despite the furious pace.
When I heard for the first time the song "9in1" in the band’s MySpace I was surprised. It sounded far away from what I’ve been expecting. The style may have gone in a different direction.But when I heard the whole song I was pleased with it. And I realized that the new album will be something totally new, strange and different.
Then a got the album. My first listening was really strange. I was solving math problems because I was having an exam the next week. But I was really curious to hear the new album so I played it. I was so amazed by the music that most of the time I was listening the music instead of thinking, which I was trying to do.
I got to say “Zero Nexus” is brilliant. The album shows a progression, development, much innovations and experimentation. It shows a grown-up band wthat knows which way to take.
Heavy riffs, varying from in fast, furious and brutal to melodic and progressive, assisted by electric sounds are the leading force of the whole album. Unlike their first album here the guitars are not in the background and they are hard, wild, rending. But they also provide melodic and impactive riffs. Nevertheless some parts are build-up mainly with synthesizers or piano. As a whole keyboards are present in every song and their tunes help for the development of this strange but beautiful music.I'd say the drums sound perfect, fitting the rythm by varying from slow tempo to blast beats.
The songs go thorough various incarnations and in most of them there is a contrast between rawness and harmony although they are often intertwined together.
The vocalist uses many variations of screaming/growing and his style is improved. The album featured also clean male and female vocals.
The band has incorporated various traits to show the public its creativeness, skills and ideas. I’d say this is more of an avant-garde album.The band has added elements from progressive, death metal, gothic metal (especially in “Adam and Eve” which features chorus and “Beauty and The beast vocal style”), club music, and even jazz (a saxophone solo can be heard in the song "Victory").
“Zero Nexus” is really interesting and enjoyable release which makes an impressive impact.It has that typical exalted feeling which makes you thrill.
It’s a great album and very good returning for Shade Empire.