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Zero Nexus naturally embodies a culmination of Shade Empire's sound up to the point of it's release. While it comes off as the logic precursor to Intoxicate O.S. at times, it also manages to leave it's proverbial back door open, allowing some of Sinthetic's bad attributes to resurface and permeate the proceedings.
While similar to it's direct predecessor from a musicianship standpoint, Zero Nexus features one X-factor that wasn't present in the past: Erno Räsänen's drumming. His performance on the kit blows his predecessor Makkonen out of the water, mixing inventive cymbal-hopping passages with mechanized blasting patterns. He alone could carry the rhythm section, and is only augmented by the overdriven, blubbery distortion and surging bass. This gives Zero Nexus' more esoteric attributes a more cohesive launching pad, as Harju's overacted intonations sporadically surface amongst a sea of cleaner tones and saccharine female contributions. Shade Empire really let loose on this one from an experimental standpoint, and their ambition is both glaring and endearing.
The problem is that old habits often die hard, and "Blood Colours the White" is a good example of this. It starts off so fucking promising with an industrial electronic surge, only to fall back into boring stock riffing patterns and never even attempting to gather itself for an earnest assault on the senses like the listener would expect. It isn't until the seventh track, "Whisper from the Depths", that Shade Empire finally manage to pull off a convincing nod to their first album. They honestly shouldn't even be wasting their time, as they are much more lethal during more compact numbers such as "Ecstacy of Black Light", which reminds me of "Hatefeast" from Intoxicate O.S. The lack of a Savolainen-driven instrumental also hurts the album's procession, as they existed as decent outlets for his melancholic synth assault on previous outings. The keyboards aren't as prominent as you would think, but lack anything even bordering on memorable compositions all the same. There are some passable piano passages sprinkled in the background, but it is often too little too late in Zero Nexus' case.
The one major exception is the epic closer "Victory". While it doesn't come off as particularly special at first, the second half comes alive courtesy of a saxophone solo, of all things. The somber atmosphere that is evoked is quite potent, as the song slowly drifts through ethereal chord progressions as cleaner guitar tones ebb and flow throughout. Besides production values, this is the one song that easily upends the high standards set by Intoxicate O.S., which was less experimental albeit more consist in it's delivery. Speaking of the production, Zero Nexus ups the ante regarding the guitars and vocals. As stated above, the guitars have a thick, meaty tone that lacks the modern, industrial sheen that was present on the last album. Harju's blackened rasp is less upfront and irritating, even if he is still warbling away like a black metal Geoff Tate.
At the end of the day Zero Nexus still comes off as a bit too stock and phoned-in for a band as experimental as Shade Empire. It isn't a huge departure from their earlier albums, which is both a blessing and a curse in this regard. It is nonetheless a small step back after Intoxicate O.S.
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.
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.