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Angel and the Gambler - 79%

Ritchie Black Iommi, May 28th, 2012

I've heard many things about these guys time ago. A couple of known metal vocalists like Tony Martin and Doogie White were part of this project so, as I tend to believe that worldwide, metal vocal style became more of an "i'm pure attitude" stuff instead of the all classic type of good and powerful singing, I gave a chance on this band, mostly trying to know how is it.

The first album by The Empire that I've took time to listen carefully was this one. Mostly because it gave me, among all the other ones, the finest initial impression. And yes, I must say we witness here a nice example of neo-classic heavy metal. The three previous albums (though I didn't took care of them as I did with this one, I'll review them as far as I can) sound erratic and with an unclear definition of the way to take for making it. Maybe a slight exception can be "The Raven Ride", which contains the filling and eclectic lines by Don Airey, from Deep Purple, no more no less, and Martin hits his best there. Here, it seems that Doogie has it more clear and provides another approach, a more straightforward yet modern one to the whole production.

And yes, DP classic metal sound can be found in here. Of course, with nearly 40 years of evolution, but the idea is like the same. Rolfie Munkes has a kinda Blackmore-esque style of riffing and the atmosphere leads us to the moments when Purple guys were creating In Rock, Fireball or Machine Head. Notwithstanding and, of course, modernity had chance to polish the roots in here and The Empire has its own sound.

Melodic vocals by the scotman with the rawness though melody-bringing compositions, that's the key for entering The Empire. The opening track is a clear handful of proof for it. But the high strike arrives with "The Alter", where the band, as an unique piece of music droppers, shoot us like machine gunners the finest metal song of the record. The riffs are gigantic and the bass lines are capable enough to stand Doogie's requierements for singing.

Other standouts are "Mother Father Holy Ghost", with a more mainstream approach and with Rolf Munkes and Neil Murray forming a huge society of harmonic theming. Also, "Tahigwan Nights" with the neo-classical speed metal approach and a riff which reminds us of the latter works by King Diamond and "Angel and the Gambler" which also has the radio-friendly tune and singing but works completely out, specially with Doogie and the performance of Mike Terrana in the drums, which are outstanding enough specially in this track.

The main issue of this record are the rest of the songs. They are not strictly bad ones. As an unique body of work, they manage to complete corretcly their duty but somehow, their sound lies between mellowness and mediocrity. It's like they can't define clearly what do they want to do with their band. If they want to be speedy, melodic, classic-sounding or whatever. So, even if they are nice standing ones, out of the place, they have nothing to do but to fill the album.

After saying this, I'll admit that this band is a promising one. If they can define themselves and take a definitive path in their sounding, we can probably hear lots of great things to come from them. Let's give some time for this new line-up to put the things together and maybe we shall have a new music Empire to share the rules of this realm.

The empire makes a decent conquest. - 75%

hells_unicorn, June 13th, 2010

I've had a fair amount of interest in Empire, particularly because they featured former Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin at the helm and had put together a sound that is pretty close to the late 80s era that said band had a good run of more melodic and epic sounding material. They have something of a super-group status when accounting for bassist Neil Murray and drummer Mike Terrana being in congress, though they've thankfully managed to avoid the common trap among such outfits by allowing clashing egos to get in the way of a consistent sound. With the exodus of Martin from the fold now, this band has become the sanctuary of a somewhat younger veteran in Doogie White, who came fresh off of becoming the latest statistic in Yngwie Malmsteen's growing list of former lead vocalists. His somewhat grittier, bluesy, semi-Dio oriented style contrasts with Martin's; but is still quite conducive to Empire's somewhat modern revisiting of old school heavy metal.

Happily enough, the end result of "Chasing Shadows", the fourth studio effort of this outfit, is a fairly solid one. Guitarist and principle songwriter Rolf Munkes has an uncanny knack for translating the older dogmas of Deep Purple, Rainbow, and Sabbath into a modern production so as to avoid the overtly fanfare oriented pomp of Hammerfall and Dream Evil, while also steering clear of sounding like a complete throwback the way that Axel Rudi Pell tends to. His riffs tend to drive the songs almost as much as Doogie's roaring vocals do, shifting back and forth from being elaborate and simply providing a thudding bottom end to a doom oriented slower song in the ilk of "The Eternal Idol". Perhaps the best example of the former approach that can be thrown out is the speed track "The Alter", which features a set of flowing signature lead riffs out of the Iron Maiden department and a driving gallop trading places with a steady double bass drive that would make Judas Priest proud. When put up against a series of slower, heavier metallic anthems such as "Chasing Shadows" and "Child Of The Light", the contrast is almost big enough to make it sound like two separate projects with the same producer save the constant presence of White's dominant vocal lines.

If there is a single gripe that I have about this album, it's that there aren't any all out classic songs on here that I can sink my cerebral teeth into and sing to myself after the CD has stopped spinning. In spite of the really big sounding production that would rival the latest Mystic Prophecy album in its heaviness, the competent and solid arrangement driving each of these songs, Doogie White's heavily distinctive voice, and the varied approach to songwriting; every single song on here has a sort of tried and true but not much beyond attitude. Rocking offerings like "Angel And The Gambler" and "Mother, Father, Holy Ghost" are a good amount of fun and have pretty catchy choruses, but really wear thin after a couple listens due to sounding heavily similar to a number of songs out of Deep Purple and Dio a couple decades prior to this. Even the most distinctive and fun as hell speed metal cooker "Tahigwan Nights" can't help but remind me heavily of Sabbath's "Trashed", albeit without Ian Gillian's over-the-top vocal ad lib. Every single one of these songs could be heard back to back without need of skipping around, but there isn't a whole lot here that hasn't been heard before and with more intricate ideas.

If given the choice, I'd recommend going to Empire's previous efforts with Tony Martin, particularly to anyone who liked the era of Sabbath when both he and Neil Murray were sitting in for Ronnie James Dio and Geezer Butler. This is by no means a bad album, but it does wear itself out pretty quickly and has a pretty plain approach to it. Doogie White is the primary thing that this has going for it, and in comparison to his work with Rainbow and Malmsteen, this is actually a fairly restrained version of what he is capable of. But if anyone wants to hear what Dream Evil or Metalium would sound like with less speed and arena fanfare, this would be a worthwhile pick up.