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2013: a SPHESS odyssey - 64%

Wilytank, October 31st, 2013

I'll admit that I find myself drawn to metal music with an epic atmosphere even if it ends up sounding corny and theatrical, which admittedly is quite often. Like all other music though, there's a good and a bad way to go through an idea. Today, we have Empyrean, the latest symphonic metal album from Mechina of Illinois as an example of a great concept of epicness with mediocre execution.

Indeed, Empyrean takes a theatrical approach to the epic sound. Its futuristic themes and elements make it sound like it was written for a sci-fi action anime. The most clear sounding instrument here is the symphony mimicking program; in fact, the majority of the sound you'll hear from this album is symphony. Even after the guitars and drums on a song cease playing, the symphony instruments will keep playing and will play into the next song making all the tracks kinda mold together into a single piece of music.

While the symphony sounds nice and clear and turn out to be pretty enjoyable for the most part, the guitars and drums on the album sound really abrasive, just poorly produced. In contrast to the symphony, the metal instruments sound out of place. The guitars in particular sound really weak. Even if they sounded better in the mix, the riffs themselves for the most part sound uninspired and boring. There's no leads and the riffs are largely comprised of chugging. There's only a handful of catchy moments as far as the guitars go such as the bridge on "Infineon". The guitars were probably thrown in the back to make the symphonies have more presence, and doing so really brings this album down.

Lastly, there's the clean and harsh vocals. The harsh vocals aren't anything special, but I do find the higher ranged clean vocals enjoyable as much as the next closet Blood Stain Child fan. They tie back in to the epic yet theatrical aspect of this album when the vocalist tries to sound like a power metal singer and he goes...

"Send your cries to a vacant sky Shrouded in darkness, I stand Pleading for the light to shine again"

...among other things. And as you can see, the lyrics are cheesy as well but not really in enough of a way to disrupt the album. They were going for some humanity in space science fiction; while not incredibly unlikable, they weren't very interesting either. It's not a story I'm going to be remembering.

There is some fun to be had with Empyrean, but it does get old fast. There were definitely good ideas on this album that could have been executed better; but "Anathema", "Eleptheria", and "Infineon" are the most memorable here with nothing much to write home about otherwise. It's worth listening to once or twice, but it's not worth keeping.