So what have we here? Empire? Ok, I know I have heard the name somewhere. Yes, I know it’s a Queensrÿche album and I know there’s a record company called that but that there is a band named Empire do ring a bell somewhere in the back of my mind as well. As you might have guessed, this a band / project I’m not familiar with at all. Empire were formed in 2000 by German guitarist and drummer Rolf Munkes and Gerald Kloos and British singer Lance King and The King Of Bass, Neil Murray (Whitesnake, Gary Moore, Black Sabbath). In 2003 King left and was replaced by former Sabbath singer Tony Martin who left in 2007 and was replaced by Doogie White (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Tank, Michael Schenker). Drummer Kloos left in 2006 and was replaced by André Hilgers. The band also included Deep Purple keyboardsman Don Airey (ex- Gary Moore, Whitesnake, Rainbow, Ozzy) from 2003 – 2007.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where this band lies style wise after looking at the members that are – and have been – in the band. Classic hard rock with its feet in the 70’s is what we’re getting and I write that without having heard a note from the band. They have three records out prior to this one – Hypnotica (2001), Trading Souls (2003) and The Raven Ride (2006). Why I have never checked this band out before is beyond me as it contains many of my all time favorite musicians and singers, but I guess it’s better late than never, right? So, this album I am now about to review was originally released in 2007 but is re-released now with Mike Terranna (Hardline, Yngwie Malmsteen, Axel Rudi Pell, Beau Nasty) on drums and with one new track added. Now, I usually don’t bother reviewing re-releases but since I have never given this band a go before, I consider Chasing Shadows a new record and will make an exception.
The opener and title track is a classic rock tune that comes in a mid pace, a darker vibe and a really fat groove. The Rainbow influence is obvious here and it’s not just Doogie’s voice that brings that on. I find the chorus quite memorable and all in all, it’s a good song without impressing the hell out of me. More Rainbow vibes comes along on “The Alter” but this one also sports a slight metal vibe. It rocks in a faster vibe, like Rainbow’s early 80’s stuff and the refrain strikes quite hard. Again, this is a good song but it never passes good. “Mother Father Holy Ghost” is way darker and heavy where I can sense a Dio (band) vibe but more so, Tony Martin era Black Sabbath comes to mind. The main melody takes a hold of me and the whole tune catches on right away. A great tune and the best one so far. The heaviness and darkness stays for “Sail Away”, a slow yet melodic hard rocker with a clear Sabbath meets late 80’s melodic rock influence. A good tune, no more no less.
The atmospheric “Child Of The Night” is slow, heavy and comes with a saddening darkness and I get a huge Axel Rudi Pell feel from it but also the Doogie White fronted Rainbow comes to mind here – with aTony Iommi vibe on the riffing. A really good tune! “Tahigwan Nights” is a direct and pretty rough hard rock tune with a big classic rock sound and a distinct refrain that sticks pretty much right away. A pretty good one. It gets heavy and dark again with the rough and quite aggressive “Manic Messiah”, a song that would have fitted Tony Martin’s voice like glove as it sounds like Sabbath back in 1987. However, the song itself is only ok and it doesn’t move me much. “Angel And The Gambler” goes back to the early 80’s and with its melodic rock vibes it sounds like Rainbow of that time going American arena rock. That said, the tune is quite forgettable and the chorus does nothing except leaves me waiting for the punchline.
Heavy. Doomy. Black. Gloomy. That’s how I would describe the slow and Black Sabbath laden “A Story Told”. It’s a tune I could hear Ronnie James Dio sing but all the same, it’s quite underwhelming and it wouldn’t have been one of Dio’s biggest moments. “The Rulers Of The World” is much better. With its ballsiness and heavy rhythms it mixes dark and heavy grooves with catchiness in a really good way – punchy yet melodic. Very good. The closer – and the album’s new addition – the heavy ballad “A Night Like This” goes yet again in a Tony Martin era Black Sabbath way and this time greatness strikes. It’s my favorite song on the album by far and White’s voice is perfect for the tune – a brilliant way to say good-bye for now.
This album sounds pretty much exactly the way I had expected it to. It’s retro, classic hard rock the way it sounded in the late 70’s early 80’s with lots of blues-rock influences and some more melodic rock stuff. Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple are the biggest influences and Empire wears those influences pretty visible on their sleeves. But quality wise – I would never ever call this a bad album per se – it’s too mainstream and most of the songs falls flat and nothing really sticks at all. Not even the really good songs. All musicians involved does a faultless job here but the songs’ difficulties to make an impact can never be saved by killer players and singers. The same with the production, it’s good, but nothing kicks and rocks and everything just sounds… nice. And nice just don’t cut it when all you want is a fist in the gut. A decent album that doesn’t make me wanna go back and check out their back catalogue.
1. Chasing Shadows
2. The Alter
3. Mother Father Holy Ghost
4. Sail Away
5. Child Of The Light
6. Tahigwan Nights
7. Maniac Messiah
8. Angel And The Gambler
9. A Story Told
10. The Rulers Of The World
11. A Night Like This