Musical fashions come and go, much like those that dictate what we should all be wearing for that particular week, or should be eating to appear as cosmopolitan and right-on as possible. As always however there are exceptions to everything. Some people refuse to let go of their old stonewash denims or velvet jackets (perhaps hoping for a swift about turn to retro & vintage coolness) and continue to eat prawn cocktail starters and Vienetta desserts.
In musical terms, one of the styles that has been popular for a while is that muscular, wall of sound heavy rock noise popularised by the likes of Deaf Havana. And whilst West Country band Empire occupies this over-crowded musical territory, territory that is getting dull and lacking inspiration, they are something of a special case. Because they are, as happens every once in a while in a stagnating scene, the band who arrives appearing to have found a little extra imagination and originality and managed to throw a few curve balls into the field of play.
Birth is a 5 track EP of songs that, to quote a well-known energy drink “have wings” and soar, taking unexpected turns of melody and rhythm. But, whilst many of their contemporaries churn out formulaic versions of these twists and turns, Empire have managed to break some new ground. Part of this comes from the clever writing and fluid guitar melodies that seem to coil round each other, trying to make a break for some sort of riff freedom. Delicate, finger picked phrases rub shoulders effortlessly with ear shredding riffs of Richter scale magnitude. The whole thing becomes a runaway train journey that you simply cannot and more importantly will not disembark from. But the music is only part of this story.
The real star of this show is singer Joe Green’s acrobatic vocals. Adding layers of texture and emotion, they scream, whisper and croon their way effortlessly round the riffs. The guy is seriously in possession of a talent and deserves to be showing this off on the biggest stages. Whether boosting the depth of slower passages of music or adding crescendo to huge walls of guitars and drums, this voice leads the songs forwards, acting as the fifth instrument in the true sense, giving Empire something other bands can only dream of. The real acid test of this comes in final track My Colour Optimistic. Whereas the preceding 4 tracks have been amps up to 11 slabs of vitriolic rock ‘n’ roll, this is a stripped back, acoustic tune of delicacy and emotion. The vocals add to the poignancy of the song with an affecting delivery which simultaneously gives it a complexity that somehow increases its ability to cause the listener to get lost in its depths. This outcome is a hallmark across all the songs on Birth, but is most apparent here.
It is an impressive effort from these boys. There is not a weak moment, let alone song on here. They are to be applauded for their fresh, original and frankly scarily good take on some tired old rock music clichés. If they are not a big deal in the next 18 months, I will sign up to the Justin Beiber fan club.
Birth is available as a free download at www.shoutempire.co.uk
More on the band at www.facebook.com/EmpireBandUK