Album Review: VADER The Empire
Some bands are committed to a particular sound or structure they like to play; sometimes this is based on the genre they find themselves in, sometimes it is personal preference. With that commitment we find music that either ends up repetitive, or if the band has decided to dabble with a little experimentation (or change up their formula every couple songs), we find a stunning body of work. Vader’s The Empire finds itself leaning towards the former of those results. We all know Vader for their crazy speed, shifting tempos, and elements of classic thrash meets death metal. Their album Welcome To The Morbid Reich is an excellent example of how a band can stick to its core sound, while still including enough elements to make a majority of the tracks stand out; however, The Empire is an opposite step in that direction, and relies too strongly on formula.
From the get-to, The Empire is a very straight forward record. Upon the first track “Angels of Steel” you know what is to come. Now for Vader diehards this is exactly what they may want, for this record is ripe with speed and anger, radiating with war cries. What really stands out (in the best of ways) are the incredible soaring and ripping solos, accompanied by (at times) strong drumming. The solos in particular are truly terrific in their ferocity and heft they carry with them into each song. Out of all their material The Empire is the best sounding production in the Vader collection: coming off crisp, clean, and metallic. That being said the majority of these tracks blend together way too much than they should.
“Angels of Steel” transitions terrifically into “Tempest”, with the energy and speed picking up just a little higher. The issue really sets in though with the two tracks that follow afterwards, playing off the same energy and sound. All the songs feature standout solos that will impress most listeners, but that in itself plays into the same structure that permeates strongly throughout the record. To lay it out simply: these songs come in with the same clashing drumming, followed by some riffs and/or shredding that all lead to a solo, just to end on the same pattern they opened with. There are some ever-so-slightly changes in sound from track to track help differentiate them, but for the most part after listening to the previous track you’ll end up on a carbon copy. Sounds barely fluctuate and shifting tempo speeds are not enough to save the songs from the repetition. Half the record suffers from this issue, and if you ask me, for a record that is already pretty damn short, this isn’t a soaring positive. It does help when we get tracks such as “The Army-Geddon” and “No Gravity”, both demonstrate that excellent usage of experimenting with a variety of sounds, energy, and structure (such as found on Welcome To The Morbid Reich). They both include enough variations in instrumentation through guitars and drumming, speed up, slow down, and throw the tracks in the opposite direction than what is to be expected (making for a welcoming surprise). It would have been awesome to get much more of that than just a couple tracks.
Vader is a good band, they’ve put out some great work in the past, but The Empire just isn’t one of those titles to sit high up on their list of accomplishments. While perhaps the more true-blue fans will enjoy this record, it leaves so much to be desired for the metal head looking for a little more than simplicity from a band known to do more.