For the second time in as many years THE EMPIRE SHALL FALL is dropping an official release late in the year. Although Awaken was really just released to wider acclaim this time last year, this new offering is the first in a series of conceptual EP’s that mark the next phase of the band. Awaken was a fine listen: angry, impressive and unflinching. That was the sound of a band finding its way towards a comfy space creatively and artistically. Now fully realized and ready to blaze we hear a band that will push its way into the current musical landscape, indifferent to trends and defying what a modern band is supposed to be or sound like.
Opening up with “The Genesis of These Scars” you have a track with one foot in the past and one in the future of heavy music. Full of vigor, groove and passion: the cut takes on several stylistic shifts in a little over three minutes. It is one thing to have a band tagging onto a style or a sub-genre like everyone out there, but TESF are raising bars and erasing boundaries of what you expected before pressing play for the entire field. Interesting, angular guitar riffs, tight beats and hardcore screaming are augmented by soulful singing and haunting, harmonized backing vocals. This vocal tour de force is courtesy of Jesse Leach (TIMES OF GRACE/SEEMLESS/KILLSWITCH ENGAGE) and it might be his best vocal performance ever. The interlude “Dubrise” might sound more at home on a MATISYAHU album, but it is a clever set up for what is to follow. “Narrow: The Path I Walk Part I” sets up the next track with a monstrous jamming riff and some cool melodies. Part II is in fact a dizzying musical masterpiece with a metalcore, prog and a host of other influences. Jake Davenport and Marcus de Lisle craft terrific, memorable guitar lines with equal parts burn and crunch. The main riff of the chorus is one of the heaviest things I have heard all year and the composition definitely keeps your ears on their toes. When the soulful breakdown reveals itself, complete with heart wrenching solo and more great vocals, the song definitely goes up to a higher level. Longtime fans of Leach will love hearing his phenomenal scream make a comeback on this track and others. However, no less attention is given to his other talents as he runs the gamut vocally and his dynamic, positive affecting lyrical style is in place here too. “As The City Sleeps” starts with more stabbing riffs and chords. Bassist Nick Sollecito gets to step out a little more here with some choice walking lines. He makes up an indispensable rhythm section with drummer Jeff Pitts. Then in a creative twist, a sultry saxophone and harmonized lead guitars duel while Leach croons and wails. It makes for a unique and special song. Especially when the following change brings yet another crushing groove. I’d say this is the brief recordings’ best work overall. “The Martyr’s Song” is another neat interlude that gives way to the last track. “The First Redemption”. It starts off with a touch of pastoral organ swells, but grows into a full-fledged rocker that initially recalls classic rock like DEEP PURPLE, THIN LIZZY or QUEEN. In other words, brilliantly written, inspirational rock music everyone, not just metal heads will like. There is a cool metal part toward the end, right before the final solo/outro riff topped off with a chant/spoken word part from Leach than in many ways epitomizes the album. Rarely do you hear such an epic track on an EP, but this is the level of talent you are getting with TESF.