Review by Andy Houghton for MPM
Back in 2019 Northampton rockers Empyre released their debut album ‘Self Aware’ to much acclaim. Their powerful sound on that album, frequently described as ‘vast’ and ‘colossal’ by reviewers, was tailor-made for arenas, and best summed up by BBC Introducing with the phrase, “No stage is too big for these guys”.
Their second album marks a radical shift in sound, with acoustic reinterpretations of their previously-released work. All the tracks on ‘The Other Side’ featured on ‘Self Aware’, which makes for a fascinating side-by-side comparison between these stripped-down, nuanced tracks and their riff-heavy forebears.
Empyre see acoustic rock as their grassroots, which may come as a surprise to those who only know them from their debut album. However, the band have established their acoustic credentials with sets at Arena Birmingham before the likes of Eagles, Shinedown and Alter Bridge.
Indeed, Steenholdt and Coles’ first band was an acoustic rock covers band in which they played their favourite tracks from the ‘MTV Unplugged’ era, and at least half the songs on ‘Self Aware’ were conceived on an acoustic guitar.
‘The Other Side’ comprises nine acoustic tracks (8 studio recorded and 1 live version). The album opens with a piano-based take on ‘Only Way Out’, which acquires new depth and sensitivity in this acoustic version.
Steenholdt’s voice is well-suited to the plaintive vocals, which form a perfect balance with the expressive instrumentals. With a running time of over six minutes, the track finds room to breathe and feels expansive, seeming much bigger than the sum of its parts.
Another other standout track on the album is ‘My Bad’, which is also underpinned by a stirring piano-based melody that gradually builds, with addition of percussion, into a punchy and uplifting track.
‘Only Way Out’ returns to close the album, this time as a shorter radio edit mixed by Mike Exeter, the Grammy winning producer. Exeter’s version also incorporates heart rending orchestral parts and neatly brings the album full circle.
‘The Other Side’ is an impressive showcase for Empyre’s prowess as acoustic performers, and reveals a new aspect of their sound for those previously only familiar with their heavier tracks. Highly recommended.
1.Only Way Out (Piano Acoustic)
3.Too Close (Acoustic)
4.Cut To The Core (Acoustic)
5.Just A Ride (Acoustic)
6.My Bad (Piano Acoustic)
8.Homegrown (Live Acoustic)
9.Only Way Out (Radio Edit)
‘The Other Side’ is released on April 30th, 2021 via Frontiers Music s.r.l.
Henrik Steenholdt | Vocals & rhythm guitar
Did Coles | Lead guitar
Grant Hockley | Bass
Elliot Bale | Drums