Review by Howard Whitelaw for MPM
Empyre first came to my attention back in September 2021, when I went to a gig at Leo’s Red Lion in Gravesend, Kent.
The headline act that night was Mason Hill ably supported by Hollowstar and a third band from Northants, who were totally unknown to me.
Four unassuming guys took to the stage and started their set to a half empty venue, but half an hour later they had pulled everyone in from outside and were leaving the stage to a rapturous crowd who wanted more. With all due respect to the other two bands, if Empyre had played all night, we all would have gone home happy.
Those four guys have continued to ‘kill the vibe’ with audiences since that night, whether it be with an acoustic or electric set and as a result signed with independent record label Kscope in the second half of last year. Their first full length release on the label is the follow up to 2019’s debut album ‘Self Aware’ and it’s acoustic Sister ‘The Other Side’ from 2021.
The album opens with Henrik’s rasping vocals on the title track and we are soon into an epic 4 minute feast with Did Coles giving us some delicious lead guitar work over the solid rhythm section of Grant Hockley and Elliot Bale.
It’s a stunning track to open the album with and a sign of how talented these guys are. We are then taken in a completely different direction with ‘Waking Light’ as Henrik’s vocals soar over a softer accompaniment before the guys kick in and raise the tempo once more, rising and falling to a big finish.
‘Parasites’ was the second single lifted from the album and this once again sends us off in a different direction. Starting softly with an almost monastic intro, before rising to give us a mixture of grinding guitars, repetitive riffs and a thumping beat. It’s a great track and shows us the strength of the song writing within the band.
A melancholy violin leads us into a false sense of serenity on ‘Cry Wolf’ but this soon gives way to the familiar heavier sound and the band are back in full swing in no time. This is the track where I can really hear the prog rock influence more than anywhere else on the album, but the track is not allowed to drift and is punctuated with a stop/start that keeps you on your toes.
‘Hit and Run’ is perhaps the most powerful track on the album with a big 80’s sound around it and is also one of the most commercial tracks here as well.
It wouldn’t sound out of place in one of the big arenas – but then that goes for most of Empyre’s songs. Henrik explained “Hit and Run is about returning to somewhere you once knew well, picturing it as if it had been frozen in time, but on your return the realisation comes that whilst the place still provokes powerful memories so much has changed over the years that there isn’t much to relate to there anymore”.
‘Forget me’ slows us down once more, opening with an acoustic guitar before an electric guitar and Henrik’s vocal add a haunting element to the track. The tempo increases, building slowly to a thumping crescendo. This is classic Empyre and the track is possibly my favourite from the album. This is best listened to with earphones, eyes closed, no distractions.
‘Silence Screaming’ is a noisier number that doesn’t mess about, with Elliot Bale coming to the fore on drums here. To be fair it showcases the level of musicianship throughout the band and contains a riff that will stay in your head all day.
This leads nicely into ‘Road To Nowhere’ with it’s grinding guitars pulsating throughout. Both of these tracks are a perfect example of how the parts of the band fit together so well with Elliot and Grant giving a solid rhythm foundation for Did to lay his guitar riffs and Henrik to place that unique voice over.
‘Quiet Commotion’ is the penultimate track on the album and this is a big sounding, atmospheric number, full of depth and one of those tracks you will end up with on repeat as it draws you in to play the air instrument of your choice. Everytime I listened (and there were many) I heard something different – the bass here, the guitars there, the keys, the drums. I found it mesmeric.
The final track is ‘Your Whole Life Slows’ is short by Empyre standards at 3 minutes 18 seconds and is slow to build from a gentle, calm intro via Henrik’s subdued vocals to a steady marching grind of guitars and drums which then fades to nothing. Gone. But it’s the best 45 minutes your ears will have in a long time.
Empyre write arena rock at its very best and ‘Relentless’ is a stunning album of well crafted songs that proves that they deserve to be on the biggest stage.
Relentless is released on 31st March 2023
Relentless track listing:
Hit And Run
Road to Nowhere
Your Whole Life Slows
Henrik Steenholdt Vocals & Guitar
Did Coles Lead Guitar
Grant Hockley Bass
Elliot Bale Drums
Relentless will be released on the following formats, with additional bundles and items available exclusively through the Eyesore Merch band store – all are available to pre-order here https://empyre.lnk.to/Relentless