Review by Howard Whitelaw for MPM
A sold out Black Prince in Northampton played host to the pre-launch gig for Empyre’s soon to be released latest album ‘Relentless’. The band had already held an album listening party earlier in the day for yet another sold out audience, many of whom had headed across for a double whammy of Empyre rock in one day!
First up was the small matter of this evening’s support band, Ethyrfield, who are a band I have heard a lot about but up to now have always seemed to miss. In 2018 they won the Introducing Stage at the Giants of Rock Festival at Butlins, Minehead and then returned in 2019 to play the main stage alongside Skid RowandFM amongst others. 2018 also saw them win the West Country Metal 2 The Masses competition, so these boys mean business and I was looking forward to seeing their set.
The trio took to the stage and wasted no time in setting their stall out by blasting ‘Sunstroke’ from their 2021 debut album ‘In Delirium’ which the gathered audience immediately took a liking to as they moved forward to get the full force of Zach Cornish’s roar. Alongside Zach on vocals and bass is Ben, his Brother, on lead guitar and backing vocals and sat up the back on drums is Dan Aston. For a trio they really pack a punch.
They were soon moving effortlessly into ‘Free The Dog’ from their ‘Taurus’ EP and ‘Truth Behind’ hardly letting up as they ripped through their set. The crowd numbers had swollen by now and the venue was pretty much packed. ‘The Hunter’ followed before they bought the tempo down a little with ‘Overgrown’. This also included a well received guitar solo from Ben who took the opportunity to showcase his talent.
‘Laying On Of Hands’ was next up and the guys were well into the track when a member of the audience collapsed and the guys were forced to stop to ensure said audience member was ok. This bought a short halt to the proceedings – Ben giving us an impromptu Back in Black solo whilst the guy was helped out, before resuming almost where they had left off. Hats off to them, it didn’t faze them and they handled it like seasoned pros.
A quick change of guitars and we were into another track from their album, ‘Serenity’ which saw them crank up the volume again before finishing with ‘Bag of Bones’ from their 2017 EP.
The mixture of prog and heavier rock was perfect support for the upcoming main act and surely it’s only a matter of time before this band of young guys are headlining their own gigs. Great sound, great attitude and tonight they did their reputation no harm at all.
After a fairly swift changeover, Empyre took to the stage and opened up with the latest single ‘Waking Light’, which is a storming way to open any gig and it proved how up for this the band were. This was quickly followed by ‘Parasites’ to give the awaiting audience a taste of what tonight was all about – a live run through of all the tracks from the new album ‘Relentless’.
The album is not released until the 31st March and whilst there have now been 4 singles released, some of the crowd were hearing most of the album tracks played live for the first time. Both opening numbers were received very well and will surely go on to become live favourites, before we were then treated to ‘My Bad’ and ‘Stone’ from the ‘Self Aware’ album.
Following this Henrik remarked that they were not used to having the crowd sing their vocals back at them and for a moment, seemed a little overwhelmed at how warmly the audience had received the band for the early numbers.
Another track from the new album, ‘Quiet Commotion’ followed with Henrik switching to lead guitar and Did to rhythm guitar, before a fantastic cover version of David Guetta’s ‘Titanium’ which is becoming a standard in their live set.
Bassist Grant stepped up to share the MC duties whilst Henrik re-tuned and the tempo was slowed down with ‘Forget Me’ and ‘Your Life Slows’, the latter of which was dedicated by Grant to his washing machine! It was at this point that Henrik noticed that some of the crowd were enjoying themselves and if you know anything about Empyre, they don’t take themselves too seriously, so are always trying to “kill the vibe”. Once assured that this wasn’t the case the guys picked the pace up with the stunning ‘Road To Nowhere’, which allowed Henrik to stretch his vocal chords.
Now it would be remiss of me not to mention Elliot Bale on the drums at this point, as he was working his socks off up the back. Whilst drummers are surely on a par with football goalkeepers (i.e. you got to be mad to be one) Elliot just gets on with his job but really puts a shift in. When coupled with the very able Grant on bass, this rhythm section gives Empyre a solid foundation.
Another thumping number ‘Silence Screaming’ followed before Henrik introduced the title track from the new album for one of the biggest cheers of the night. All of the new numbers were being very well received which may have even raised a smile or two among the band, although I’m sure they will deny it!
Introducing ‘Homegrown’ Henrik told us that the code name for the track when it was being written was ‘Steve’, so promptly dedicated it to anyone called Steve in the room. The guys were absolutely on fire by now and threw themselves into the track with Elliot once again in the thick of it, whilst Grant remained cool and collected as Henrik turned in another stunning vocal performance and combined with Did to produce the most stunning grinding guitars. Did doesn’t strut around and posture, but his guitar solo here was sumptuous to say the least.
After a quick beer break and a chance to promote the album launch party at KK’s Steel Mill in April , the even bigger sound of ‘Hit & Run’ left the walls vibrating and another shout out by Henrik to once more “kill the vibe”. This only served to whip up the crowd even more for a big finish of Empyre favourites.
First up was “Only Way Out” with Henrik and Did sharing lead guitar duties with Henrik’s vocals
at their finest on this track. It’s a surprisingly moving song but also very powerful and deserves to be ringing around the finest arenas on the planet before too long.
As if this wasn’t enough, the very best was left until last. ‘New Republic’ is not only my favourite Empyre track but one of my favourite songs of all time. The sheer power is something to behold and whilst the recorded version is superb, the live version is a thing of beauty. Henrik thanked everyone for coming over the opening bars before we were treated to a fantastic finale.
Nights like this will live long in the memory for all who were there whilst Empyre are surely going all the way to the top of the pile with their unique sound and well crafted songs. Tonight Northampton, tomorrow the world!
‘Relentless’ album launch party – KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton – 22 April 2023
Photography by Dave Jamieson