Album Review: The Empire Shall Fall – Awaken

The pedigree of Jesse Leach is, quite frankly, undisputed. Killswitch Engage’s self-titled debut, released in 2000, and the impeccable 2002 follow-up ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’ both broke new ground in a myriad of ways, but the individual display that undoubtedly stands out the most from these albums is that of the man behind the mic, whose soaring, wide-ranging melodic tones and galvanising screams brought an empowering, almost messianic quality to the already electrifying music on offer. That man was, of course, Mr. Leach, and his sudden departure from Killswitch shortly after the release of AOJB would surely have brought the band’s careers to an end, had Adam Dutkiewicz and his bandmates not been the focused characters and phenomenal musicians that we know they are. With the exception of his tenure in the Southern rock-tinged project Seemless, however, Leach has been somewhat quiet on the musical front ever since, but with the inception of his new venture, The Empire Shall Fall, this looks set to change. The band’s debut album ‘Awaken’ is a far thrashier, more progressive affair than any of Leach’s previous material, but moments of sheer genius are plentiful, and the potential for this band to grow into something truly brilliant most definitely exists.

Of course, initial comparisons will be drawn between The Empire Shall Fall and the aforementioned early work of KSE, but within minutes of listening to ‘Awaken’ it becomes apparent that characteristics shared by the bands are in fact few and far between. The epic, brutally intricate nature of the music is one such trait, but make no mistake, Jesse Leach has opted to explore the realms of an entirely different style of metal with his new bandmates, and opening track ‘Awaken’ is the prime example of The Empire Shall Fall’s ambitious, rhythmically charged progressive style. Its monolithic riffs, climactic pace changes and unique syncopation of rhythms kick off the album in superb fashion, but, as one may expect, the vocal performance is what truly steals the show. If anything, Leach’s ability to execute colossal melodies and powerful roars has improved since his Killswitch days, and if the man’s versatility was somehow in doubt, the fact that his voice lends itself to a far more progressive style surely dispels any hint of uncertainty. Furthermore, his formidable qualities arguably become stronger as the album progresses, as illustrated particularly effectively on ‘We The People’ where, in an almost superhuman manner, Leach seemingly combines both his singing and screaming techniques to form a mesmerising, truly unique vocal assault.

It is, however, vital to point out that ‘Awaken’ is certainly far from a one-man show, and Leach’s bandmates are ultimately the key to the success of the album. The magnificent ‘Choir Of Angels’, for instance, highlights both the creativity and skill of guitarists Jake Davenport and Marcus de Lisle who, in a way, reflect the performance of Leach, in that they combine both the heavy and intricate elements of their respective instruments very well. The beautiful harmonies found on the strangely stunning ‘Our Own’ are further evidence of the quite superb musicianship on display, while the frenetic percussive crescendo which permeates immense final track ‘The Kingdom’ proves that drummer Jeff Pitt and bassist Nick Sollecito are also major forces to be reckoned with. The same description, however, is perhaps more fitting when applied to The Empire Shall Fall as an entire unit, as ‘Awaken’ is a fantastic piece of work which appears to mark the start of an exciting journey for a remarkably promising band. The thunderous guitars, expert rhythm and exceptional vocals all coalesce to form a supremely larger-than-life and actually very distinctive sound, and if Jesse Leach and co really make a go of this, they could be onto something very special indeed.

Rating – 8


About JJPorter

JJ is a 20-year-old student hailing from Scotland, who lives and breathes music. His favourite genres include a variety of styles of metal, as well as hardcore, punk, and just about everything in between. Contact JJPorter on Twitter or via Email.

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