Think keyboards, spacey glorious keyboards with a handful of deep synth and an obliquely sterile atmosphere. Now, undercut the odd sound with Melodic Death Metal drumming which is a driving force behind the choppy rhythms. The final piece to the puzzle is restrained riffing echoed from melancholic fingertips which borders on chugging and half-Thrash at times, occasionally breaking out the solid Death Metal touch which goes for the jugular. This is EMPEROR gone a bit Death Metal with an altogether different air. Intriguing? No doubt.
“Intoxicate O.S.” possesses a very strong modern feel thanks to the Industrial tone and sharp melodies. Comparisons can be drawn at nearly every angle, from Juha Harju’s Nergal-like growl to the thick and chunky ZYKLON-esque guitars. This lack of complete and unique identity hurts the overall package, but certainly ascertains that quality is evident. When SHADE EMPIRE decides to break away from the pack, it is almost single-handedly accomplished with the strokes of Olli Savolainen’s fingers, morphing a synth performance into an established and developed musical piece which forms the back-bone of the compositions. At the same time, this sort of detracts from the Death Metal route and solidifies the fact that these guys will appeal to a niche Extreme Metal audience.
My biggest complaint with this band is their inability to really turn a composition into over-drive. At times a certain passion seems to be lacking as we have fast tempos yet no real balls or substance. I’m not explicitly demanding a Thrash break or nose-dive guitar solo, but the riffs seem to continually be missing that spark which grabs you by the scrotum and forces you to bang your goddamn head. Despite the obvious effort put into this release, I do not find myself replaying any moments in my head once the sound-waves cut out. Memorability is an important factor when considering the longevity of a release, and longevity is of course mandatory when considering quality; I’ll let you do the math on this one.
The occasional curve-ball is of course appreciated, including a strong clean vocal performance during “Rat In A Maze” (no, not the smashing pumpkins cut) and a plethora of strange synth effects which always keep you guessing. Those latter moments may come across as a bit gimmicky, but they do much more for the quality than the guitar riffing. The actual song structures are also commendable in their quirky nature and unpredictable behavior which causes a bit of grief when one considers the weakest link is one of the more de-emphasized portions of this band’s sound.
SHADE EMPIRE offers a somewhat well-developed record which will extend a more thorough experience than the majority of half-assed Metal floating around out there. At the same time, one cannot kid themselves and expect a classic or a set of compositions which will invade your skull and refuse to let go. By that token, this is likely one of the many records which will not be remembered 5 years from now, for better or for worse.
(Online January 21, 2007)