After two well-received if, in my opinion, spotty albums, SHADE EMPIRE heaved up a massive effort with “Zero Nexus”. The smorgasbord of Melodic Thrash, Technical Death Metal and synthesized chaos with an Industrial sheen they're going for manifests with a brighter, colder light here. They sound less confused, less influenced and more their own. It ain't perfect, but it's worth a listen. For reasons I shall now divulge.
The opening two bursts of adrenalin, for example, are both tight, technical tyrants, bristling with mechanically precise drumming, pinpricking synths and the slavering, throaty rasps of Juha Harju. Janne Niiranen and Juha Sirkkia can really move their Finnish Finngers, whipping out a buttload of tight-ass riffs and executing volatile pace changes while drummer Erno Rasanen would hold his own in a premier Tech Death band easily, even though he is downplayed by the clanking mix. Which is deliberate, I can only assume.
'Cause the mix sounds great - right from the kickoff, as the needling, modernistic Thrash riffs on “9 In 1” bloom with the harshly Industrial drum sound and the celestial synths. The aforementioned synths eerily complement the OBSCURA-like switches between pacey kicks and epic blasts on “Adam & Eve”. Best possible songs to introduce this album and real iPod fodder.
I've obviously established with my typed masturbation that “Zero Nexus” opens like a boss. The album's middle is a bit wobbly however, with a few tracks feeling too derivative to deliver the sizzling pizza of Technical and Industrial promised with the openers. “Blood Colours The White” clearly has some DIMMU BORGIR machinations going on, think “Puritanical Miscellaneous Enemas” or whatever it was called, a load of power chords and electronic sounds. The ethnic-sounding chants in the mid-section are quality though. “Flesh Relinquished” and “Serpent-Angel” get all NIGHTWISH, era 2002-ish, with grandiose synth backing, tinkling keys and choral sounds. The vocals on the latter ineptly ape Dani Filth for some reason. “Whisper From The Depths” tries for and almost achieves a gloomy, schizophrenic switch-back between maudlin mysticism and malevolent chugging, but feels unfinished. Awful male clean vocals.
There's plenty to invest for though, if the idea of techy stuff with extra atmosphere has piqued your interest and you need a fix now that FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE have probably jumped the shark. “Harvesters Of Death” is appropriately tense, and again reminds that behind all the wash of cold keyboards and ambitious trappings is a decent Technical Death Metal band. With, I might add, a penchant for captivating climaxes of atmosphere - the development of this one from aggression to emotion is excellent. “Ecstasy of Black Light” meanwhile finally catches the same mix of vicious and voluminous the album's beginning had, with great, grinding Melodic Death Metal type riffs and aching leads. Another fucking terrific last minute as the song builds in some Post-Rock and Trance influences.
“Victory” is among the best Progressive and or Technical Death Metal pieces I've heard. Here is its very own paragraph. There are nine and a half minutes of very convincing badassery. Huge choral opening. Fuck-you Thrash riff verses. Beautiful power chords-keyboards combo in the chorus. Sweet breakdowns. Madcap, sneering snarls. More cool ethnic chants. Fucking saxophone solos. Post-Rock guitar strumming and narration for the lead-out. Huge acapella growl for the signoff. Press repeat.
There are some awesome-as-fuck songs, lots of cool guitar riffs strewn around and a host of ideas that clearly have had a lot of effort put into their realization. It's the best things these fellows have come up with. However, partly due to the amount going on, and to a little bit of inconsistency despite the apt way the album's various sounds are tied together throughout, I can't promise an enthralling ride all the way.
(Online January 4, 2012)