I’ll be honest, I only got interested in DARK EMPIRE one album ago, when I learned that it was Jens Carlsson’s current band. Now, two things are to mention about that man: One, he’s got a voice that sounds an awful lot like BLIND GUARDIAN’s Hansi Kürsch. Two, he cannot seem to be able to focus on one project - most Power Metal fans will remember him as SAVAGE CIRCUS’ singer. And guess what? Yep, he left DARK EMPIRE too. So needless to say, I was a little bit worried about this new album.
Well, here comes some good news and bad news. Good news? This album isn’t a disaster, it’s actually pretty good. Plus, new singer Brian Larkin does a very more-than-decent job, doing a very good blend of singing somewhat like Kürsch and Carlsson without sounding like a rehash. Furthermore, guitarist and songwriter Matt Moliti does great growling backing vocals just like he did on "Humanity Dethroned". The bad news? Well, read on…
Most songs on this album are good. Not great, but good. Highlights include the title track, “A Plague In The Throne Room," “The Crimson Portrait,” and “What Men Call Hatred." The one big problem is the final and longest track on the album, “The Cleansing Fires." I love lengthy, epic tracks, but this one is just boring as heck. Disappointing, since the band proved during “Refuge” that they’re able to do them – the title track clocks in at over nine minutes – but “Cleansing” just doesn’t work at all.
All in all, this is just one of these albums that are very competent and well-written, but a few lackluster tracks and one missing “special element” make it go down from “great” to “decent-good”. If you need a Melodic/Power Metal fix, this is not the worst album you could pick for that, not by a long shot, but it sure isn’t the best.
(Online May 24, 2012)