Two years ago I was not thoroughly impressed by the EMPIRE debut "Hypnotica", so my enthusiasm about "Trading Souls" originally had been rather limited. Their Melodic Rock had been quite nice, but that was about it, there was nothing that made the album stand out in any way, so any changes with the second one?
The most prominent change is in the line up, more precisely behind the mic, where former VANIZE guitarist and head of EMPIRE Rolf Munkes now has enlisted former BLACK SABBATH singer Tony Martin, whose participation on classics like "Headless Cross" and "Tyr" still, to me, is among the best performances the British legend ever has seen. But also Neil Murray (former WHITESNAKE) and Don Airey (among others ex BLACK SABBATH) can be found in the line up, so a quite exquisite crew that Munkes has assembled around him.
But on to the songs, and "One In A Million" is not exactly the perfect opener, because it more or less continues in the vein of the previous album, nice, not exactly boring, but somewhat uninspiring. Yet following this, we get quite some better material, like in the good ballad "Teenage Deadhead" (isn't it a fitting title for a ballad? ;) and the energetic "Big World, Little Man" or the very catchy "You" with some spirited melodies.
After that not all the songs can keep this level, but "Perfect Singularity" and "Did You Ever Love Me" are still good rockers that should satisfy every fan of Melodic Rock that rather has tendencies towards Hard Rock than the sappiness of many colleagues and that Tony Martin has a damn great voice, well, we knew that before already, didn't we? Exactly!
So "Trading Souls" is definitely a big step forward from "Hypnotica" and shows some really inspired compositions that in combination with Martin's excellent voice work out very well for my ears and that the production is top notch, well, I hardly have to mention that anymore, do I? Didn't think so. So if you like the description above, go and check out EMPIRE's second, this is good stuff! (Online July 20, 2003)