Well, I wouldn’t have expected this kind of improvement in all fields. The debut was good, but it couldn’t stand out. With “Black Empire” this has somewhat changed. A wholly different calibre, it has become darker, heavier – simply better. The songs are horror stories put to music altogether, wrapped in traditional heavy music from the eighties, topped off by a thick, contemporary but not modern production. Those who can imagine an updated version of MERCYFUL FATE know how FORCE OF EVIL sound.
Time and time again there are FATE quotes, the whole lead guitar work can’t deny its origin. Why should it do so, as they have aboard one of the dream guitar duos ever, that’s why the guys do what they are best at: solos, hammer riffs, breaks and duels until the vertebras crack…Magnificient! Vocally there’s nothing to complain about either, while I found Mr. Martin Steene to poser-like on the debut, I have to applaud in excitement now. The man probably divides the opinions similarly to King Diamond with his voice, as he cries nearly equivalently…Sounds a bit different than the King, but it’s equally extreme! There are technically better vocalists, but (meanwhile) he has charisma.
The most important thing are the songs however, and they have something to show: Starting with the mean opener “Black Empire” to “Back To Hell”, a first-class smasher, to the epic, grandiose “Days Of Damien” to the closing sweeper “S.O.S.” there’s headbang stuff of the finest sort. Sound guru Neil Kernon truly turns this album into an aural experience. Only the chorus of “Beyond The Gates” is to cheap to me…Otherwise a very neat album that easily beats the MERCYFUL FATE albums after “Don’t Break The Oath”. (Online July 25, 2005)