January 28, 2010 | | 3.5

The Empire Shall Fall, Awaken

The Empire Shall Fall: Awaken

No offense to Howard Jones (you’re a killer front man), but Killswitch Engage was never the same (at least for me) after Jesse Leach left the band in 2002 — it’s because of Leach that Alive or Just Breathing is still in constant rotation on my stereo. That said, I hated Seemless, Leach’s attempt at a solid rock sound. Thankfully, dude has decided to stretch his vocals, letting loose with some of the best screams/growls/crooning combinations I’ve heard from the guy in a long while.

While The Empire Shall Fall falls within the metalcore tag, they are not merely Killswitch Engage part deux. Drawing inspiration from the likes of At The Gates, the band has also injected their own quirky interests into the mix (jazz, punk and a bit of experimental). The combined effect is Awaken, eight songs of pretty damned good music that sees leach delivering a variety of vocal ranges and messages of a political nature.

The title track is comprised mostly of Leach’s softer side with good singing, but it also sees him unleash some sweet growls and shrieks that remind of his previous work with Killswitch Engage. Overall the song has a bit of a Meshuggah feel with off kilter timing and thick riffing. The softer portion of the song around 2:30 is a bit cheesy for my liking, but it only proves to how well these guys can lay down some punishing grooves. The screams that follow that slower section are impressive. “Awaken” is a damned fine way to introduce yourself to the world.

Lords of War
“Lords of War” is a pretty furious song with big screams, driving riffs and an up-tempo rhythm. Man, it’s good to hear Leach unleash his screams — which dominate the majority of this song. There’s a nice groove flowing through the underbelly of this song. The lead at 1:45 has a bit of a rock vibe to it, while the rest of the guys lay down some thick mosh behind it. The arpeggio sweeps around 2:40 are a nice touch as Leach screams.

Voices Forming Weapons
Clean vocals with a bit of an effect added fade in as the drums and steady riffs arrive on the scene. The vocals quickly shift to some impressive screams as the chugging riffs settle into a decent groove. I’m digging the new approach to his delivery that Leach is showcasing here. The clean vocals are well done and don’t simply ape the work he did with Killswitch Engage so many years ago. Hell the dude has even added in an alright deeper growl that adds to his repertoire another vocal weapon.

Choir of Angels
Now here we go! “Choir of Angels” erupts out of the gate with blasting Swedish death metal. Leaches vocals are back by some seriously deep guttural growls in the first moments of the song. This track is full throttle for the majority of it, but also throws in some nice variation on the guitars with a bit of a jazz presence to the noodling. Man, this is one pissed off song. The aggressive nature of the song keeps up until about the 4:12 mark with the mood shifts dramatically atmospheric and moody guitars that go on for another minute or so to end out the song.

We the People
“We The People” immediately brings us back up to speed with thundering drums and semi-melodic riffing. The vocals are fairly clean to begin with and shift to a spoken delivery in the lighter portions of the song, but Leach does belt out some decent screams and barks here and there. It’s not a bad song, but a bit on the mellower side, even with the burly finish.

These Colors Bleed
The guitar work that starts off this next one is pretty memorable and stays the course when the drums come in along with Leach’s quickly delivered barks. The clean chorus is a nice change from the more aggressive, thrash like vocals that dominate the song. Leach shows more versatility throughout the song leaving no doubt in any one’s mind that he’s still got it. You’ll be head banging along with this song in no time, especially during the thick mosh after the two minute mark, as well as the riffing after the three minute mark.

Our Own
“Our Own” has some big riffs to get it going with a brief belch from Leach. The song has a more technical feel to it with strictly timed mosh, melodic guitars and a varied vocal delivery. Holy crap that’s some heavy riffing at 1:30 — a stark contrast to the lighter side of the song. The jazzy elements in this one give it a bit of a spastic feel with plenty of action, layers and tempo shifts to entertain even those of you who forgot your Ritalin this morning.

The Kingdom
Some decent and memorable moshing starts off the final song Jesse Leach’s return to form. His vocals take a bit of a back seat to the riffing and drum work, but still have plenty of power and dominance in their delivery. The guitar work at 1:30 is pretty sweet. It’s not the strongest song on the album, but a decent enough way to close out a pretty damned good album.

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