Review : THE EMPIRE SHALL FALL – "Awaken"

The Empire Shall FallAwaken
released November 19, 2009 on Angle Side Side Records
added to WRUV on February 16, 2010

Rating : 4 / 5

I’ll admit it, I was wrong. Because of half-researched information, I have been incorrectly stating for years than former Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach had blown his throat out. Though he had focused less on harsh vocals for the two Seemless albums, there were still occasional hints. One thing is for sure:  Awaken is better than the last two releases from either of those bands.

The differences are obvious from the get-go. The quintet blends the vicious catchiness of At The Gates with obtuse moments that channel Meshuggah, while projecting a sociopolitical Hardcore heart. Their harmonizations are great, but TESF still keeps you off guard with mood changers and feigned endings, like on the title track.

“Choir Of Angels” comes close to sounding like Between The Buried And Me, but doesn’t quite jell. It starts on a strong gallop and fades into a nice mid-paced section with Middle Eastern guitar leads. But then – after the spoken word segment clearly illustrates the song’s 9/11 theme – we enter the song’s third part. It seems to end, only to conclude with an ethereal instrumental. They must either fluidly execute this style or abandon it, because it is frustrating otherwise.

I appreciate the band’s quirkiness, like the jazzy interlude in the middle of “We The People”. But this is where Leach gets a too heavy-handed for his own good, barking clichéd vitriolic battle charges that sound written by a collegiate communist convert. “These Colors Bleed” is more successful as a thrashing onslaught with melodic chorus that descends into “The Paradoxical Spiral” from Catch 33 at the two-minute mark, and echoes a new slant on an old theme for the chorus. “Our Own” is a tad repetitive and grating, but “The Kingdom” ends in fine form.

While many folks know by now, I’ll repeat that Jesse Leach recently performed onstage with KsE, who has been fronted by All That Remains‘ Phil Labonte in the absence of Howard Jones on this tour. Jones may be a fundamentally better vocalist compared with Leach, but he has been underutilized in Killswitch. Though I prefer Leach’s work with that band, I hope The Empire Shall Fall evolves into an altogether powerful new force.

Try 1, 3, 6, 8

01. Awaken
02. Lords of War
03. Voices Forming Weapons
04. Choir of Angels
05. We the People
06. These Colors Bleed
07. Our Own
08. The Kingdom

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