Matt Moliti’s Dark Empire offers a mix of power, prog, and thrash elements with a lot of shred and powerful vocals on their debut album DISTANT TIDES. Most of you will not recognize Matt’s name…yet. With the amount of talent he possesses he could very well have a bright future in metal. Matt, who’s been playing guitar since he was 13, attended the Berklee College of Music where his guitar teacher was none other than Joe Stump. The name from Dark Empire that many will recognize is vocalist Jens Carlsson of Persuader and Savage Circus. Rounding out the line-up is bassist Noah Martin (Lilitu) and Teemu Tahkanen (DIG).
The six-track album opens with “We Will Never Die”. It starts out sounding like a more typical power metal song before moving into heavier riffs that are not far removed from something you might hear from Persuader. This track has a flashy guitar solo, followed by a keyboard solo, and then finishes off with more guitar leads with some cool sounding sweeping. Next up is “The Alchemist” which is currently my favorite track on here along with the song “Northern Sky”. “The Alchemist” is one of the faster tracks although it never goes to all out speed metal tempo. I really like the solo on this one, it’s not all shred but has memorable slower parts as well. “A Soul Divided” begins with a thrashy triplet pattern riff whose heaviness is muted by the overlain keyboard part. This one features some death metal styled vocals that doesn’t sound like Jens singing. These vocals don’t really fit the song or the albums’ overall style, but it’s not annoying to the point of hitting the skip button. The death vocals return in the album’s title track, “Distant Tides”, and fit the song better here. “Distant Tides” starts like it could be a slower mid-era Soilwork style song before moving into more of a prog feel (imagine the Symphony X style mixed with parts of the Gothenburg sound). The song is one of the slower paced on here. Album closer and instrumental “The Final Vision” is over 7mins long. Most songs on here are between 5-6+ mins long making the length of a six song album comparable to some bands’ 10 song albums. “The Final Vision” is good and does have some great lead playing but it also drives home that if this were an album of all instrumentals it wouldn’t have been nearly as impressive. Thankfully Matt is not just a shredder, he has great riffs and is able to write songs that serve as more than time filler until a solo comes along.
Although this album is great and the playing is all top notch, I wonder if the line-up will remain intact for the next album?! Jens is busy in 2 other bands, so who knows. If he’s not involved Dark Empire will have some large shoes to fill that’s for sure. Matt’s songs are the thing that keeps this alive though, so as long as he has the right mix of musicians with him, I’m sure we’ll hear more great stuff like this from him and Dark Empire.
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