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Dark Empire
From Refuge to Ruin
June 2012
Released: 2012, Nightmare Records
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Waspman

You have to hand it to Dark Empire. The band has been working hard to forge their own identity since inception in 2004. The band’s previous albums with Jens Carlsson (Persuader, Savage Circus) were an intriguing mix of power metal and melodic death metal, sent skyward by Carlsson’s masterful vocals. Jens has since amicably left the band, but leader Moliti has pressed onward, hiring American vocalist Brian Larkin as capable replacement pipes. The band has evolved musically as well by incorporating significant progressive elements into the music.

Let’s start with newest element: Larkin’s vocals. The guy has a distinctive sound that touches on the style that Carlsson brought, but is clearly his own as well. All told, I found him hit or miss, but the more I listened, the more I warmed to him. Moliti’s growls are still present, and still somewhat lacklustre. Musically, the hit or miss theme applies as well. Some tracks, like opener “A Plague in the Throne Room” slam both aggressively and majestically, but others, especially the longer ones (title track, “The Cleansing Fires”) drag on without reason. That said, every song has at least one or two catchy riffs or memorable vocal melodies. Plus, you have to admire the way that the band can seamlessly meld two apparently disparate genres like melodic death metal and progressive metal.

Unfortunately I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is about this album that doesn’t click. As I said there are some great moments peppered throughout, but no full song sticks with me. Still, these guys are definitely worth a listen, if only for the fact that they deserve respect for building a catalogue that is distinctly theirs.
Track Listing

1. A Plague in the Throne Room
2. Dreaming In Vengeance
3. The Crimson Portrait
4. Dark Seeds of Depravity
5. From Refuge to Ruin
6. Lest Ye Be Judged
7. What Men Call Hatred
8. Black Hearts Demise
9. The Cleansing Fire


Matt Moliti: Guitar, Harsh Vocals
Brian Larkin: Clean Vocals
Randy Knecht: Bass
Matt Graff: Session Drums
Jeremy Krull: Session Keyboards

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