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Released: 2014, Empire 21 Records
Empire 21 is another band that calls Sweden home, the country arguably being the capital of the metal world at this point. EMPIRE 21 is the debut album that features some well-traveled veterans of melodic metal. Guitarist CJ Grimmark (Narnia, Fullforce, Rob Rock, Saviour Machine), drummer Tobias Enbert (Darkwater, Harmony), Andreas Ålöv on bass, John Svensson (Harmony) on keyboards and singer Ricard Hulteke. Hulteke is relatively unknown, but establishes himself as a major strength of EMPIRE 21. Likewise, the production team delivers the appropriate mix and mastering, mixed by Tobias Lindell and mastered by Thomas "Plec" Johansson, both who have worked for the likes of Europe, Hardcore Superstar, and Divinefire.
EMPIRE 21 is characterized by fairly heavy riffs but always with a purpose towards melody and inspired choruses. The rhythm section delivers a direct fist pump as well, not surprisingly much of this resembling Fullforce. Songs like “I Can’t” and “This Is My Story” provide basic verse rhythms allowing Hulteke to be the showcase and carry the song. “When You’re Falling”, “Empire 21” and “All Is Lost”, the latter being one of the best tunes on the album, include heavier guitars that set up big choruses. Mixing things up a bit is “Traveller”, the intro and clean verse guitars sounding a bit like something that might start off a Slaughter or Tesla song before things get chunky again. Grimmark’s solos are tasteful and at times a flurry of fast melodic passages. He impressively puts his stamp on much of the album.
EMPIRE 21 is an album that has no bad songs, everything well written and performed. The songs are mostly compact instead of overlong, with more than half being under four minutes. The only drawback is that it is also a standard melodic metal album of the variety offered by at least a dozen bands, not designed to push boundaries or deliver original interpretations of the style. At the end of the day there are enough hooks, big choruses, and strong musicianship to satisfy a wide range of fans.
1. When Your Falling
2. I Can’t
3. All Is Lost
5. Empire 21
6. 100 Nights
7. Heard It All
8. This Is My Story
10. Would You
11. No Matter the Winds of Change
Ricard Hulteke - Vocals
CJ Grimmark - Guitars
Andreas Ålöv - Bass
John Svensson - Keyboards
Toby Enbert - Drums
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