Last Empire - Last Empire
Self Financed
Darkened Power Metal
8 songs (52:16)
Release year: 2003
Last Empire
Reviewed by Mike

Judging from the cover art and the song titles, many would be quick to dismiss this band as yet another happy power metal band singing about unicorns, dragons, elves, and brave warriors. As the saying goes: Don't judge a book (or CD) by its cover. These guys are miles away from the dozens of soulless Helloween copycat bands that flood the market today. Furthermore, these guys are from the Pacific Northwest, birthplace of the much hated grunge movement of the 1990's. Hence, I extend an extra round of "hails" to the guys of Last Empire for putting together such a fine record in a place that has not been so receptive to this type of band for nearly the last 15 years.

As I touched on above, Last Empire is not your cookie cutter power metal band. There are no uplifting keyboard textures, no catchy chorus lines, and no extensive use of harmonized vocals. What these bring to the table is a brand of power metal that is darker than most, with hints of Helstar-ish thrash and even death metal in the recipe. Additionally, the band does not rely heavily on the use of melodies to build the songs upon. The songs feature variable speeds, tempos, and emotions, able to take an unexpected left turn in the middle of the song. With most of the songs falling in the 6-8 minute range, they each have an epic feeling without going off on an unnecessary (and boring) tangent. Last Empire are able to transform a song from a blistering, powerful anthem into a dark, sludgy song and back again at any second. The transition between moods, speed, and tempo sounds very natural; it is a testament to the band's songwriting skills. A greater portion of the album see the lead vocals stay in the higher registers, but they do dive into death metal growling territory when the mood of the song calls for it. As I mentioned above, the songs do not rely on catchy melodies and chorus lines to get you hooked. Instead, the guys incorporate a fairly technical musical performance into their sound, which keeps things interesting. The guitar work in particular is excellent, reminding me of Watchtower or even Crimson Glory to a lesser degree. Furthermore, the riffing is bold and intricate, and there is no shortage of shredding and Maiden-esque dual guitar rhythms. The general atmosphere of the music is dark, but heavy and powerful at the same time.

For those who have complained about the monotony of the power metal scene in recent years, Last Empire is a band you should check out. The guys refuse to exist within the typical constraints of the power metal genre. Their music is dark and powerful, rather than melodic and uplifting. Individual musical performances are much more technical (and thus more interesting to the ear) than most of what's on the market today. However, the technical quality of the music does not become self indulgent, nor does it sacrifice the integrity of the songs. As you would naturally expect from a self financed effort, the production is quite thin and the bass seems to be a little too low in the mix. It's not by any means poor enough to ruin the experience. I was able to adjust after the first few minutes of the album. If the band takes the time to develop some relationships with some labels, I see no reason why they can't land themselves a deal in the near future. They do have a distribution deal with Underground Symphony, but this release is self financed. Last Empire are a talented band (both musically and with songwriting), and they take a risk to expand the limits of power metal and it pays off.

Killing Songs :
Trilogy of the Unicorn, Gods of Fire and Steel
Mike quoted 74 / 100
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