Release DetailsLABEL AvantGarde
RELEASED ON 3/5/2004
posted on 6/2004 By:
For a people well-known for drunkenness and depression, the Finns sure do love their melody. It’s getting to the point where I can tell on first listen whether or not a band is Finnish. Fortunately, I love the melodies that flow from my new favorite metal land, as it always comes wrapped in quality and thoughtfulness. Apparently Shade Empire are a black metal band, but as you can imagine, this is as symphonic and melodious as a black metal album can ever be. The BM purists naturally will immediately scoff at even calling this black. I can hear the similarities to other symphonic black bands, but the keyboard melodies are just so damn grandiose and joyful and catchy! If Nightwish ever tried to release a black metal album, I imagine that this would be the result. No disrespect to the band, but to drive this point home, I spun this for a metal buddy of mine and he described it as “Muppet Black Metal”. This provoked a series of ludicrous mental images.
So about the band… Shade Empire are a six-piece act, drums, bass, two guitars, keys, one vocalist, none of whose names I recognize from being in other notable bands, although Nightwish’s Marco Hietala makes a guest appearance. Vocalist Juha Harju relies on a snarling, harsh delivery, coming out like Pekka Kokko (Kalmah). The rest of the band has the symphonic metal thing down to a science. Antti Markonen can hold a fast blast, while Olli Savolainen’s synth sets a haunting mood, even though he may be a little too sweet for some to digest. The stringsmen stay out of the spotlight, letting the other three stay front and center, although they’ve got a few nasty riffs sprinkled throughout the album.
Sinthetic is a solid album through and through if you can tolerate the happy keys. The stellar Studio Perkele mix is geared towards the high end. The level of musicianship on display is more than competent and the songwriting is consistently solid. “Extreme Form of Hatred” is one of the catchiest heavy songs I’ve heard this year. Great stuff. On the other hand, “Conjuration” and “Ja Pimeys Laskeutui” should please the Borgir fans (although I find Shade Empire to be far more interesting than DB). While I hate to keep rehashing the same reference, all I can think of when I hear these guys is that Sinthetic is what Nightwish would sound like if they dropped Tarja and just played the heaviest metal that they’re capable of pulling off.
Shade Empire really ought to appeal to the symphonic black fans, especially those that can appreciate the lighter side of the metal spectrum. I don’t know what they feed the populace over in Scandinavia, but the quality of some of these debut albums is just fantastic. For a good time in the fine Finnish tradition, this is a recommended buy.
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