Reviewed by Matthew Cordle
Empire Nation are a Cambridge-based four-piece who came together in 2007 "to change the world, one riff at a time!" and with three years playing together and an EP under their belts, they now release their debut full length album. From the opening few bars it's obvious that a lot of hard work and care has gone into crafting the music, and this is echoed by the quality of the supporting artwork and the band's website. The immediate impression is that these guys can not only play, but groove together. The band has drafted in the UK's guitar virtuoso Dan Wheeler to co-produce and together they have delivered a high quality, consistent sound that brings to mind a mix of Delirious?, Leeland, Simple Minds and occasional hints of Morrissey's vocal tone (minus the angst!). The guitar playing is excellent, the two guitarists interweaving and naturally complementing each other, the bass and drums are rock solid and Ed Bird's voice soars over the top, well supported by the layered backing vocal harmonies. The result is music that flows and drives without a misstep in sight and gets the feet tapping. Highlights include the lovely chorus melody of "River Of Heaven Flow Through Me," the sweet opening to "Rhythm Is Mine" and the declaration of God's attributes in "Light My Way." There are plenty of great guitar riffs although not as many instantly memorable vocal hooks or profound lyrics as on recent records from the likes of Downhere. Also, to my ears the tracks have also been over-compressed, and coupled with the fact there are only two quieter songs at the end of the CD ("Deserts" and the acoustic reprise of "Tonight") there is a lack of variation in dynamic range which weakens the album. However, overall this is an excellent full length debut and thoroughly recommended. It's not easy to make a living as an independent band, but the likes of Marillion and Ozric Tentacles have proved it can be done. Empire Nation are clearly a band to watch out for in the future.
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