Wow, this is quite some album! Relentless effortlessly cuts across several rock genres to showcase something really quite fresh and captivating – welcome to the new Empyre! The UK rock band, who recently signed to Kscope, will release their new album on 31st March.
Empyre are a foursome, with Henrik Steenholdt on vocals and guitar: Did Coles on lead guitar; Grant Hockley on bass and Elliot Bale on drums. They now find themselves alongside the likes of TesseracT, The Pineapple Thief and Envy of None, on a label that has previously released albums from Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree and Tangerine Dream.
“Joining the Kscope family of artists feels like a validation of us as songwriters. We have a sense of reassurance, and we’re really proud to be a part of it.” says frontman Henrik. Since their debut album Self Aware in 2019, Empyre have won Classic Rock Magazine’s “Track Of The Week” on three separate occasions alongside a ‘High Hopes’ feature, while Kerrang! described their sound as “slick, vast and like the music was written with the help of an architectural blueprint for an arena”. On the strength of their performance at the 2020 Winter’s End show, Planet Rock immediately booked them for the Planet Rockstock 2021 main stage….
So there’s definitely some critical awareness and acceptance out there!
Widely regarded as one of the hardest working bands of the past few years, Empyre recorded Relentless between pandemic lockdowns and during their previous album’s (The Other Side) release cycle. Once again they encamped at Parlour Recording Studio, Kettering for recording with Neil Haynes, before handing mixing duties to Chris Clancy at Audioworks (Machine Head, Those Damn Crows, Massive Wagons) – who has magnified the band’s dark, emotional, rock sound with an elevated deep richness.
Aside from their high aspirations and determination, Empyre do definitely display a darkly self-deprecating sense of humour, and have what it takes to stand out from the crowd by delivering an engaging, if unsettling mix of melancholy, hope, and hopelessness, often within the same song….
The album starts with the title track, showcasing the band’s work ethic and ethos. It’s a stonking, full-on hard rock track, setting the tone in terms of intensity – see the video below. The track has a big sound production, some great riff-work, punchy percussion, booming bass, tasty lead licks and strong vocals – all in all there’s a real anthemic arena-rock feel to it. The band are up-front about being keen to create ‘arena rock’, aiming to be playing on the BIG stages. Certainly Henrik is looking forward to being on those iconic stages and giving it some. The band are regularly being compared to a mix of the likes of Alter Bridge, Soundgarden, Dire Straits and Muse, and it’s clear that Empyre write music with the big stage in mind.
Waking Light is next, it’s their new single and it’s another really powerful, quite heavy rock number. An interesting take on this is that the band decided to create both the video and single cover entirely from scratch…with a little help from AI. Under huge debate at present as to the value of AI in Art, with some thinking that AI threatens creativity with programmable sequencing already reaching the ability to craft entire songs and map out artwork, the band are instead keen to embrace this advancement of technology, and the video aims to open the conversation as to where do we stand with the use of AI.
Parasites has a wide-screen cinematic feel to it, a punchy but more ponderous track that is another very clever composition – these guys are top class song-creators, the word songwriter seems somehow inadequate to capture what they build into a 4-5 minute long piece of modern rock music. Suffice to say, this is great stuff, I love it! Cry Wolf is more pacey from the start, a big, big chorus before a staccato middle section works as a bridge. The song continues in this stop-start-chorus vein, I’m maybe less convinced by this one to start with?
Hit and Run in contrast is a gentler, quite emotional and powerful balladic track, flowing smoothly between my lugs! It’s quite a sad song, recalling Danish singer Henrik’s returning to a town where he used to live, and realising there was nothing there he could relate to any more. It’s got quite a warm, dreamy tempo to it, a bit of an 80’s vibe, I have to say it’s rather good!
Forget Me showcases the album’s emotive edge, as the haunting, delicate ballad builds to a euphoric ending, a song that would be at home on the arena stage. Silence is Screaming is again haunting but in a different style – I think the quality of the production definitely adds to this ambience. Lots of twists within a very guitar-led sound.
Road to Nowhere starts off like a sort of new-age, mega-heavy, chord-led Dire Straits, and perhaps that captures the band’s spirit – that sense of depth, melody, guitar-driven tales, all delivered through Henrik’s characteristically gruff vocals. Another high quality change of gear towards the end works sooo well!
Quiet Commotion is, at 6:10 minutes, the album’s longest track, and has a slow, modern-bluesy feel, atmospheric, elegaic, relatively melancholic. First time around it feels like a lot to take in but I can confirm it’s definitely a grower! The song-set is brought to and end by Your Whole Life Slows, another smoothly atmospheric almost bluesy number that makes me think of Chris Rea in his pomp, albeit considerably beefed up on the chord-side! There is a sense of conclusion here, aptly bringing the show to a close.
Altogether, this is a really fine set of songs from a band that I believe are going be huge – slick, exquisitely composed and produced, very more-ish, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! There’s a nice, both atmospheric but crisp, vibe running through the album as whole, they’re a really good, tightly-knit set of musicians who have created some top-rate “earworm music” (!) and mark my words, this album is going to go stratospheric – I’m so looking forward to seeing it live!
Relentless will be released on various formats including limited editions , all being available to pre-order here: https://empyre.lnk.to/Relentless
EMPYRE LIVE IN THE UK
March 11th – Album Listening Party, Northampton Filmhouse (SOLD OUT)
March 11th – The Black Prince, Northampton (SOLD OUT)
April 22nd – KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton
April 30th – Station 18 Festival, Swansea
June 2nd – LoveRocks Festival, Bournemouth
July 30th – Steelhouse Festival, Wales