|Symphonic Gothic Metal
September 29th, 2014
Release length: 43:06
If you assumed that White Empress would have a strong Cradle of Filth presence, you would be half right. There’s no denying that Paul’s signature blend of Gothic riffs and epic overtones are on display, but also some grandiose Dimmu Borgir and even The Agonist elements, not to mention clean singing that is reminiscent of early Kittie albums with hints of Electronica thrown in. “Rise of the Empress” introduces much of these points of reference cloaked a dismal symphonic world with additional effects that bring the once early era opus vibe into a modern Steampunk and Industrial venue a minute in. Once “The Congregation” kicks in, the Symphonic Gothic Metal tone of the album is established with a rather dull overall sound. The sharper guitars sound fairly thin and weak, as are the drums and choir chants in the background. The bass does help give a little more backbone, and the vocals on display have a great deal of range to them that works with the atmosphere that seems to bounce all over the place over the course of the next few tracks.
“A Prisoner Unleashed” does find some richer guitars that also bring in some Melodic Death Metal traits akin to Arch Enemy, though these are fairly short within the symphonic passages. “Darkness Encroaching” starts off with some Electronica that doesn’t really establish the aggressive piece that follows. There’s a good deal of symphonies present, as well as some effects in the background that sound oddly like turn tables scratching but incredibly muffled to hide it, all in what seems like an effort to make the song sound a lot busier than it really is, an idea the altered vocals only make more believable. Sadly, this is a poor choice, especially when the melodic chorus kicks in with some simpler material that really puts the rest of the performance to shame.
“Sven’s Tower” is really where the album starts to take shape. It sticks closer to that chorus through most of the song, and it really does work in the band’s favor. Yes the thin sound does still take away some of the bite, but the lack of keyboards really dominating the mix like on most tracks allows the twang of the bass guitar to come through a little more and help establish more of a subtle musical environment that sounds a hell of a lot more consistent in comparison to the many enthusiastic and generally louder cuts on this effort. “Obsession with the Empress” does pull that instrument to the forefront as well, though the backbone of the performance relies on being more industrialized with some Melodic Death Metal touches in spots. “Erased and Rewritten” shows more of a Cradle of Filth influence, but never really gets too out of hand thanks to the concentration this time on the vocals and hooks. There’s a simple epic level that is felt through the performance, and the harsher vocal delivery incorporate an extra level of visceral aggression, even with the quick effect layered on them towards the end.
Rise of the Empress starts off incredibly rocky, but once you reach “Sven’s Tower”, the rest of the recording does start to flow within a general direction instead of being highly varied and dominated by the symphonic aspect of their sound. While it’s still not an incredibly original sounding effort, fans of Paul Allender and his past guitar work will appreciate what he is attempted to do with this band, and find enough unique material to justify revisiting Rise of the Empress, even though the final product doesn’t quite sound right most of the time thanks to thinner sounding instruments that would greatly benefit from a far richer presence, like what is found on “A Prisoner Unleashed”. For now, this is a pleasant starting point with a few downfalls that ly correct themselves as you go, leaving you with an assurance that, over time, White Empress will continue to grow and hone in on the direction they want to move in, trimming some of the fat that doesn’t quite need to exist in their already broad established sound.
01. Rise of the Empress – 2:33
02. The Congregation – 4:04
03. A Prisoner Unleashed – 3:43
04. Darkness Encroaching – 5:01
05. Sven’s Tower – 5;06
06. Erased and Rewritten – 3:34
07. The Ecstatic and the Sorrow – 4:43
08. Dethroned – 4:51
09. Obsession with the Empress – 5:28
10. Ours to Burn – 4:03
|Initial Pressing Score: 6/10
via Fresno Media.