Empire - Hypnotica (Lion Music ) 2001
Empire are a prog-metal supergroup made up of Lance King: Vocals (Balance of Power, King's Machine, Pyramaze), Rolf Munkes: Guitars (Razorback), Bass, Neil Murray: Bass (Whitesnake, Gary Moore, Company of Snakes), Mark Boals; Vocals On Tracks 3 & 8 (Yngwie Malmsteen), Anders Johansson: Drums On Tracks 3 & 12 (Yngwie Malmsteen, Hammerfall), Don Airey (Deep Purple, Ozzy, Whitesnake, Uli Roth, Rainbow) and Gerald Kloos: Drums. A list of well known musicians does not neccessarily make for a good album though. However, vocalist Lance King has never failed to disappoint me in any project he has sang on and Empire is no exception. This is simply a fantastic progressive rock/metal CD. Unlike Lance's other bands, however, Empire takes on a slightly more rock sound, as opposed to the more metal sounds of Balance of Power. Still, I can't imagine any fan of Lance's other projects would be disappointed with this melodic monster either. From the opening riff of "Hypnotica" to the closing moments of "Another Place, Another Time", this CD does not disappoint.
Empire - Trading Souls (Lion Music) 2003
Album number two for Empire. As with the first album, this CD features a miriad of known artists includng Tony Martin (Black Sabbath), Rolf Munkes (ex-Vanize); Anders Johansson (Hammerfall, Yngwie Malmsteen), Neil Murray (ex-Whitesnake) and Don Airey (ex-Rainbow, Deep Purple, etc) and engineering and mixing by Stefan Kaufmann (U.D.O.). With that in mind, "Trading Souls" has a decisively 1980's sound. That is not to say they sound like some sappy hair metal drivel. On the contrary, if this CD had been released in 1989, as opposed to 2003, it would have been all the rage. As with the debut, this CD is a mixture of melodic AOR and progressive rock. The band's debut was much heavier and featured two completely two different vocalists. Actually, I think Tony Martin's vocals are the strength of the CD. He is a truly amazing vocalist. I would have liked the music to have been a bit heavier but as it stands, there are some nice melodies, a truck load of catchy hooks and some good guitar riffs. Perhaps it's just the Tony Martin connection, but occassionally I heard some Black Sabbath influences. "Wherever You Go" in particular reminded me of some of those later day Sabbath releases, especially with those guitar fills and the Iommi-esque guitar solo.
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