Shade Empire // Omega Arcane
Rating: 4.5/5.0 — Bring on the apocalypse!
Label: Candlelight Records
Websites: www.shadeempire.com | Facebook.com/shadeempireband
Release Dates: EU: 2013.05.06 | WW: 06.2013

CANDLE400CD_BOOKLET.inddWhen you hail from Finland, a country teaming with metal giants (cast your mind along the lines of Finntroll, Wintersun, Amorphis and Ghost Brigade to name but a few), you have two choices: Option 1, you up your game, you mature as a band and you write epic tracks. Option 2, you keep on keeping on, you join the unknown masses and you sink into obscurity. On this their fourth release and a solid five years in the making, Shade Empire went with option 1. Their blackened sound has matured, their musicianship has strengthened and they’re walking a path that reminds me of the beautifully twisted, symphonic brutality of Fleshgod Apocalypse, the controlled, apocalyptic darkness of Septicflesh and the theatrics of Chaosweaver. Abso-fucking-lutely nothing wrong with them apples and in fact had Shade Empire‘s earlier releases not slipped under my radar I would probably have scrambled with a little more dedication and urgency to grab this off the promo pile [SlackerSteel Druhm].

Opening track “Ruins” gets the ball rolling. It’s an epic of a track that feels as though it needs its own motion picture, something along the lines of ‘Lord of the Rings’ of ‘The Hobbit’ maybe. The first thing that hit me with “Ruins” and tracks like “Dawnless Days”, “Until No Life Breeds”, “Disembodiment”, “Malicious Winds”, “Slumbering Giant” and “Nomad” was Rasan’s attack on the skins. He’s got all the power of a giant battering ram combined with intense focus and he’s definitely worked his way right up there with his fast and viscous hyper blasting and intense fills to join the ranks of Lars Broddesson (Marduk) and Francesco Paoli (Fleshgod Apocalypse) as one of my favorite drummers.

Overall the instrumentation on Omega Arcane has a similar feel to offerings like Fleshgod, Septicflesh or Chaosweaver and it’s just as tight – Shade Empire have done themselves a service by refining their skills and fine-tuning this album to the point of damn near perfection. The guitars (Juha S and Janne) and the keys (Olli) are well placed and huge, while at no time feeling over the top, unnecessary or showboaty and tracks like “Dawnless Days”, “Ash Statues”, “Disembodiment”, “Slumbering Giant” and the title track showcase the varied dimensions and melodic, euphoric beauty that Shade Empire are capable of. Juha H’s vocals on Omega Arcane slip effortlessly between otherworldly chants, ghostly whispers of pure malice, morbid black metal screams and unholy, guttural, death-like roars and it’s his vocal might that shows the most diversity, growth and maturity with this album release.

Shade Empire 300x300Alright, so I mentioned the phrase damn near perfect earlier – at 72 odd minutes Omega Arcane is daunting at the onset and there are a few minutes around “Traveler of Unlight” and “Devolution” where your attention wanes just a little. Cut these two tracks from this modern and clean, but not overproduced mix and you have a winner!

Like Fleshgod‘s Agony, Omega Arcane takes a couple of plays to settle in nicely, but settle in it does and it’s definitely going to have a prominent place on my playlist. Barring the two tracks I mentioned, the majority of the album’s memorable with repeat listens, melodic and stays with you long after you’ve stopped listening. My favorite tracks ended up being “Nomad”, “Slumbering Giant” and “Ash Statues”, lyrically they’re intelligent and musically they hit my senses in just the right way. This is a must have album!