Shade Empire // Omega Arcane
Rating: 4.5/5.0 — Bring on the apocalypse!
Label: Candlelight Records
Websites: |
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!

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  • Solbrave

    Is this the first 4.5 of 2013?


  • sathriel

    Definitely interesting, listening to it at the moment. Thanks for bringing them to light. Madam.

  • Just looking at the bands in comparison to this and what seems to be in store here, this looks like something I HAVE to pick up.
    That cover art is amazing, too!
    Great review, Madam X

  • If the drumming is similar to Fleshgod Apocalypse, then this record is not my cup of tea. That kind of blastbeat orgy kills everything for me…

    • I think she’s referring to the sound and feel more than the style. I don’t find the drums to be overpowering.

  • Oh this review, referring to Septicflesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse and all that… Now I MUST check out this album!

    … I am listening to the first hit on youtube, and so far what I’m hearing does not disappoint. Thanks for pointing out this album!

  • Morfs

    The opening track is just to perfect. Great sound.

  • nunka

    Crazy excited for this album. I didn’t enjoy Sinthetic quite as much as AMG (what’s new?), but Zero Nexus was a solid endeavor with a few memorable songs.

    Plus, what I’ve heard from Omega Arcane has me giddy like a blackened symphonic melodeath schoolgirl. It’s like a less cheesy, more melodic, ultra-refined alternate universe Dimmu Borgir—a band which I’ve gathered is a particular target of scorn in these parts. Regardless of how you feel about those sellouts, there is something to be said for the catchiness of their overbearing symphonic theatricality, and I like what Shade Empire have borrowed from that sound. I don’t so much see the Fleshgod comparison… they’re just way too techy.

    • Honestly, it’s been years since I’ve listened to Sinthetic. When I moved I think it got lost in the mix and I never saved an mp3 version of it, so I haven’t heard it. But I know I really liked it at the time.

      This new record is easily the best symphonic black record I’ve heard in years.

  • AMG, from what I’ve heard in the two singles, and from reading this review, this one will definitely be a candidate for album of the year.

  • Just heard the song Ruins and i must say it is pretty dam good, can’t wait to get my hands on the whole album.

  • Brian Kelly

    i just listened/watched the ruins video. a boring video but it does sound like a slightly slower, less structured & more meandering dimmu borgir. & that keyboard part that starts around 35-40 seconds in is basically the exact part from progenies of.. just a different octave or whatever. so id have to listen to the whole cd to find out if it was really a 4.5 or more of a cd with just good songs but not catchy enough for a near perfect grade. i think the ruins song may be a 3.25 or something on first listen.

  • Rimpel

    If you can’t wait until it’s released next week it’s available for streaming here along with track by track comments from the band

  • I’m listening to it and I can say that this is really a masterpiece…

  • swlong

    Wow. So I listened to Nomad, Slumbering Giant, and Ash Statues on YouTube, and now I’m sad that I have to wait for a few more weeks to give these guys my money. :(

  • Slammin Rushdie

    Funny you should mention Chaosweaver, since they have the same singer. I’d have bought this one by now if it was anywhere nearby. “Disembodiment” is a beast of a track.

  • David Rosales

    FAR better than Flesgod Apocalypse or Sceptic Flesh, although reminiscent of them.
    They do a much better job at integrating all the elements together which is where the other two fail and it bothers the hell out of me. XD

    Thank you guys, for showing me another awesome album!