From Judas’ selling out the Son of God for a mere 30 pieces of silver, to Julius Caesar meeting his sticky end at the hands of several disgruntled Roman senators, and his own nephew, Brutus. History is rife with tales of betrayal. Hideous betrayal, makes for riveting fiction too. The first work that comes to mind is William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Or perhaps the wizarding worlds most appalling traitor – Peter Pettigrew. Not only did he sell out his friends to Voldemort, laying the blame on Sirius, but Pettigrew went on to live a life o’ luxury as the Weasley’s pet rat. So many died as a result of his foul deeds… And let’s not forget Gollum’s betrayal of Frodo, bringing him dangerously close to the lair of that giant Hobbit-eating spider!

Back in 2005, AMG himself sang the praises of the Shade Empire‘s first release (Sinthetic). His short account revealed that the band combined the best qualities of melodic, symphonic black metal and Swedish death, creating an unholy union, similar to that of Dimmu Borgir, At The Gates and Dark Tranquillity. Ultimately what earned them distinction, in the eyes of our esteemed leader, was their keyboard application and Harju’s vocals. The band had a series of releases that followed, but it wasn’t until 2013 that Shade Empire released their biggest and best outing yet. With Harju font and center, Omega Arcane hung around with the sweet smell of persistence and just the right amount of savagery. By year-end, I had no option but to hail it album of the year. The Finns are back in town and Poetry of the Ill-minded is set for release just next week. What connection can the esteemed Shade Empire possibly have with these earlier and horrific accounts of betrayal? Poetry of the Ill-minded, feels like exactly that. With the departure of Harju (Chaosweaver and Ajattara) and the introduction of Henry Hämäläinen on vocal duties, the band’s newest release is a betrayal to all that Shade Empire and likewise Omega Arcane was.

From the kickoff of “Lecter (Welcome),” you’ll notice that things sound very very different this time around. Up front in both “Lecter” and “Wanderer,” there’s a distinctly modern InFlames vibe rearing it’s ugly head. After an overly lengthy intro, the tracks develop subtle symphonics reminiscent of Shade Empire‘s earlier work. Instrumentally, the Finns are still tight. Rasane pounds away at the skins with machine-line precision, and Sirkkiä, Kivimäki (on guitars) and Savolainen (on keyboards and orchestrations) create melodies that entwine in a kind of creepy and seductive dance, each note very obviously crafted with experience, skill and intelligence.

Vocals at first consist of a rasping sneer, evolving into something harsher as “Lecter” plays out. Unfortunately, where Harju had an ear-catching power to his delivery, the vocals used now seem immature, weaker and at times, even comical. At certain points of “Lecter, “Wanderer” and “They Scent,” vocal contributions bring to mind Carach Angren or perhaps a ripoff of mid-period (Death Cult Armageddon) Dimmu Borgir. The clean vocal contributions end up being the biggest hurdle to overcome on Poetry of the Ill-minded. First appearing at the 3.09 minute mark of “Lecter,” once you’ve had the misfortune of hearing these lines, you’ll become all to aware of their persistence. Like a stink that you can’t get out of you head, they’ll waft around far longer than they should.

Another big shakeup in Shade Empire‘s sound comes by way of the trumpet used in “Wanderer,” “Thy Scent” and “Treasure.” Where bands like Behemoth and White Ward wove their brassy instrumentation cohesively into their compositions, Shade Empire‘s selection stands out as an odd choice – these interludes ranging from noticeably jarring in “Thy Scent” and “Wanderer” to downright flaccid in “Treasure.”

Shade Empire‘s crowning achievement on Poetry of the Ill-minded ends up being “Anti-life Saviour.” Clocking in at almost 10 minutes, the song begins with an extract of Satan’s First Speech taken from Paradise Lost as read by Sir Ian Richardson (known for his Shakespeare stage acting and his film and television roles). With a level of seriousness not carried through to the rest of the album, “Anti-life Saviour” is the one track that I’ve definitively seen vocal contributions attributed to Harju. And being that this track was actually released as a single some time back, I wonder if it wasn’t a left-over remnant of the band’s previous masterpiece. Built around spellbinding guitar-work, cavernous emotion-rich vocals, and such an important piece of literature, I can almost forgive the extended run-time of the song.

Across Poetry of the Ill-minded, though all songs have good aspects, conversely, they also have more elements that pull them downwards, to the point that by their closing, they’re nothing more than average. By the end of my time with the album, outside of “Anti-life Saviour” there’s no one particular song that stayed with me or gave me any desire to return to the album. Coming from somebody as enamored as I was with Omega Arcane, that’s a difficult thing to come to terms with.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Spinefarm Records | Candlelight Records
Releases Worldwide: August 4th, 2017

  • Greg Hasbrouck

    I agree with every word of this review. This record is a massive disappointment.

  • Luis Humberto Niño Alvarez

    I Think this album is a masterpiece.

    • Piet

      I thought I was going crazy. I don’t understand the negative reviews this album is getting, I think its incredible. I agree that the trumpets are quite strange and would have been best left out. Nevertheless, Lecter and Wanderer are phenomenal tracks.

      • blaaahgees

        Its very good, but go listen to Omega Arcane.

    • Graham

      I totally agree. It has not gotten stale and continues to grow on me unlike another band’s release this year *cough*Wintersun*cough*. Also, I really dig the trumpets.

  • Ein Sophistry

    Man, a lot of Haterade® in the AMG fridge today.

  • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

    You do realize Harju was let go / quit AFTER he recorded his parts?

    • If that’s the case, and I found no record of that online, then he’s suffering serious changes to his voice.

      • satan

        Two minutes in the internet and i found the information. And his voice still remains the same as allways. I think you are just trying to explain your lazyness and stupidity.

        • Keep up the name calling and you will be site banned. If you have comments, be respectful or go elsewhere.

          • Patrick Bearden

            Dang. You got my curiosity up there Mr Druhm.

      • gdffgdfgd

        A newspost on their Website from a few months ago says he left (for whatever reason) after recording his parts for the new album.

        • The reference I found said that he recorded parts for Anti-life…. be that as it may, it’s unfortunate. Whether he sang the remaining parts on this or not, the vocals are more parody than not and they lack power. I sat with the album for near on 4 weeks trying to figure out how to write a positive review of it. From where this band was to where they’ve ended up on this release, it’s a huge disappointment. Thank goodness Chaosweaver still exists.

          • Tristan gummow

            My understanding is that yes Juha did do the vocals but in some cases what was used was as last resort (things had gone south and they couldnt do another cut) When it comes to SE if you want answers just jump on FB and message them. Oli is very nice and will answer most questions in my experience and surprisingly fast too. I was amazed to get a response from them in under 15 minutes. Although he does seem to be the only one on there. I was hoping to get answers from Aapeli in regards to Soulfallen (new album coming- since its crowd funded and I dropped em $300 or band kaput) but he doesnt seem to answer on FB

      • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

        In the announcement the band made on their Facebook page regarding Harju’s departure they made it plain amd simple he performs on the record.

    • Piet

      Funnily enough I saw a Dutch metal magazine say similar things in their review regarding the vocals, also thinking the new vocalist recorded the vocals on the album. But yeah it is Harju and to me it sounds exactly like him on everything the band has brought out.

  • Satan

    Haha what a stupid review. Harju is singing all the parts except the clean vocals in lecter.

  • Andres Pintos Nocerino

    ormega arcane was best of that year for me, this i have to listen more times to form a critical idea

  • To me this album sounds like a more concise version of Omega Arcane. I understand the point about not liking the clean vocals, but they’re only in one track. Trumpets be damned, I still think Wanderer through Anti-Life Saviour are some of the best songs SE have written. Omega Arcane was great, surely, but at a base level I just don’t see such a drastic dip in quality. Oh well. Opinions. Rabble.

  • Thatguy

    What a lot of passion for a bland little album.

    I like the dueling unicorns.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      That drawing is almost too classy. I’d love to see it in velvet.

      • Thatguy

        Yeah, velvet is always classy. Velvet is the most power metal fabric.

  • ReinventTheSteel

    I love SE just as much as the next person and hope the album is phenomenal. The great thing about an opinion and a review is that it’s completely subjective. What I hope never happens on AMG again is all of the animosity towards a review/reviewer. If you want to call something stupid go do it on Yahoo, not here.

    • ArtifeX

      Agreed, I don’t understand people getting mad at a reviewer, it’s just his/her point of view.

    • Martin Knap

      If you’d know your Kant, you’d know that the judgement of taste is subjective, but also claims universal validity ;-)

  • Slam Grandpa

    Well I for one found this album to be pretty good, hmm some of the reviews on AMG recently I haven’t been able to agree with but I really hope the ROTM list for July is something I can agree with

  • Levly

    I really like the first half of the record (until and including Anti-life Savior), but find the second half very boring. That’s only half a good album, but I find this first good part almost as good as OA, so I wouldn’t have been as harsh as you. There are some wonderful melodies and arrangements on those first few tracks. At least not a betrayal of such epic proportions lol ;)

  • ArtifeX

    We know that the world of reviews dwells in subjectivity, but I’ve to disagree completely. I don’t hear at all similarities to In Flames and the trumpets sounds great, very much like the sax on Ihsahn’s After. The brass sounds add layers of depth and go very well with the orchestrations. Vocals are good too. Overall this is at least a 3.0-3.5. Personally it’s one of the albums I’ve been spinning most this year. Probably will end in my top 10.

    That said, we can’t go to a review site and expect to agree with every review. Getting mad because an album we like get a low score is dumb. It’ll be really boring too, everyone agreeing with everything.

    Cheers and keep up the good work AMG staff! m/O_om/

  • Raskim7

    Sadly, I have to agree. Omega Arcane was top 5 albums of that year, but this album just really doesn’t speak to me. These are of course subjective opinions, but to me this was bland version of Omega Arcane leftover songs and “hey, I’ve an idea”-songs . None of the songs really stood out on this album, where as with Omega Arcane I felt need to stand up and applaud after almost every song, which would have probably looked funny as I listened the album first time at the office on work hours.

  • Tofu muncher

    I like it enough despite it sounds pretty generic. Still looking for the moments that can wow me really. Nice write up.

  • a glass o’ milk

    It’s like they try to out-Dimmu Borgir Dimmu Borgir.

  • Equilux

    This album is a massive dissapointment for me. I actually enjoy those clean parts and don’t really see problem with harsh vocals, but otherwise it is generic and dull.Few good parts do not justify such a long waiting for….this. More like 2.5 for me,but that is really sad.

    Maybe my expectations were too high after Omega which I loved.

    PS: Calling reviewer stupid and lazy because of one factual error…seriously? Telling a lot about that commenter.

  • Tanuki

    I feel like I’m listening to a different album. While I agree that Anti Life Saviour is the standout track, each other song up until that point is also great. Wanderer and Waters are both huge too. The trumpets I expected to get shat on, but personally I’ve got no real gripe with them. The only issue I have with the album is the last 2 tracks, which aren’t really up to the rest of the albums quality.
    I agree with Donald in that it’s much more concise and focused than OA was.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Anti-Life is a masterpiece, made me so excited for this album. Then Harju quit and i listened to the new album, gigantic disappointment. Something has went badly wrong and i can smell a break-up.

  • Arjan Zwamborn

    As an Angry fan of both this blog as well as the shady Finns we’re discussing here, I cannot help but voice my own unwanted opinions as well. Forgive me.

    On betrayals: I don’t really see how this record is a massive departure from Omega Arcane. In any case I don’t hear them completely shifting genres, hence if this’d be a bad album I’d label it as just that – an inferior effort – more than a betrayal of any kind.

    On trumpets: wasn’t the biggest fan of the introduction of them at first, but I think it is daring for SE to attempt to push their envelope and take a risk. And I feel completely opposite – on Treasure it works really well, I’d say.

    On the voice: others pointed it out already, but there really isn’t another vocalist for the album and I never for one moment noticed suspected any difference personally.

    I liked how this review was written Madam X and I usually dig your reviews a lot overall, but I feel like your (understandably high) expectations ruined this album for you before you ever got to listen to it. To me this is a fun album, though not as well crafted as Omega Arcane.

  • Sophocles

    I don’t know, the music is still great, top notch. Maybe they didn’t overused Mustonen this time and Savolainen contribution to the latest Wolfheart gave him some new ideas.They sound a bit less symphocinematic and more heavy-death and it works. Only issue with the vocals (poor delivery or bad production) but that’s history. 3.5 for me

  • Drew Music

    The unicorn-ing seems to flow with the polarized vibe of the audience response, and I refuse to be so mired in the division as to not acknowledge said unicorns’s glory. Those guys should have been saved for a 4.0, when the unicorn-ing must be done with reverence.

  • If this is such a massive disappointment compared to Omega Arcane, I’d better run to the music store, because it seems to be some freakin’ masterpiece. The embedded track is my first contact with this band and there’s a lot to like here IMO.

    • chungkuo

      I am really digging this album but, yeah, Omega Arcane is better. Go listen to it!

  • J Ryan Taron

    Now that I have heard the whole thing I can’t help but be baffled as well. NO WHERE is this MALL METAL Flames. This remindes me of Sculptured from the 90’s mixed with Ulver and Borknagar. This is a great record. I am enjoying it far more than Omega (Fantastic record, but still a by the numbers, good numbers but still very by the book.) This album is NOT by any means.

  • DenGagn

    I think the trumpets work great actually. Props to the band for not merely putting out Omega Arcane 2.0.

  • inside_context

    Late to the party here, but from the reactions down here, it felt as is Madam botched this review(..hey human after all). But streaming this album through the week I felt the review is on point in it’s analysis that the vocals simply lack the command that Omega Arcane had and at times sound outright juvenile(crying shame if it’s Harju as some commenters have mentioned).
    AMG overlords are the last ones to scavenge on the commenter’s validation,but I feel Madam does have a strong case here.

  • Tristan gummow

    Yup this album blew. I was so choked. I just hope Harju leaving means we’ll see another Chaosweaver album.

  • Majestic

    First of all, the album is a masterpiece. Why? Well, quite simple – it’s the theme, lyrics if you will, that shaped this album differently. Yes, it’s different from Omega Arcane, but it has to be. A different lyrical approach requires a different musical approach. It’s their first time that they made an album that talks about a real life subject. Well, as close as possible. All other albums were mostly fantasies and what ifs (Apocalypse, Vampirism, Deep Psychology, like the devil whispering in your ear and so on – especially past two albums – pure fiction).

    Everybody are talking about trumpets. Sure, they sound weird and out of harmony, but you need to understand why. The album mostly talks about depression, suicide and even drugs and alcohol. Well, how does your life look when you’re drunk so much you can barely stand or if you had too much of any drug? Probably exactly like those trumpets – chaotic. When those trumpets start playing, I can picture a man seeing things that are not there, twisted faces and so on…just because he had too much absinthe. :)

    What I don’t like when someone is doing reviews is that they listen to the album once and render their decision. The music is more complex than some average, global pop culture music or some easy to remember metal albums. You need time to let it sink in. Listen to it once a day, stop listening for 1-2 days and let it come back to you on its own. Give it a second try and you’ll see how it’ll pull you in, and you won’t be able to resist those nifty riffs and bombastic keyboards, not to mention insane drumming and great vocals on Harju’s end (too bad he left).

  • Tristan gummow

    Im curious why to date none of you have reviewed Soulfallen. Lazy? Uninformed? Plan and dandy not real metal metal heads? (this has basis since Opeth did get album of the year with a POS Back Street Boys grade album)