Shade EmpireSinthentic (Magick Records, 2005)

Rating: 4.0/5

There’s an old adage that you might know that says, so eloquently, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” While this may be applicable to books, it often isn’t applicable to music. I can generally look at the cover of a band’s record and be able to tell what kind of metal it is, who they sound like, and whether or not they suck. I’ll always give stuff a chance to not suck, but it’s usually a pretty fair bet that my initial impression will be correct. So I looked at the SHADE EMPIRE cover, saw the devil face with a little ‘666’ neatly tucked into the corner behind the eye, and more importantly the sticker that says ‘For fans of DIMMU BORGIR.’ Immediately I was struck by that panic that happens when you know that you’re going to have to sit through 60 minutes of shitty rip-off artists trying to sound like DIMMU.

Shade Empire Pose it Up

Shade Empire Pose it Up

I was absolutely wrong.  This is one of those few cases where that doesn’t upset me.

In fact, I was blown away by this release. SHADE EMPIRE have managed to bring together all the best qualities of melodic, symphonic black metal and Swedish death into a cohesive, melodic onslaught of extreme metal that anyone with an ear for talent will be impressed with. Like some unholy union of (yes) DIMMU BORGIR, AT THE GATES and DARK TRANQUILLITY, this band deftly put forth melancholy melodies, backed up with a stunning drum assault and a heavy rhythm that keeps you rocking for the whole record. Spiced up with guest vocal appearances by Marco Hietala (NIGHTWISH and TAROT), and Spellgoth (TROLLHEIMS GROTT), Sinthetic (ok, the cheesy name didn’t help the initial impressions, either) offers a dynamic, exciting aural assault that actually left me wanting more!

While this band is tight, what I noticed most was the keyboards and the vocals really carry this record. The guitar work, while good, isn’t stand out, and the guitars play more of a support role.  But the awesome melody and (brace yourself) all the hooks came through the keyboards, which border on the gothic side sometimes, and at other times almost having a THE KOVENANT feel (though only for a short time).  The vocals are pretty standard, but there are glimpses of deep, baritone/bass clean parts that really add a dynamic to otherwise good vocals.

Dynamics, as I’ve said before, play such a huge part in metal records. The clincher here is that they work their way deftly through the record never getting boring, while never changing the dynamics so much that they sound like a different band.  There is not a weak moment on this album. The whole while there is a distinctive feel, a distinctive sound and a sonic barrage that leave you with one of those shit-eating grins on your face. Mark down an incredible debut for these Finns.

This interview written originally for Unchain the Underground by me.

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