At 30 plus years and 11 studio albums of original material in, it’s almost entirely redundant at this point to ramble on explaining what a death metal institution Vader have become. I could use phrases like “legends” and “titans of the genre” but realistically you probably already know exactly who Vader are, which should give you some idea as to what to expect from their latest release, The Empire. These Poles have spent the last two decades plying their no-frills brand of old-school death metal, a tact which has served them well in recent years. While I enjoyed previous offering, Tibi Et Igni in all of its fiery glory, I felt like it was treading water, especially in comparison to the dynamic Welcome to the Morbid Reich. In an effort to avoid consistency devolving into redundancy, Vader have opted to galvanize The Empire with the ever-present thrash that propels their classic sound. The results are a lot of fun. I love Vader, so if you’re at all interested in following me awkwardly avoid blathering on about how great they are, and actually offer objectivity, then read on. Careful, don’t trip on the hyperbole.

Although the song structures are still somewhat similar to the previous album, a reminiscence of the Litany years hangs in the air, which is certainly no bad thing. Historically, one of my biggest issues has been the unbalanced pacing on albums – the more intense material often clustered together. This time around, Vader cannily combat the potential for fatigue by meting out the heavier cuts in well distributed fits; this serves to accentuate the record’s alternating tempos, keeping each track as potent as possible. The Empire still has all the tropes you’ve come to expect: infinitely memorable riffs, blasting drums and Peter’s eternally emphysemic vocals, rasping away with as much abandon as ever. It’s soon apparent that when the band goes for speed, they opt for a more focused thrash attack, when “Angels of Steel” kicks in, offering some of the best riffs this side of 1986.

“Tempest” and particularly “Gravity” blast in and out, the latter featuring a huge neck-cracking chug at its close, which will no doubt keep my fictional chiropractor in the finery he has become accustomed to. Conversely, “Iron Reign,” possibly the slowest cut, has some guitar lines which wouldn’t be out of place on any early Grave Digger release, cementing The Empire’s adherence to a more mid-paced riff. The measured approach might come as a disappointment to those counterculture-vultures out there who are looking forward to the usual hyperkinesis, but it should come as no surprise to those who made the effort to pick up the Iron Times EP and heard the pre-release of “Prayer To the God of War” with its more deliberate crunch.


Although in no way a detraction from the songs, I did find myself wondering what extra impact they might have, had the guitar tone followed suit from previous releases and carried a little more weight. The mix here is noticeably thinner, tipping a hat to the band’s speed metal roots. The Empire’s close is heralded by the great “Send Me Back to Hell”, one of the band’s catchiest and most sinister anthems to date with relative newcomer, Spider, ripping through another of the album’s notably melodic solos. I’ve always enjoyed the high voltage, albeit largely faceless, lead guitars that feature on Vader’s records, but these just might be the band’s most memorable.

The Empire is rife with indelible and, dare I say it, accessible death-thrash, and although it’s stripped back in comparison to older material, I suspect I’ll still be enjoying this come the new year. As a metal fan in particular, I think it’s easy to undervalue the true nature of consistency; bands like Slayer have ruined the concept of a reliable standard by churning out increasingly banal facsimiles of their own glory days for the last 25 years, whereas Vader have built a reputation on well-honed, utilitarian quality. At this point, not deviating from a definitive sound feels like a creative choice rather than a dearth of ideas, and this album will fit neatly into one of metal’s strongest back catalogs. The Empire demands its pound of flesh – and this war machine keeps turning.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 272 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU][US]
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 4th, 2016

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  • Eldritch Elitist

    Vader has never released a not-good album and I’m pleased to see that this doesn’t break the trend. Great review Ferrous, I haven’t gotten around to listening to this yet but you’ve convinced me to quit slacking.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Tibi et Igni may have been treading water but it was some damn fine water. This one should not disappoint.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      Hexenkessel is a jam and a half. Love that track.

  • Iain Gleasure

    Music is quality, album art is quality, even the DR is ok. The only bad thing is that band photo. Still nothing a unicorn can’t fix!

    • Bart the Repairman

      That band photo was clearly taken in my beloved city of Wrocław, which makes it splendid and majestic. Please, leave unicorns out of it. A little metal dwarf will be more adequate.

      • Iain Gleasure

        Ah Wroclaw. The single worst city for English speakers to guess how to pronounce. Even Lodz is slightly better!

        Grumble grumble, Vrats-waff. (I think)

        • Bart the Repairman

          This is easy, you are very close (it’s ‘Vrots-waff’ actually). Good luck with ‘Szczebrzeszyn’ or ‘Wąchock’.

          • Iain Gleasure

            The one I just call Stettin. Wąchock hmm. Vra- shoke? Vra-shik?
            Va-shik? I tried my best

          • [not a Dr]

            What would be the difference between a war saw and a regular saw? (I always thought that was the most awesome name a city could get.)

  • Dr. Wvrm

    “Increasingly banal facsimiles.”

    Hammer, nail. Nail, hammer.

    • Willem Stander

      Pen-pineapple-apple-pen. This is what I thought. I will se myself out.

  • A really delightful album. I haven’t had a chance to hear it today (until now). I seem to remember a Star Wars reference, like “join the darkside” somewhere, but I can’t remember where. Either that, or my marbles have finally gone down the drain.
    Oh, wait, I found it. Genocidus contains the word “force” before ending with “Join the Empire” and “Enjoy the Darkside”, and finally a snippet from “Imperial March”.
    Have Vader ever connected with Lord Vader in that sense before?

    • Interloper

      Perhaps the band name itself is taken from a well-known film character. Just a thought.

      • The idea struck my mind a few decades ago, indeed, but to my (limited) knowledge, they haven’t exploited Darth Vader related dialogue or film score before. My question thus: have they?

        • Bryan94

          I saw Vader a couple of times live now and they have used the Imperial March for going onto the stage or as outro…

          Kinda found that funny everytime :) because my first thought when hearing the bandname was directly “Star Wars metal or what…:P”

          • Interesting trivia. I’ve unfortunately never seen them live.

            Speaking of “Star Wars metal”. That was almost what I expected when I first saw the peculiar cover art for Vondur’s 1996 debut Striðsyfirlýsing.

          • Bryan94

            Ah okay, such a fantastic live band in my eyes…peter always slays^^..watching him playing his little solos is a real pleasure :P

            Just checked out that album cover…well i would except some Star Wars metal too ^^

      • Brian

        It’s clearly a homage to Big Van Vader.

  • The Unicorn

    I listened to this 3x in a row today without a break mowing the lawn and doing yard chores. This album slays.

    • Ferrous Beuller

      It doesn’t Slay – it Vades.

    • sir_c

      Your mileage may vader

  • The Nerd.

    Vader….The Empire… All before Rouge One with the return of Vader. I’ll take it.

  • Wilhelm

    He looks as if he’s getting a BJ from a unicorn

    • sir_c

      more the receiving end, if you ask me

  • Kill The King

    Damn I love this band. Agree completely with the rating and your opinion of “Send Me Back To Hell”. Any chance of the new Brujeria and Deathspell EP getting a review?

  • Nick Maestas

    Vader always sounds good, they never do much experimentation but sometimes it’s nice to have the consistent bands around. They’re good at what they do and this is an easy listen.

  • Treble Yell

    Oh hey, Vader are JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure fans, at least going by that cover:

    • Eldritch Elitist

      Yare yare….

  • Luke_22

    Vader never disappoints, looking forward to cranking this one. Embedded track sounds like another classic Vader ripper. Nice review.

  • Curious about Polish metal

    Poland has some wicked awesome bands esp. for death & black metal.
    I’m curious about how big of a metal ‘scene/culture’ is present there. Considering my fairly limited knowledge on the subject, I think that overall the country is pretty religious. How does it all work out, is metal even that big to upset the Church & whatnot? What about openly blasphemous bands like Behemoth & Hate? Also, regarding Behemoth they are (arguably) the biggest extreme metal band today, how popular is the band (read Nergal, esp. after that ‘singing’ judge shtick) there? Thanks!

    • Xxx

      To be really honest in Poland,right now we have ruling party whos really mindfucked religious. We, normal people sometimes wondering ” wtf ?” after some idiots in goverment say or do … our metal scene is doing just fine, we have many great bands – just listen to Dormant Ordeal, for example ;) many good metal producers and a most funny thing is that Nergal is very well known celebrity in our country,but not for his music, but after dating some fucked up pop star few years back

      • But I’ve always wondered if Poland’s religious ruling class acts as a muse for the consistently fertile extreme metal scene. Maybe “muse” is the wrong term; rather, a call to arms?

        Oh, I think MetalSucks! covered Nergal’s personal debauchery (dating!) a couple of times so I think some metal fans know of that pop star.

        • Xxx

          No, it was 30, 40 years ago, people gather among other places in the churches in the time of the fight against communism. Now most of us have open minds and generally Satanic music is doing just great. while Doda is well known to metal fans in Poland, she started her career from the heavier sounds but she turns pop for better cash

          • Cash is king.

        • ssorg

          perhaps “foil” is the word you were looking for?

      • Bart the Repairman

        I love how you use the term „normal people” as an opposition for our ruling party.

        Seriously, I think they aren’t religious. They aren’t even stupid fanatics. This is just the last, ultimate, deepest level of cynism. Ruining country while yelling about patriotism, making 1970’s communism under banners of the right wing… The saddest thing is that a few millions of our dumb country-fellas still can’t see how PiS rape every single right of elementary logic.

  • Curious Metal Guy

    Poland has some wicked awesome bands; Vader (solid album), Hate, Behemoth, Decapitated, Batushka, Riverside, Mgla, Graveland, Vesania etc. I was wondering the other day, how big is metal there factoring in the religious nature of the county & considering the number of quality bands it produces?

    • Martin Knap

      Metal is basically mainstream (pop)culture in Europe, Nightwish had many singles in pop-charts, sometimes leading them. Perhaps is a draw with rap music when it comes to popularity, I’d say. And the right-wingers in Europe are part of the metal-scene too, just think of Graveland ;-) (the whole pagan/folk thing is often ideologically oriented)

      • Brian

        Hold your horses there, man. You make it sound like the average morning bus to work in Europe is crammed full of longhairs. Are you speaking as a European or is this just an ‘I assume the grass is greener’ post from an American? Metal is (and I use this term loosely) *somewhat* more accepted on the old continent alright but that does not mean it is an everyday thing. A hard-ish riff is not a showstopper as long as there’s some kind of melody to go along with it which explains Nightwish. They are metal that chicks dig. But anything aggressive or with harsh vocals has no chance of mainstream appeal at all and make no mistake about that.

        • Norfair Legend

          I don’t know, last time I was in Prague there was Carcass, Napalm Death and a host of other greats on the jukeboxes which I have yet to see in the states.

        • Martin Knap

          I do speak as a European, I’m not claiming that extreme metal is mainstream, only that metal is a big part of the “your culture” – think about In Flames, metalcore etc.

      • thiR

        No… just… no. You are most likely speaking as NORTHERN European. Metal is still VERY FAR from being accepted in Italy, France or Spain. In most parts of these countries you’ll be considered a weirdo (at best) by admitting you are listening to Slayer.

    • Curious Metal Guy

      Whoa, sorry about the double post guys. I thought my first message didn’t appear for some reason so I typed out another one. Thanks for the responses Martin & Xxx!

    • Check Deivos and Azarath. Especially Azarath´s Blasphemers´ Malediction deathblack riffage stomps over their famous contrymen for-the-effect productions.

    • Dymanic

      Ketha. Don’t forget Ketha.

    • Wiktor

      & Calm Hatchery

  • sir_c

    What Asphyx is to Holland, Vader is to Poland.
    Good to hear they have new songs, will definitely check ’em out

  • Gage

    I’m really enjoying this album even though I wasn’t a big fan of Tibi et Igni. Hell, at the moment I like it more than Welcome To The Morbid Reich (*gasp* BLASHPHEMY!) Vader songs have a tendency to run together but each song on The Empire has a unique voice. I haven’t heard this much riff variety from them ever since De Profundis (my favorite Vader album). God damn its been a fantastic year for death metal!

    • Reese Burns

      Speaking of quality death metal, have you heard Mute Books by Auroch?

      • Gage

        Not until now. I’ll check it out. Thanks

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Good old Vader!
    I’ll get this I liked their EP from earlier this year as well.
    Sounds like they’ve rattled the cage just enough for me.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Weirdly i’d disagree with the rating, as this album is nothing we haven’t heard before from Vader. I’d probably go for 3.5/5.

    Spot on review though. The last album seemed like they were trying to be a bit more accessible, this time its just good old school death/thrash and its glorious. Gravity has the Star Wars theme chugging away in the background FFS!

  • Malcolm in the Middle X

    This has been growing on me. Vader never truly disappoints, but I felt intially let down. It sounded like they regressed, where Reich & TEI represented a maturation of their sound.

    Prayer to the God of War, while not bad, was a little boring. Vader is deadly when they mix thrashtastic riffing with death metal (- Art of War & Impressions in Blood). Vader doing pure thrash doesn’t work as well.

    It finally won me over. Genocidus recalls De Produndis (definitely a good thing), No Gravity is a fine addition to a Vader playlist, and Send Me Back to Hell is the icing on the frosted-riff cake.