Empire 21 - 'Empire 21'

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Empire 21 - 'Empire 21'

As debut albums go this is pretty damn impressive.

Empire 21 was an idea/band put together by Darkwater/Harmony drummer Tobias Enbert and former Narnia vocalist German Pascual, whilst they were touring together with Narnia in 2009. When Narnia decided to call it a day, the two asked CJ Grimmark to join E21 and the band was effectively born. During the initial recording sessions Pascual parted company with the band, which left them with a big hole to fill. Luckily for them (and us), they soon found newcomer and powerhouse vocalist Ricard Hulteke, who does an outstanding job on the album's songs. These are songs which the band readily admits that they worked on until they got everything to sound just right. In places the music is (as you can probably imagine) a bit like Narnia, a bit like Harmony and a bit like Darkwater but it also has a wonderful Progressive Metal edge that gives the band an identity all of its own.

Now some of you might be worrying that E21 (with these members) is a Christian act, which I know some people have a problem with, especially lyrically. To be honest that is exactly what they are, however there are no overtly Christian references in the lyrics, no "praising Jesus" (nothing wrong with that) so you can sit back and enjoy the music for what it is; which is powerful Melodic Metal with strong Progressive overtones along with some stunning musicianship thrown in.

'When You're Falling', 'I Can't' and 'All Is Lost' start the album off with a bang. All three have huge hooks, big guitars and in Grimmark, E21 has a guitarist who really knows his way around a fret-board. They are also three perfect songs to show off the vocals of Hulteke who, as I mentioned above, is a real find. His powerful and melodic voice nails every melody that can be found with ease, which only makes you want to keep listening to see what he will come up with next.

Title track 'Empire 21' has an explosive riff and hits hard as does the modern sounding '100 Nights', whilst on the highly melodic tracks 'Would You' and 'This Is My Story', you'll find Hulteke, Grimmark, Enbert, Andreas Ålöv (bass) and John Svensson (keyboards) playing like musical demons (or should that be angels?); their musicianship bringing all the best things from their music to the fore.

As debut albums go this is pretty damn impressive. With its frenetic pacing and strong songs that never let up from beginning to end, this album will hopefully be the start of something big for Empire 21.

Ian Johnson

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