Human Fortress
Eternal Empire


1.0
awful

Review

by Steerpike USER (24 Reviews)
September 29th, 2009 | 14 replies | 4,034 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Eternal Empire sounds more like eternal damnation. What the hell happened?

4 of 4 thought this review was well written

Pop quiz, how do you feel about unchanging formulae even if they work? Is it okay to be a one-trick pony if you do your trick well? Is lacking innovation acceptable if you still put out a quality product? I'm sure most of you are okay with this sort of thing. Not every album has to be a ground-breaking revolution to be good. Sometimes things just work. There's nothing wrong with being a little generic if you can still make good music.

Which is why I bring up Human Fortress's third album Eternal Empire, which feels a bit like being stabbed in the ears by AIDS. I really like their first two albums and being the realist that I am reminded myself that the departure of vocalist Jioti Parcharidis was not a kiss of death. Line-up changes aren't the end of the world. Especially considering Jioti was replaced by Carsten Frank of Galloglass, who is about on Jioti's level as a vocalist, if with a slightly more limited range. The trouble is that Carsten and the rest of the band are out of their element.

Human Fortress were always a melodic, epic band. They may have been a bit campy, but it was good fun. Unfortunately, somewhere in the 5 years between Defenders of the Crown and Eternal Empire the band... changed. Are you familiar with the story of people with head wounds who start speaking new languages, like the guy who took a spike to the coconut and started speaking French? Imagine that, only instead of French it's angst. That's right true believers, this is a metalcore album with pretentions to power metal.

You know just what you're in for with the opening track, Contrast. Gone is the melodic riffing and in its place we have de-tuned chugging. Good bye soaring clean vocals, hello metalcore shouts. The pain only gets worse from there. After hearing the awful vocals on Under a Spell I was ready to give myself a hemp necktie, and the album was only half over! It's not that harsh vocals don't belong in power metal, it's that Carsten is so bad at them. The aforementioned metalcore shouts are mixed in with attempts at emulating Jioti's Bruce Dickinson-esque sneer (which only works occasionally) and some skin-peelingly bad attempts at ripping off Phil Anselmo at his peak. Oh, but it gets worse.

The Pantera rip-offs don't end with Carsten pretending he can switch vocal styles effectively (see Lions' Den and Circle of Flames). The chugging riffs often attempt to emulate Dimebag's syncopated, thrashy grooves. This is undermined by the fact that the beats are simplistic and uninspired. It feels a bit more like generic mosh pit fodder for the second stage at Ozzfest than anything really compelling or energetic. The production also tends to make the guitars and bass bleed together into something that sounds less like riffing and more of a muddy mess of meandering mash-ups.

Inconsistency is a major problem with this album as well. Don't get me wrong, the album is consistently bad, but that's not what I'm getting at. The whole thing can't decide where it's going. Under a Spell features an opening guitar passage that rips off U2 and Yes. The pre-chorus Circle of Flames sounds like it was written by Jon Bon Jovi. Borders of Insanity features a synth track in the opening that sounds a bit like a cross between early Children of Bodom and every band that's been ripping Children of Bodom off. Falling Leaves is clearly trying its damndest and failing to be this album's version of The Valiant from the previous outing.

To make it worse, the album seems to want really badly to be power metal again. The Wizard has some wonderful melodies and synth textures and upon first hearing it I was hopeful the album would pick up. Then the chugging came in at about 30 seconds and after that Carsten started shouting and I was back to trying to remember a time when this band didn't suck so bad. The attempt to combine those epic keyboards with the brain-dead chugging grooves is a mistake repeatedly made throughout the album and particularly obvious on Contrast, made all the worse by the addition of female vocals for no reason.

Several solos and licks on the album show glimmers of what once was, adding an air of tragedy to the whole affair. Torsten Wolf is still a more than capable axeman, which makes one wonder why the hell he's slumming it through this tumor of a record. More often than not he's turning out the most forgettable riffs this side of Linkin Park through tunes like Borders of Insanity and When Love and Hate Collide. Tangential, but I don't think there has ever been a tackier song title than the latter. It makes You Give Love a Bad Name look downright butch. And no, the lyrics on this album aren't much better. I'd go into more detail but I'm pissed off enough as it is.

And while I'm still thinking of Linkin Park, that's what The Raven sounds like. On an album full of terrible ideas, The Raven out-craps them all by sounding like Linkin Park trying to play power metal. Yes, you read this paragraph right. Yes, that is probably your own screaming you hear.

Without a doubt the most baffling thing about this album is the special edition and the hidden track. Why, you ask? Because the untitled hidden track and the bonus songs are actually really god damn good! The hidden track is an instrumental heavy on melody and chants. It feels like something that could have been off the debut album. It has more verve and catchiness than anything on Eternal Empire proper.

And the two bonus songs are even better. Guide from Heaven is a symphonic ballad with lyrics I could actually give a shit about as opposed to the verbal garbage I had to deal with up to this point. Remember the female vocals I mentioned earlier? We get more of them here, but they actually work this time around. Wrath has a rather inauspicious title and Carsten turns in a middle-of-the-road vocal performance, but some of the best riffs are to be had here, along with some great melodies reminiscent of their previous two outings.

I ask you: why weren't these songs on the album instead of snoozers like When Love and Hate Collide and musical carcinogens like The Raven? Human Fortress were hardly luminaries of the power metal genre, but they were talented, had a tight line-up, and produced some highly enjoyable epic metal about slaying dragons and vanquishing evil tyrants. I wouldn't have them any other way. Sadly, Eternal Empire shows them trying to cash in on the metalcore trend like so many other bands looking for a wider audience and throwing the power metal fans a meager bone in the way of two bonus tracks that they make us pay extra for.

If Human Fortress want advice on how to redeem themselves after putting out an aborted fetus dressed up as an album, I would suggest looking up Thom G. Fischer of Celtic Frost. If nothing else, looking at Cold Lake might make them realize they could have done worse.



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user ratings (5)
Chart.
1.8
poor

Comments:Add a Comment 
Steerpike
September 29th 2009



1860 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

I still don't think I put enough vitriol into this review to express how much I hate this album.

Wizard
September 29th 2009



19306 Comments


Welcome back to the fold Steer!

The Wizard has some wonderful melodies and synth textures

Hi.

Because the untitled hidden track and the bonus songs are actually really god damn good!

If they're really good, then why not a 1.5-2/5?

You know, this is the exact way to do a tbt review. Well written and a fun read dude. I've never heard of these guys and I should probably just try and avoid.



Digging: Downer - Downer

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2009



8321 Comments


yay, are you actually back to reviewing? I relly enjoy reading your stuff man.

Great review, will avoid.

Steerpike
September 29th 2009



1860 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

The reason this didn't get a higher rating is because those bonus tracks aren't on the album proper and you have to pay extra for them. Fuck that. And yes, the untitled bonus is on the album, but it's not enough to redeem the previous 45 minutes of pain. Besides, I don't even like numerical ratings. I just picked the one that said what I think: Awful.

As for avoiding Human Fortress, do look into their first two albums if you like power metal. Those were actually pretty good. Somewhere in the interim they forgot how to write.

And about being back for more reviews, yes and no. Depends entirely how much time I can spare.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2009



8321 Comments


As for avoiding Human Fortress, do look into their first two albums if you like power metal.
not my favourite genre, but i do like to listen to some every once in a while so i might as well look into their back-catalogue.
And about being back for more reviews, yes and no. Depends entirely how much time I can spare.
aight, it's still great to see you writing though :-).

shortone323
September 29th 2009



883 Comments


This review was pretty fun to read. Seems a little choppy at times, but that might just have been the way I was reading it. Definitley gonna pos.
And I really wanna hear the song where it sounds like Linkin Park playing Power Metal.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2009



15728 Comments


Steerpike! can you post in a green day thread pleeeease

Digging: Alvvays - Alvvays

Steerpike
September 29th 2009



1860 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Why? I've beaten just about every joke it's possible to make in one of those threads to a bloody, indignant death.

Poet
September 29th 2009



5922 Comments


Would I like their older albums?

KYZAR
September 29th 2009



513 Comments


looks like ungodly amounts of suck.

BrahTheSunGod
September 29th 2009



1279 Comments


"which feels a bit like being stabbed in the ears by AIDS"

fucking YES.

XulOnerom
September 29th 2009



1818 Comments


this is a metalcore album with pretentions to power metal


Jesus christ, thanks for the heads up. I'll be avoiding this album like the plague. Seriously, my two least favorite metal genres combined

Steerpike
September 30th 2009



1860 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Would I like their older albums?


Yes.

Seriously, my two least favorite metal genres combined


In which case hearing The Raven would most assuredly kick the living fuck of your current idea of hell. It is quite possibly one of the worst songs I have ever heard.

Steerpike
April 26th 2010



1860 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Just thought I would mention that an incidental check on Metal Archives showed me that around the time I posted this review, Human Fortress split with several members, including Carsten, and brought Jioti back into the band. They're going to start playing power metal again and are working on a new album.

Anybody who enjoys torturing innocent children for fun should know that the former band members who didn't regard Eternal Empire as a sonic atrocity will be continuing in their new band Ember Sea. The rest of you, consider it fair warning.

Also Carsten Frank shaved his head in a vain attempt to hide his receding hairline and started a power/thrash band called Athorn. It seems he's been practicing lately because his harsh vocals (still ripping off Phil Anselmo) have improved from fucking awful to sub-par.



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