Shade Empire
Omega Arcane


4.0
excellent

Review

by Adam Gola USER (38 Reviews)
November 10th, 2013 | 31 replies | 10,082 views


Release Date: 05/06/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Masters of polyphony. THE consummate symphonic metal album.

6 of 6 thought this review was well written

While it is by no means difficult to encounter a band that dabbles in symphony, it's far harder to find one that can actually make it sound seamless and congruous rather than just a string ensemble lazily layered on a guitar riff as most such bands sound. Not Shade Empire.

Which happens to be quite an awesome band name. Bands with such awesome names tend to induce high expectations for the music itself, and when those fall short all that's left is disgust. Suicide Silence is admittedly a pretty badass name, for example, but what music they play we all know. Luckily Shade Empire absolutely don't have to worry about that, the awesomeness of their name is appropriately backed up by the awesomeness of their music.

While I haven't heard any of their previous albums (which is soon to change) and cannot compare "Omega Arcane" to any of them, I can compare it to other bands, though this will not be easy. Genre-wise, Shade Empire are labelled as symphonic melodeath/black, and while this does give you the gist, it sounds rather underwhelming compared to what this band really sounds like. It borrows quite copiously from black metal and melodeath, yet doesn't sound exactly like either. If a direct comparison had to be made, I suppose you could say that this band is an alternative to Dimmu Borgir of their "PEM"/"DCA" era. They could also be compared to the lesser known Keep of Kalessin, in that they all get called black metal, but you don't really see it in the riffs. But this album is much, much better than anything those two bands could ever hope to achieve.

"Omega Arcane" is an exquisite exercise in polyphony, a collection of breathtaking soundscapes filled with palpable emotion and vividity. Obviously, the members of this band are amazing songwriters and arrangement composers, being able to layer multiple orchestral instruments in a manner where everything complements itself and nothing sticks out in a bad way so that you want to add nothing, remove nothing and change nothing. Just like Nicholas Cage said in "Next" when he was talking about what true beauty was. In this regard the album is aided further by its absolutely stellar production which not only gives each and every instrument used at the time full exposition and makes sure not one of them overpowers all others, but also greatly contributes towards making the songs as seamless and congruous as the most sturdily reinforced LEGO model. And there is plenty of stuff to hold together apart from all the traditional metal instruments: acoustic guitars, pianos, string ensembles, choral chants, electronic leads and pads, harps and brass instruments - everything used just when it is needed and not anywhere else and sounds as though these guys had access to the best instruments available. Even richer and more successful bands such as aforementioned Dimmu Borgir and well known Nightwish wish (no pun intended) that their symphony sounded that good.

As far as technicalities are concerned: the riffing patterns are reminescent more of power metal influenced melodeath such as Norther than of classic, open note reliant melodeath or venomous black metal; the soft, fleeting compositions bring to mind Omnium Gatherum; the vividity and sophistication of symphonic portions matches or even surpasses that of Nightwish; the smart use of electronics is similar to but compares favorably with Mors Principium Est, while the tastefulness and artfulness coupled with seamless dynamics and transitions are not at all unlike Opeth. At the same time the band manages to preserve the emotional poignancy expected of melodeath while completely avoiding the painful predictability of textbook melodeath bands such as Be'lakor.

The heaviness is varied - while blast beats and Slayer beats do appear, it is overall at a level comfortable enough to make this album accessible even to entry-level metal listeners. Unlike many other bands of similar heaviness, however, with Shade Empire it doesn't come at any cost - while the symphonic soundscapes take away most of the focus from the heaviness which makes this album listen more like a Hollywood movie score than a death metal album, there is never a sensation of the band being so eclipsed by the symphony that it looks as though they have nothing to play - a frequent complaint with contemporary Dimmu.

The music is light, fleeting and extremely easy and pleasant to listen to. Unlike most melodeath, the songs aren't structured in a simple way nor can they be called catchy in the popular sense of the word. Instead the album delivers subtle nuances that require repeated listens to fully absorb and appreciate with the promise of a later reward, which coupled with top-notch songwriting makes the listening experience more akin to progressive metal than straight-up melodeath. Incidentally, if you're like me, you should be compelled to immediately listen again after the first spin and do so several times in a row afterwads.

The beauty of "Omega Arcane" dwells in the fact that it offers so many different sensations, just like an A-movie soundtrack. At times it is uplifting and at times depessing. At times eerie and ominous and at times mellow and contemplative - yet always artful. Overall, I can say with confidence that this is the best symphonic metal album that I have heard so far, beating even "Portal of I" by Ne Obliviscaris and "Time I" by Wintersun. Words can't really do this album justice, so what's left to do is to listen to this album and know for oneself.

Album rating: 4.3



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
November 10th 2013



13557 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Been meaning to listen to this for aaaaaaaaaaages but never got round to it.

Bit of an awkward rewiew, I can give it another run through tomorrow and offer some criticism when I'm not so tired if you like?

Digging: Krusseldorf - Fractal World

XfingTheSullen
November 10th 2013



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Actually I had a first version written but lost it due to timeout, had to write everything from scratch. Go ahead if you will. And listen to the album, it's fucking sick.

Apollo
November 10th 2013



10266 Comments


I might give this a shot. Good review too, nice to see you reviewing.

XfingTheSullen
November 10th 2013



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It is a bit chaotically written, I admit. But that's what happens when you lose an entire review and want to hastily recover it. Remembering bits and phrases for reuse is a bitch, it definitely affects the end result. And it's the second time this happens to me ;__;

As for the album though, it's fucking unbelievable. I didn't want to start out with a 4,5 as I often get overly excited and give out ratings too high just to lower them later, and people seem to have noticed that, which I feel affects my credibility in a bad way.

Kusangii
November 10th 2013



269 Comments


I was about to check this album out but completely forgot it with time. Thanks for reminding me, I'm probably gonna listen to it ASAP. Your review was great however, pos'd.

ericu03
November 10th 2013



159 Comments


good read, posd. been waiting for a review of this album, i really love Ash Statues and Ruins off this.

Yazz_Flute
November 11th 2013



18764 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The purely symphonic elements of this are so fucking cheesy

Digging: Cormorant - Dwellings

Yazz_Flute
November 11th 2013



18764 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Other than that I'm really enjoying this as a metal album though.

XfingTheSullen
November 11th 2013



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well, you might also say that all symphonic scores are cheesy. I haven't yet heard symphonic portions written as well in metal as they are on this album.

Oh, and you speak of cheesy? You must not have heard S&M!

Havey
November 22nd 2013



9618 Comments


bad music

Digging: Cecil Taylor - Dark to Themselves

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
November 24th 2013



13557 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sounds like Two Steps From Hell collaborated with Insomnium or something.

XfingTheSullen
November 24th 2013



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Haven't heard Two Steps From Hell, but you're probably right anyway

Lambda
November 26th 2013



2412 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This is really, really good, but I wish that it was 15 minutes shorter.

Digging: Anathema - Judgement

XfingTheSullen
November 30th 2013



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I have no issues with its length

Raz0rGrind23
December 3rd 2013



422 Comments


Checking this one out. I almost think that second paragraph can be removed. Doesn't seem necessary.

XfingTheSullen
December 5th 2013



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Not necessary but who cares about necessity... btw I dig that you dig The Black Waltz, razorgrind. dass a good fuckin album

Raz0rGrind23
December 26th 2013



422 Comments


Amen Sir. Been digging the hell out of the Swamplords lately. Just ordered their Vinyl release off Blood Music along with Ensiferum's self-titled. Pretty excited

XfingTheSullen
January 4th 2014



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I don't really listen to Kalmah lately... don't even know why. Perhaps because I'm so stoked for new Into Eternity and Scar Symmetry

Tyrael
January 4th 2014



20740 Comments


album is incredible

top 10 metal records of the year

XfingTheSullen
January 4th 2014



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Fuck yeah, bro. Even topped the list for 2013 as far as melodeath goes. Quite deservedly too.



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