Review Summary: Shade Empire craft an album next to its predecessor in power and next in crime.
Satan, cast down by God to Hell with the other Rebel Angels, sees close by him One next to himself in power and next in crime.
Beelzebub, Satan's lieutenant
And Satan addresses him like this:…
Any those of you who are familiar with the above excerpt from the 17th-century English poet John Milton’s Paradise Lost – and for bonus points, hears it recited in the late Ian Richardson’s voice – is either a man or woman with an acquired taste for classic diabolical art, or has heard Shade Empire’s latest teaser track Anti-Life Saviour
, revealed some months prior to the release of Poetry of the Ill-Minded
. Finland’s Shade Empire wields an interesting musical blend of how Dimmu Borgir would wish they’d sound like at this time and some of the melancholic dreariness Finland is known for. They were one of 2013’s biggest surprises, when seemingly out of nowhere they released the most expertly crafted symphonic black metal album of the last decade: Omega Arcane
. Shade Empire’s task now for Poetry…
is a daunting one – not to disappoint.
introduces the listener to Poetry…
with an unnerving, slow build-up; acoustic plucking slowly gives way to classical violin strikes, when finally the music swells into shredding and blast beats. Lecter
sets the tone for the album in a moody manner. Alternating between growled and cleanly sung choruses, blast-beats and quiet solos, the song has a lot to offer, but fails to escape ‘mid-tempo’-range and relies heavily on atmosphere rather than ferocity.
Shade Empire did not write Poetry…
to make friends, becomes all the more apparent while one hears Wanderer
progress. The song relies on groove rather than the usual bombast and introduces the album’s most apparent gimmick: trumpets. The aforementioned instrument is utilized in an erratic manner, almost irritatingly at the front of the mix. The interplay between the drums and violins at the ending climax of the song is quite excellent, though, and get the listener back into the flow of the album. Drawn to the Water – the Path
and Thy Scent
are more typical Shade Empire tracks. Drawn to the Water – the Path
reminds one of 2013’s Dawnless Days
in its usage of galloping blast beat drums fueled in strength by synergetic orchestral arrangements. Thy Scent
marries Shade’s trademark sound with the recurring trumpets and has lead singer Juha Harju experiment with high screeches rather than growls in the chorus, adding to the overall dramatic tension of the song.
is easily the highlight of the album. The opening combination of the recites of Paradise Lost
and the swelling classical music resonate pure evil from the get-go. After moments of suspense in the midst of the poem, shredding guitars and pounding drums enter. While this poem’s fragment ends in its final climax, the track bursts into a ferocity that displays the unique characteristics of Shade Empire like no other song they’ve crafted before. Everything works in this track, from the epic anthem of a chorus to the excellent minutes-long bridge in the middle of the song at which it dies slowly to a whisper – very similar to the dying murmurs on 2013’s Nomad
– only to return again with renewed rage for a final burst of sonic assault.
Map of Scars
and Treasure (In Liquid Dreams of Mirror Universe)
represent the last part of the album with an even heavier focus on atmosphere. Map of Scars
displays one of Shade Empire’s most delicious choruses on the album with the seemingly effortless interplay between bass guitar, synths and blasting drums. Treasure…
by closing the album as it started: with a mid-tempo track that relies heavily orchestra. The album’s closer sports a brooding atmosphere that makes the most effective use of the newly introduced trumpets.
Overall, the quality of Poetry…
is undiminished in light of Omega Arcane
’s half an hour shorter running time make the album feel more concise and focused than its predecessor. However, essential to the enjoyment of Poetry…
are expectations, since Poetry of the Ill-Minded
is a different kind of beast than Omega Arcane
. Though the trademark sound of Shade Empire is undeniably present, Poetry…
contains quite some experimentation and relies more on subtle groove and atmosphere than the highly bombastic thrill-ride that is Omega Arcane
. Especially the introduction of trumpets, various new vocal styles and a lower overall tempo may deter fans of older material.
Poetry of the Ill-Minded
received very mixed responses thus far with its recent release. This may be partially explained by the recent commotion caused by the forced departure of lead-singer Juha Harju from the band. Furthermore, the more experimenting nature of this album is not for everyone. However, personally I applaud Shade Empire for attempting to re-invigorate their sound, with overall successful results. Therefore, Shade Empire’s newest is a recommendation for those who like extreme metal with a little extra elan.