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Empyria - The Long Road Home CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.02 | 6 ratings

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usa prog music
3 stars Quite honestly, I had never heard of Empyria before this album arrived, so I thought it best to conduct a little research regarding the band and found the results to be surprising. Empyria is a Canadian export that has been running strong for nearly 20 years. The band had been silent for the last seven years, however, while guitarist Mike Kischnick finished up commitments with Thor - a separate project. The latest album, The Long Road Home, is a collection of unreleased songs that were taken from a combination of previously played live songs and earlier demos. I sat down with the album, took one look at the terrible cover art, heard the generic intro and all but made up my mind about the band: there was a reason I had never heard of them before. It only took a couple of minutes before the waves of 80s hard rock (think Dio or Ozzy Osbourne) crashed into early prog (think Awaken the Guardian-era Fates Warning and Queensr˙che) and had me backpedaling on my initial conclusion. I found the material here to go down quite smooth and the progressive leanings to be much subtler than I had expected. There are not a lot of prolonged solo sections, abstract song structures or overly dexterous performances. The members are certainly proficient at their respective instruments, particularly so with regards to drummer Scott Gamble, who is new and a good find for the band, but theirs is a more restrained or tasteful proficiency which allows the progressive flavors to come through in more of the nuances of the material rather than outright musicianship. Songs like "The Endless Circle", "False Witness", "Lonely People", "Can't Wait Forever" and "Returning Home" have a slightly greater focus on technicality with quite a few short, tight instrumental runs and solo-filled midsections, but the majority of the material here, including those songs, is incredibly accessible. A lot of these songs display the versatility of Empyria, as they effectively mix clean guitar parts with otherwise distorted, speedy riffage. This type of writing allows guitarist Mike Kisnchnick, who also provides some mild keyboard melodies and atmospherics, to change dynamics and textures throughout the album. Kischnick does this various ways, as "Last Rites" lightly brushes its riffs with sparkling clean strums while "False Witness" has a clean guitar bridge and "Of All the Dreams" has the clean guitar play the rhythm parts at the start of the verses. This causes the original riff to absolutely slam back into the song when it is re- introduced. The Geoff Tate meets Ozzy Osbourne vocal approach of Pete Liete also works well with these songs whether it be the ballad-y "Last Rites" or the more charged effort of "False Witness". I also like the fact the band does not congest the mix with a lot of rhythm guitar parts since this allows bassist Paul Falcon, who was the original bassist and vocalist, to fill in the space with a lot of great bouncing, melodic bass lines. I like what I heard enough on this album to seek out some additional information on their previous album. I am not sure how often I will reach for this album since the style is rather dated, but I know that I enjoyed what the band had to offer on this release. Those of you who really enjoy the Fates Warning/Crimson Glory/Queensr˙che style of prog will find plenty to love here, but those who enjoy and seek out only the more modern progressive approach would probably be well served to look somewhere else.
usa prog music | 3/5 |


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