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Empress – Fateweaver Award winner

by Thomas Kumke at 14 August 2022, 3:37 AM

EMPRESS hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania are a symphonic Metal band and were formed in 2018. After releasing one demo, “Fateweaver” is their debut full-length album. It was produced by guitarist Vlad Khavin. Dan Swanö (ASPHYX, DARK FUNERAL, KATATONIA) did the mixing and mastering at his Swedish Unisound Studio. The album has a length of almost 48 minutes and it is an independent release.

The album starts with a classical symphonic Metal sound: a short piano-driven intro which transitions into a fast paced track with tight riffing, plenty of Power Metal vibes in the drumming, orchestral arrangements that go head-to-head with the guitars, and female vocals which sound more Rock than classical oriented. “Legion” has a mid-tempo break that includes a comprehensive lead guitar solo. While the sound of “Legion” was relatively direct, “Beyond The Sleep” has a bombastic start. The mid-tempo track has oriental vibes in the melodies, and those are the central melodic theme. Barbara Blackthorne shows for the first time her huge vocal range and versality as a singer as she frequently switches between her Rock voice at around the medium end of the vocal range and highly pitched soprano vocals. The orchestral elements of “Beyond The Sleep” are often more in the background to intensify the sound. Highlight is again the lead guitar solo.

Chimera” starts with a short acoustic bridge to build atmosphere, before it transitions into a fast part with powerful riffing and double-bass driven drumming. The oriental vibes continue in the melodies as the track switches pace to a measured mid-tempo during the verse parts. The vocals are again ranging from Rock oriented to classical vocals. The drumming and the lead guitars are the highlights of the track. The orchestral arrangements are well-balanced and become only more dominant during the bombastic end of the track. Opposite to “Chimera”, “The Fall OF Kingdoms” has a bombastic start driven by the orchestra. The verse parts are played at a slow tempo and with a quiet sound where the strings are leading the song. The chorus parts are more powerful, aggressive, and faster with a lot of Power Metal vibes. The middle part of “The Fall Of Kingdoms” has complex textures with many twists in tempo and rhythm and it comes with another cool lead guitar solo.

Black Arcana” is a mid-tempo track with a very direct sound, heavy riffing, and catchy melodies. Barbara Blackthorne has vocal support with the growling male vocals that are around the medium end of the guttural range. “Black Arcana” is among the heaviest tracks on the album, and it has the least symphonic elements. More extensive orchestral arrangements are part of “Monarch”, which has a good balance between the Metal instruments and the orchestra. Highlight of the song are the vocals of Barbara Blackthorne, who keeps the sound perfectly together. While “Monarch” leans more towards mid-tempo, “Into The Grey” has a lot of parts at a fast pace. There are tempo changes throughout the track including a few mid-tempo parts. The orchestral arrangements are not very dominant, but contribute very well to the track. Leading instruments are the guitars with the riffing and the lead guitar parts.

Immortelle” is a mid-tempo track but with rhythm changes throughout. The riffing is tight and powerful and is intensified by the string arrangements. The vocals are again the focal point of the song and especially those mid-tempo songs fit perfectly to Barbara Blackthorne’s vocal strengths. She is leading expertly through the track from the beginning to the end. The album closes with “Eventide”, and the final song has a bombastic start at measured tempo. Orchestra and Metal instruments are again well-balanced with the strings and the riffing providing the backbone of the song. The melodies are mainly driven by the vocals, strings, and lead guitars. “Eventide” is one of the album highlights and the song is the official video release with the YouTube link given below.

EMPRESS release an excellent debut album. “Fateweaver” is symphonic Metal at its best with the guitar riffing, the lead guitar solos, the drumming, and the vocals. EMPRESS were able to find a very good symbiosis between heaviness, bombast, epic elements, and orchestral arrangements. Key to the symphonic Metal sound is vocalist Barbara Blackthorne, whose vocal range and versatility keeps the EMPRESS sound perfectly together. Her ability to transport emotions to the listener is an extra asset. The lead guitars are another highlight of the album. “Fateweaver” is very well produced. EMPRESS set the bar very high with their debut album and “Fateweaver” is one of the best symphonic Metal albums of the year so far.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Legion
2. Beyond The Sleep
3. Chimera
4. The Fall Of Kingdoms
5. Black Arcana
6. Monarch
7. Into The Grey
8. Immortelle
9. Eventide
Barbara Blackthorne – Vocals
Vlad Khavin – Guitars
Joseph Muir ­ Guitars
Marc Stainthorpe – Drums
Nicholas Bonsanto – Bass
Record Label: Independent


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