“”New Empire is back with In A Breath, their 3rd release since hitting the Sydney music scene in 2005. On February 4th they were officially welcomed onto Tooth & Nail Records, announcing an April release date. If you are a fan of their music, you may be bursting with anticipation. Well, so is In A Breath. That is to say, the music on this album is impulsive, in a driven kind of way, which gives it a ‘this is our NEW sh!t’ kind of feeling.
New Empire are a self-proclaimed pop rock unit from down under, so let’s examine the music for what it is! POP! I have to mention my struggle with the term ‘pop rock‘ as the suffix, I think, is thrown around a bit carelessly… but maybe we’ll talk about that a little later.
It certainly has the spaciousness and dynamic-but-not-wandering choruses required. Lots of four-on-the-floor (four beats for four measures on the kick drum) beats and persistent rhythms… ALOT of persistent rhythms. If you want eclectic, the only place you’ll find it is in the synth and some cheezy 80s electronica.
The opener, Tale of Jonah gets the effort off to a good start. Smacky acoustic guitars attempt to ground (they successfully do) far-away drum sounds and outer-space guitar. A Coldplay-esque song you’d rather be listening to live, because of it’s energy not some flaw, has some nice instrumental play leading into a final bridge.
Frontman Jeremy Fowler has one of those voices that can do a little bit of everything. Most notably, in my opinion, he’s got the vibrato a lot of singers pretend to have. This is a band with the tools necessary to break through to that next level, but Fowler has perhaps already arrived in some aspects of his craft. His timing, control, and microphone technique are clearly impressive. Unfortunately though, he seems to lack a certain adventurousness I personally prefer to see in any frontman.
You’re gonna get everything from a whisper to a shout (sorry, no screams), and he is capable of doing it all at a professional level, but there is an apparent lack of that superstar factor. Deconstructive song endings see the same vocal melody, ramped up chorus’s don’t see a ramped up vocal performance, there is no experimentation within itself. Don’t get me wrong, he’s really good at what he does, but before New Empire is ready to reach that next level, they’re going to have to learn to build/evolveevery element of their songs. Yeah, they have the loud/quiet/loud thing down, but what I would like to see is something more like mad/happy/sad.
The title track, In A Breath is the first time we’re going to hear a bassline that sounds organic, and not so tucked away. The song is also a pretty good representation, i.e. title track, of what you’re going to get. Tight musicianship, chorus-driven songwriting, supporting instruments (like pianos) that don’t undertake very much, and a drum beat that seems consistently persistent…..
…..The guitar is off wandering somewhere. Let me speak on this a moment. A self-proclaimed ‘poprock‘ outfit, the guitar is generally either wailing with indie-delay, playing a supporting role melodically, or caught up in repetitions of a riff. I can only count a handful of times where I can hear the 6-string laying power chords, and I’m not sure I heard a single barre chord allowed to ring out. You see, if you want to tack that ‘rock‘ on the end of your genre, the electric guitar needs to be the central part of your songs and songwriting. It’s not. It sounds cool at times, and Kyle Lane certainly knows how to play, but electric guitar to any subgenre of rock is like opera without a large female. Moving on…
Artistically speaking, this is a band that takes themselves seriously. At times the lyrical themes match the music and production (see Wise Fox, Fallen Soldiers, Outshine The Brightest), and the track listing evolves from tunes of hope and angst to remorse and reminiscence. Although I got a little beef with the last track, Relight The Fire (Acoustic) as it’s not really acoustic… it just features an acoustic guitar. There are too many overdubs and strings to call it acoustic… maybe call it a redux or something.
I hate to talk so much about what I think a band is doing wrong, I’m sure they are all really nice guys and they have a lot of talent, but by the time the album is over one thing is clear: They are so ready to step it up, and they may well be ready, but it is my opinion that they lack a certain organic material which will prevent them from having a crazy successful tour to support this album. I’m sure they are going to play a lot of packed shows, and play very well, but I fear their ability to convert random people (bar/venue regulars, other band’s fans, friends of fans) will suffer because their songwriting leaves so much up to production, rather than performance.
They might make a lot of money, and call the next year-or-so a smashing success, but if they want to continue to improve, it is my humble and uneducated opinion that they need to display more raw emotion, and if they want to continue on as a self-proclaimed ‘pop rock‘ band, they need to place their guitarist more in the middle of their music… and put some balls on it too.””
Record Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Album Length: 11 tracks, 39 minutes 25 seconds
Release Date: April 29th, 2014
Kale Kneale – Drums, Vocals
Jeremy Fowler – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano
Kyle Lane – Lead Guitar, Vocals
Nathan Cairns – Bass, Vocals
Artist Website: http://www.twitter.com/
1. Tale of Jonah (3:28)
2. The Sun Won’t Sleep (3:56)
3. Relight The Fire (3:49)
4. Say It Like You Mean It (3:21)
5. In A Breath (3:52)
6. Wise Fox (2:42)
7. Fallen Soldiers (3:09)
8. Left Behind (3:27)
9. A Little Braver (3:27)
10. Outshine the Brightest (4:46)
11. Relight the Fire (3:28)
Written By: Bryan Peterson