CD Reviews

Dark Empire - 'From Refuge To Ruin' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     August 10, 2012    
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Without those grunts, this CD could have been amazing.

I have had some strange albums to review this issue, and for me ‘From Refuge To Ruin’ joins these other albums because if not for one thing, it could have been a killer album. The thing in question is the dreaded “vocal grunting” you find throughout the album’s songs. I have to tell you that I personally don’t mind the odd grunt here and there on an album, when it is used for effect and fits in with the rest of the music it is just when the vocals are all grunts or shared with another singer that it gets wearing and does so very fast.

And that is where the problem starts with this release because I like half of this CD a lot whereas the other half I hate, which is a shame because ‘FRTR’ is at its heart, a hard hitting symphonic power metal record with progressive overtones. And this usually is kind of album I love to listen to. It features music with stellar musicianship, powerful production values and yes at times some great songs. Though what stopped me dead in my tracks every time I listened to it, was the band’s use of dual vocals on the songs (ala Scar Symmetry, though nowhere near as good), one voice is clean cut courtesy of new boy Brian Larkin whose powerful roar and sheer energy really suits the band and it’s music to a tee. The other is the grunting, shouty kind of singing by Dark Empire’s leader and guitarist extraordinaire Matt Moliti, whose vocals on this release seem to be more to the fore than they ever were before, and are used on nearly every track, spoiling for me what could have been a really fantastic CD.

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Songs like ‘Dreaming In Vengeance’, ‘The Crimson Portrait’, the progressive giant that is title track ‘From Refuge To Ruin’ and ‘Lest Ye Be Judged’ could all have been much, much better without the screams and grunts. This review is all about personal taste, and mine I’m afraid doesn’t stretch to continual death metal grunting, though if strong progressive metal, with amazing guitar work and clever arrangements sounds good to you (even with all the shouting thrown in) then maybe give ‘FRTR’ a listen because the more adventurous among you might just like what they are doing.

As I have mentioned earlier I don’t mind a few grunts now and again, it is just that the relentless and unending use of them on all but a few songs on ‘FRTR’, takes something away from this album, and I personally feel this is an opportunity lost because without those grunts, this CD could have been amazing.

Ian Johnson

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