REVIEW: VADER – “The Empire”
Despite having released their first album in 1992, Vader have been around since 1983 when the extreme genres of heavy metal were rising, such as thrash, black and death metal. Mainly a local act then, the polish warriors led by Piotr Paweł Wiwczarek – commonly known as Peter – started as a speed/heavy metal band, and slowly changed their musical approach to a pure death metal sound brought on by lineup changes and Peter’s personal taste. Clearly one of the most prominent groups coming out of Poland – and the most known, without a doubt, alongside Behemoth – whether they play a thrash, death or heavy approach, Vader never disappoints in their albums. And this time, they’ve opened the tool kit once again and will destroy everything in their path.
‘The Empire’ is the 13th full-length album by the demons of Olsztyn, and it’s mainly a thrash endeavor full of brutal passages. Standing at the attractive mark of just 33:02 minutes long, the band doesn’t waste time and goes straight to the jugular with crunchy and visceral riffs, raw and gloriously powerful drumming and, as usual, the unmistakable growls of Peter.
“Angels of Steel” and “Tempest” blend together to form gut-wrenching mayhem with a lot of changes of pace, and technical elements such as scaling solos. The former delivers just a taste of the destruction that is to come and feels like an introduction to the gates of hell; marvelous. The latter and most interesting track continues to keep you on your feet, and features a mid-tempo thrashy bit mixed with a lot of death elements – very characteristic of Vader. “Prayer to the God of War” was already featured in the ‘Iron Times’ EP released in August. This has thrash written all over it, and with a unique twist of brutality and anger, is easily one of the best songs here. It has an awesome chorus and, again, is a direct hit to the face with no frills. “Iron Reign” slows the pace and gives good resting time for the ears. While it’s not as fast as other pieces of the album, it serves its purpose of turning speed into power. Think of this as a tune that mixes Sodom-like raw construction with a Testament-esque melodic and groovy atmosphere.
Don’t worry, though, because resting time is over with “No Gravity”. Special attention to James Stewart on drums in this one; the guy is a spot-on addition to the band, and transitions with ease from a double-pedal, wrist-breaking death metal kick to a more cadenced and controlled approach. Again, Peter’s voice matches perfectly with the savage, bloodthirsty climate of the hymn. “Genocidius” continues with the perversion in a depraved and sinful manner, in a track replete with speed and wrath. Curiously, follow-up “The Army-Geddon” abandons the old-school approach and relies heavily on a more modern sound, be it in the broken riffs or the arrangements of the bass and drums. This rough change in an otherwise homogeneous album feels sort of weird, but this is a good score, nevertheless.
The final part of the record features three quality tunes in “Feel My Pain”, “Parabellum” (which was also released in the ‘Iron Times’ EP) and “Send Me Back to Hell”. The first track abuses of the toned-down guitar work, and has a very interesting arrangement in the drumming department with a lot of cymbal and plate usage, while closer “Send Me Back to Hell” has a very evil vibe all over it, making it the perfect ending to a equally evil endeavor.
‘The Empire’ is yet another fine display of Vader’s power and ferocity, and while it is more thrash than death, has a good chunk of both genres in the mix. Spot-on performances by Peter, James, Spider (guitar) and Hal (bass), and a little bit of playing it safe allied with some experimentation make the album a very good contender for a Top 10 spot in thrash metal lists of the year out there. Of course, this is not a masterpiece or a mind-blowing, ethereal release, but its fierceness and bestiality all contribute to a fun, competent and respectful album. Highly recommended.