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Synth Album Review: "Empire" by MacReady

Karl loves food, writing, and writing about food. He has been doing so for over 10 years!

synth-album-review-empire-by-macready

Initial Impressions

MacReady’s Empire is an album that rages and snarls as darkness pours from it. In the midst of the surging black void, there are tiny moments of sparkling light that occasionally shine through. The music is full of aggression and emptiness as well as strong melodies and a propulsive power.

The first factor that draws me to Empire is the atmosphere created on it. Shattered beats, growling guitar and waves of thundering bass all combine to form a ferocious tide of shadowy energy that batters and shouts into the void. When it is pierced by distant light, that light becomes poignant in contrast to the darkness.

The melodic content of Empire also attracts me to it. The melodies are clear, expressive and deliver an emotional punch. Many of them have a heartbreaking gentleness that contrasts with the power and anger around them, only intensifying both elements. They hit harder when their faint hope struggles in the shadows.

All of the various sonic elements are well chosen. The synths complement one another, the guitars add just the right aggression and power and the drums provide a propulsive, ear-catching heartbeat that launches the music forward. I especially like how the synths interact with the other music elements to provide nuance and contrast to the whole album.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“The Savage State” begins as a vast, bleak, open space is split by harsh digital sound and a crackling wave of rough-edged synth sweeps along with a metallic clash that echoes and fades. The metallic sounds become a steady banging as an urgent, rough tide of guitar carries a pattern of hard-hitting notes. The drums flow in a smooth, hissing line while the jagged synths move.The guitars slice in a ferocious pulse while the beat is joined by an rapidly flowing bass oscillation.

I enjoy the contrast with the harsher elements as a computerized-sounding synth sings out a dynamic, but melancholy melody that moves in waves. There’s a violent surge of battering drums and the wall of cutting guitar lacerates as it leaps forward. The track moves to an easy going, brighter section with the energetic, digital sounding melodic line bends and calls out, gentler than the battering rage with which it contrasts. The beat feels a bit dance-y as the track closes.

A gruff pulse of actively moving bass sweeps in as the drums pound as a spinning, evolving line of crunchy, medium-low synth comes in to start “New Dawn.” The medium-low synth is broken by a gritty guitar. I enjoy the balance of different elements in this track.

The rough, harsh flow and the brighter, more delicate synth melody create an engaging contrast. Angular, attacking synth joins the aggression of the drums and lacerating guitar. It dances rapidly over the dark tide below and as the drums smash and the guitar attacks. The music returns to the surging tide below a pained and gentle, medium high synth and ends in silence.

“The Consummation” comes to life as a tense, elevated line of string-like synth shatters into a fierce pulse of rapid, broken guitar. A rough-edged, but warm synth carries a melancholy melodic line over the angry guitar. A melody that leaps and wheels comes in on a nasal, elevated synth. It adds a sense of forward motion as the drums hit hard and the bass writhes underneath. The raging tide of guitar and drums surges and heaves.

In a pleasing contrast, the melody is full of gentle hope and aching emotion to balance the raging tides. A lower, nasal synth sings the same kind of emotional melody while a dense, uneven arpeggio spins and now the ferocity of guitar snarls in again, hard and uncompromising while the nasal synth still sings that desperately hopeful line over the darkness threatening to engulf it from underneath and we fade on ethereal pipe-like synth over the broken synth pulse and string section.

A desolate wind sweeps in along with a dramatic feeling piano carrying a shadowed arpeggios that are full of tension to open “Mortem Obire.” An aggressive, jagged synth pulse rises and falls over a charging beat and the guitars that slice hard, spinning out in wild lines. The jagged, galloping charge roars in and the drums skip along below grating guitar.

A twisted, bright synth leaps in while the relentless attack snarls on. I enjoy the uplifting synth line that dances along with the angrily insistent guitars. The razor edged guitar cuts in dense blocks and the drums and bass roar and leap. Pained, tense piano arpeggios join a guttural guitar and the edged, bright synth. The raging guitar line batters in again, slow but heavy as they come before fading on bright notes.

“Desolation” starts off with a harsh, rough shiver of synth and a dark voice over about the decay and disaster of the world. A synthesized, battering, hissing sound adds a discomforting sensation. I am drawn to the ominous melody that rises, touched with searing emotion. Sheer anger and an expression of rebellion in music smashes into the track, the beat rushing and leaping.

The guitars form a broken glass wall while the distant sweep of lost sound flows around the melody’s aggression, surging with power. A half time throb moves through with the drums attack and a saw-toothed sound moves. Quick, insectile pulsations rush along with the climbing chords. The sample from Network is the sound of rage at the mess that people have made of the world.

Empire is an uncompromising album that seethes with surging anger and undeniable shadow. MacReady create powerful, expressive music on this album. It’s music that takes hold and won’t let go. I am glad that they’re out there creating it!

© 2021 Karl Magi

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