Empire - The Raven Ride
The hard working Rolf Munkes (Majesty, Razorback) is back with another Empire album. It all began in 2001 with the first album Hypnotica, an album where Rolf invited such prominent guests as Lance King (Pyramaze, ex- Balance Of Power), Mark Boals (ex- Malmsteen), Don Airey (Deep Purple) and Anders Johansson (HammerFall) to help him out. In time for the second album Rolf managed to recruit the amazing Tony Martin for the vocal spot, a man responsible for the astonishing work on Black Sabbath's Headless Cross amongst others.
When the promotional copy of their brand new and third album arrived I was pleased to discover that Tony still was included in the line-up. This time Rolf and Tony had the opportunity to work with the material without pressure in Rolf's own studio and that is perhaps the reason why the song writing is better than ever. The overall sound reminds me a lot of the albums Tony did with Black Sabbath, maybe a bit more towards the hard rock genre though. The atmosphere on most songs is epic and melodic, coloured with a dark tone. Even if a couple of songs deviate from the formula I just mentioned this is the lasting impression I have of The Raven Ride.
The magnificent title track opens the album in the best way. The Raven Ride sounds like a forgotten song from The Headless Cross sessions, if it was recorded by Empire that is. Stomping in mid tempo and epic as hell with a classic refrain where Tony really stretches his voice to the maximum. This song has been a busy guest in my CD-player lately I can tell you. The mesmerizing Satanic Curses is almost as good but a lot darker and slower. I Can't Trust Myself has more to do with the melodic hard rock genre but it's a great track that works very well as contrast. It is in fact only one song that sticks out in a negative way, Maximum almost classifies to be labelled punk rock and disturbs the album's flow and consistency. I look upon it as an experiment that never should have left the studio.
I am deeply impressed by Mr. Martin's piece of work here,
not that I am surprised but when he is given the chance to sing with
good material he is unstoppable and this is the case with a few exceptions
on The Raven Ride. Fans of the Tony Martin era of Black Sabbath ought
to love this and I also safely can recommend it to those of you who
are into dark and heavy hard rock, mostly in mid tempo, with fantastic