Dark Empire-From Refuge to Ruin
With vocalist Jens Carlsson being replaced by Brian Larkinand this latest release from New Jersey's Dark Empire (album number three) finds the band in familiar territory only with a new and improved map to guild them. For those who might be concerned though by Carlsson's departure rest assured that this New Jersey band continues to churn out music that will appeal to older fans as well as those of you into the likes of Symphony X, Nevermore and Opeth. Lead by the skills of guitarist/backing vocalist Matt Moliti (who is the main songwriter in addition to being the death vocal counterpoint to Larkin’s more traditional sound) Dark Empire started off as more of a power metal outfit before morphing into a progressive/thrash/death tinged band. More than anything though the band is metal at it's core. Melodic and technical in nature the new album also features the talents of bassist Randy Knecht and the drumming of session player Matt Graff. Mixing in with the melodic and technical power metal/thrash and modern progressive metal is more vintage progressive influences from the likes of Genesis and King Crimson. Dark Empire works vintage Mellotron and Hammond Organ samples into the mix as well as 12-string acoustic interludes creating quite the counterpoint to their often commanding take on epic and dark riff-filled thrash. The work of lead guitarist Matt Moliti is nothing short of superb whether you are talking about the beautiful touch of class given to the title track or the classic doom of 13+ minute album closer “The Cleansing Fires” and new lead singer Brian Larkin gives a superb performance throughout. He steps right in replacing Jens Carlsson and offers more of the same in regards to commanding lead vocals. His voice helps make album number three a sort of walkway connecting the band's early work with the new stuff. It helps that he is more than capable holding his own and breath's life into the songs. Musically these new influences end up giving you an album full of various styles, textures and emotions making "From Refuge to Ruin" an album worth searching out. Throughout the album I found traces of prog, traditional metal, thrash, death, doom and epic metal making "From Refuge to Ruin" a enjoyable listen to say the least. I'll be listening to this one more down the road mark my words.