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    Empire Hypnotica (2001) [Japanese Ed.]

    Empire - Hypnotica (2001)
    EAC | Flac(Image) + Cue + Log & MP3 CBR 320Kbps
    King Record, KICP-862 | ~ 373 or 118 MB Artwork(jpg) -> 64 Mb
    Heavy Metal, Hard Rock

    The story of the sometimes hard rocking but mostly metal phenomenon that is Anglo/German project Empire and most notably their debut LP is, by extension, the story of a guitar hero who almost never was. In the closing days of the 80s metal era there was a brief period where Udo Dirkschneider's brother Peter's band Vanize featured the talents of an unknown six-string upstart in Rolf Munkes. Sadly this brief collaboration did not materialize into any recorded material, and Rolf was soon replaced with Markus Becker, who would go on to be the permanent guitarist and record four LPs with Vanize. Following more than a decade of inactivity, one would rightly stipulate that Rolf had thrown in the towel for the standard nine to five grind, never to hit that stage again. However, the new millennium brought a veritable metallic revolution in Western Europe that provided the perfect opportunity for a second chance, thus was born Empire, a band made up largely of has beens who found themselves marginalized by the 90s musical mainstream.

    On paper, this project and their debut Hypnotica is the perfect synthesis of the old 80s guard with a renewed, turn of the millennium outlook informed by the participation of longtime underground resistance vocalists Lance King and Mark Boals. The flavor of these songs definitely has a strong power/prog flavor to it, owing largely to the former's participation on the lion's share of these songs and Rolf's songwriting all but mimicking the pacing, anthemic quality, production and technical flair of King's most recent project Balance Of Power. Particularly when hearing the driving, rhythmically involved character of catchy rockers like "Fool In Love" and "Into The Light", or even the more mid-paced, late 80s Queensryche character of "Here I Am" and "Back To Me", it's kind of easy to mistake this album for Ten More Tales... or Perfect Balance. Lance King's voice is actually in fairly rare form compared to other works, as if Rolf wanted an exaggerated combination of Geoff Tate and Harry Conklin to rival his guitar work on here, which is flashy and technical enough to rival the likes of Paul Gilbert and Joe Satriani.

    Though this album presents something of a who's who of metal mainstays from the old days from Anders Johannson of Rising Force and Hammerfall fame and former Black Sabbath bassist Neil Murray, there are times where the formula veers a bit away from the heavy metal formula and comes off a bit lighter that what is typical for at least most of those involved (Murray was in White Snake after all). Particularly when hearing such happy-go-lucky rockers as "Another Place, Another Time" or "You're All That I'm Looking For", one wouldn't be out of line by noting the similarities to some of Dokken's or even Van Halen's radio hits from the mid 1980s, the latter song could almost pass for a b-side off 5150 if King's airy high vocals were switched out for a Sammy Haggar-like gritty shout. Likewise, when accounting for the atmospheric instrumental "A Different Sign" and the Japanese issue bonus track and Steve Vai inspired 4 minute shred fest "Take A Look Around", the overall picture here is a fair bit more varied than a typical rock/metal fence-sitting act, perhaps enough to warrant a progressive metal tag at least insofar as this album is concerned.

    Though it is a rare occasion where a band strikes gold on their first go at things, Hypnotica stands as Empire's crowning accomplishment to date and functions on a completely different level than anything they've put out since. There is a reason why soon after this album hit the shelves that Rolf Munkes found himself in demand and took a 3 year stint with the German based power metal project and veritable Manowar tribute act Majesty, and it's not just his ability to pen a catchy tune, though he is definitely no slouch in that department. As with just about every project that Lance King has ever participated in, his time in this outfit was notably fleeting, and subsequent albums under the Empire name would take on a fairly different character. Every album that has been offered up by Rolf and company is definitely worth the time of anyone who likes old school heavy metal with a rocking root protruding from the ground, but newcomers are definitely encouraged to approach their discography chronologically, ergo starting at their beginning and their best.

    Empire - Hypnotica (2001):

    01. Hypnotica (00:24)
    02. Fool In Love (03:42)
    03. Into The Light (04:20)
    04. You're All That I'm Looking For (03:59)
    05. Spread My Wings (05:07)
    06. Bad Bad Boy (03:41)
    07. Here I Am (04:46)
    08. I Will Always Be There (04:46)
    09. A Different Sign (02:03)
    10. Shelter (04:10)
    11. Back To Me (04:12)
    12. Another Place, Another Time (03:54)
    13. Take A Look Around (Bonus Track For Japan) (04:49)



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