Seems to me I recall Dark Empire sounding better. I certainly don't remember hitting the skip button so early and so often. But I did so with their third release From Refuge to Ruin.
There's no disputing Dark Empire's talent, especially that of guitarist Matt Moliti, or their grip on heavier, thrash and power metal driven, prog metal. It seems, however, with From Refuge to Ruin, Dark Empire is making their strongest case for transforming into a progressive thrash/death metal. With a few exceptions, most every song offers heaviness and thrashiness, and new vocalist's Brian Larkin's clean vocals trumped by Moliti's death vocal slobbering.
The death vocals have been inherent since the first album, but are increasingly pervasive here, and annoying. After finding them on the first two songs, when heard again on following tunes, I simply skipped to the next. This didn't leave much room for contemplating any song to carefully. Mostly the combination thrash and power metal with death vocals reminded me of a just caught fish flopping about on the grass with the hook still in it's mouth. Whether the increasing use of death vocals is for current commercial appeal or continued experimentation, it's simply tiresome.
Still, From Refuge to Ruin has its finer moments not the least of which are the two songs with clean vocals, the title cut and The Crimson Portrait. Excusing the death vocals the last and longest song, The Cleansing Fire is, musically, equivalent in caliber and intrigue to the title cut. In the end, I guess I can agree that, generally, the music here is promising point.
Otherwise, I can't say I was not overly inspired, pleased or entertained by From Refuge to Ruin. It's likely I'll need some prodding to listen to the next recording.
With From Refuge to Ruin, Dark Empire makes the case for finally evolving into a hybrid melodic and progressive, thrash and death, metal band.
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