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Last Empire: Heir To The Throne

Last Empire: Heir To The Throne

Heavy Metal
Rating: 3.25/5.0

I always enjoy the irony of finding a metal from from Northwest America: the same area that drove the death spike into the commercial success of classic heavy metal in the early 90's. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Last Empire brings the very same metal that got its ass whipped by a few scruffy dudes in torn jeans and flannel shirts. Last Empire indulges all the excesses of that classic form by drawing deep from the NWOBM well, and them adding a few modern nuances to it.

Generally, my first impression of 'Heir To The Throne' was simple ambivalence. Even as a fan of classic heavy metal, I could take it or leave this disc without feeling I had missed anything. However, some strong points should be mentioned. First, Last Empire knows well their traditional metal style; its boldly apparent in every song. Songs like 'Secrecy,' 'Heir To The Throne,' and 'The Edge Of Doom' ooze with the energy and mystic of 'true' metal. 'The Edge Of Doom' is quite good, possibly the best thing on the disc, and sounds like something Iron Maiden would have done back in the day. Second, the twin guitar assault is genuinely creative and compelling especially on 'Enemy' and 'The Falconer.'

Unfortunately, Last Empire has a lot to overcome on 'Heir To The Throne,' to make this a slightly better than average effort. Vocalist Brian Allen has the metal scream down pat, but unfortunately that seems to be all that he is doing on this album. He sounds like a cross between the shrieking Cam Pipes of (Northwest neighbors) 3 Inches Of Blood and the falsetto annoyance of Justin Hawkins (ex-The Darkness, now Hot Leg). More often than not, he's performance is overbearing, grating and distracting from the rest of the band. To his credit, however, Allen can show some variation as on 'The Edge Of Doom' and 'The Falconer;' he needs to work on this some more.

Other challenges include the shoddy production which makes the music sound like somebody turned the treble up to ten on your stereo. This may account for the terrible sound of the drumming: Darius Lindell sounds as if he is banging away on empty #10 grocery cans. Finally, speaking of 3 Inches Of Blood, Last Empire mixes the clean screams with some dirty vocals on several songs (most notable 'The Falconer'). If this is used for modern trends, it's merely capitulation. If it's to mimic their peers, then it's simple folly. Whichever, there's no need for Last Empire to go down either road.

Last Empire's 'Heir To Throne' is a strong, yet uniquely flawed, work of heavy metal which draws from the classic, even NWOBM, tradition. Last Empire's strengths lie in their impressive song arrangements and twin guitar attack. 'Heir To The Throne' is an ambitious effort, and hopefully a signal of great and better things to come.

In Short

Last Empire's 'Heir To Throne' is a strong, yet uniquely flawed, work of heavy metal which draws from the classic, even NWOBM, tradition. Last Empire's strengths lie in their impressive song arrangements and twin guitar attack. 'Heir To The Throne' is an ambitious effort, and hopefully a signal of great and better things to come.

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