The most impressive thing about Shade Empire’s new album Sunholy (Candlelight Records) is the range of dynamics it incorporates. However, if you need this to be a Black Metal album you might need to go hunt down the new Taake album or wait for Mayhem’s album to drop, but if you are open to metal that is melodic and offers a great deal of sonic colors then hear me out…
The Finnish headbangers have brought aboard Henry Hamalainen to handle vocals, which play heavily into opening their sound up to a new spectrum that branches out into Kamelot-flavored power metal. This is not to say they have abandoned harsher vocals, which are never far behind in response to the soaring vocal melodies, and since Henry is the only vocalist listed, this makes his contributions more impressive hearing how he handles all these vocal colors with ease.
It takes a few songs to accept the fact that this album is more like a melodic power band using harsh vocals more often – typically when you think of Symphonic Black Metal, expectations are more along the line of Dimmu Borgir and the difference here, is ICS Vortex’s use of sung vocals was dramatic in a darker quirkier manner than the trained restraint found in Hamalainen’s voice here. His singing works well over the shift into more of a metalcore-like stomp on “Torn Asunder”.
For those concerned, Shade Empire have not abandoned the blackened influence altogether as it can be heard when the pace picks up on “Maroon” – granted blast beats alone do not make something black metal, they make a pretty decent stab at it here, despite things ebbing into a hyper-melodic metal feel.
“All Consuming Flame” progs out into more of an Opeth direction, before hitting an electronic jam with saxophone wandering into the song. The blackened roar of “Profane Radiance” is a tempest of sound, though far from feral as hints of Jazz are woven into this musical tempest. They balance this out for the overall mood of the album with “Rite of Passage”. Where the previous song was more unbridled fury, this song compensates for the fact by being a well-done melodramatic ballad.
“This Coffin is an Island ” has an interesting groove that finds the band continuing to move in a more progressive direction. Your level of investment with this band is going to affect your listening experience, but the fact that everything is musically well executed should soften the blow and, overall, I respect how this album defies formulas. The dynamic balance of vocals might not be what the average blackened metal fan wants, but black metal should never be about conforming to anything. There is a more complex exploration of emotions in these songs that extend themselves beyond the established black metal principles, but I think there are already enough bands following that creed to make up for when a band like Shade Empire spreads their wings to fly in a more boundless direction as happens here.
Either way, with a pristine production courtesy of Chris Edrich (Devin, Leprous), and symphonics provided by Francesco Ferrini (Fleshgod Apocalypse), that leaves Sunholy sounding great, and excellent execution in having the musical ability to make their aspirations a reality, what really works here is that, while most big epic metal leans towards power metal or progressive metal is usually leans towards sounding happy and like an anime soundtrack, while Shade Empire might not fit the definition of black metal, they brought enough of the darkside with them to make this work. Fans of darker music with a heavy , yet progressive slant will find the album worth their while.
Buy the album here:
8 / 10