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Dark Empire: From Refuge to Ruin

Nightmare Records have been on quite a roll lately, and that trend continues with From Refuge to Ruin, the third release from New Jersey's thrash/power metal/progressive extreme metal act Dark Empire. Since their last release, powerhouse vocalist Jens Carlsson has left, presumably to spend more time with his other bands Savage Circus and Persuader, and has been replaced by Brian Larkin, who fits in just fine. His soaring pipes sound a bit like Nevermore/Sanctuary vocalist Warrel Dane, and form a potent foil alongside the raging death metal growls of guitarist Matt Moliti.

Though it's been said before by many others as well as myself, but Dark Empire have always taken the framework of Nevermore and added a touch more of the prog to come up with their sound. Here on From Refuge to Ruin that's again the case, as Moliti churns out plenty of thrashy riffage that wouldn't have been out of place on any of Nevermore's classic albums. Just listen to "Dreaming in Vengeance" or the boiling "Dark Seeds of Depravity" to hear that reference point, but Moliti & Co. take it once step further by throwing in the occasional keyboard flourish as well as the solid death metal growls. "The Crimson Portrait" is killer dark power metal, while the near 10 minute title track contains plenty of atmosphere and Larkin's best vocal performance on the album. If you come to the world of Dark Empire to hear their take on heavy & metallic prog rock, this is the song to gravitate to first. "Lest Ye Be Judged" is speedy butt gusting thrash, as sledgehammer rhythms and raging riffs provide the musical landscape over which Larkin & Moliti duel their clean & extreme vocals. A real surprise is the catchy "Black Hearts Demise", a shorter piece that combines bubbling keyboards, heavy riffs, powerful clean vocals, black metal shrieks, and death metal growls for a wild ride that also happens to be the most accessible song on the album. Moliti's guitar solos here are also outstanding. Closing epic "The Cleansing Fires" is nearly 15 minutes of progressive metal mayhem, Larkin and Moliti again impressing with their vocal tradeoffs amidst pummeling arrangements that really flow quite nicely.

A few things really stand out on From Refuge To Ruin; for one, Larkin is an exceptional find. In addition, Moliti has really gained confidence as an extreme metal growler. For some folks, there might be a tad too much of his extreme metal vocals here, but I think they add a nice touch, giving Dark Empire that extra edge that acts like Scar Symmetry and Mercenary have. Lastly, these are all really powerful songs that stick in your head, and while the band certainly isn't breaking any rules here or exploring uncharted waters (I would have liked just a little more extended instrumental passages), this is simply well crafted heavy metal with both progressive and extreme elements that with the proper exposure should really find a lot of fans out there ready and willing to soak up its rewards. Well done!


Track Listing
1. A Plague in the Throne Room
2. Dreaming in Vengeance
3. The Crimson Portrait
4. Dark Seeds of Depravity
5. From Refuge to Ruin
6. Lest Ye Be Judged
7. What Men Call Hatred
8. Black Hearts Demise
9. The Cleansing Fires

Added: April 7th 2012
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 2274
Language: english

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