Empire - Hypnotica

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Lion Music
Catalog Number: LMC 2110-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 44:42:00

Empire is a supergroup of sorts, with Rolf Munkes (Rolf Munkes Band, Vanize) on guitars and bass, Lance King (Balance Of Power) and Mark Boals (Ring Of Fire) on vocals, Neil Murray (Whitesnake, National Health, Black Sabbath, ...) on bass, Gerald Kloos (Rolf Munkes Band) and Anders Johansson (Malmsteen, Hammerfall, ...) on drums and Don Airey (Rainbow, Company Of Snakes, ...) on keyboards. Their sound is a mishmash of styles from the late 70s through the early 80s, with a little dip into the early 90s. Thus you will at one time think of Iron Maiden ("Into The Light"), at another of Journey ("You're All That I'm Looking For"), of Guns N' Roses ("Shelter"), of Firefall ("Spread My Wings") ... wait a minute? Firefall? Yes. For a moment, during the intro, they could easily break into "Strange Way" what with the eddies of guitar and tinkling piano, but after that intro ... well, interestingly enough, I thought of Pat Benatar...if she sang a bit more masculine, of course. I can't explain that, really. Just trust me on it. You'd expect, of course, with that title, that it would sound like Queen... it doesn't. The song builds in that classic AOR way. A rather cool track, as it happens.

"Bad Bad Boy" has that summertime single feel about it - upbeat, hook-laden rocker. "I Will Always Be There" makes me think of a weird mix of Motley Crue and Starship, mainly because Mark Boals sounds mostly like Mickey Thompson with an occasional Vince Neil-ism. Musically, it's much more metallic than either band. "Another Place, Another Time" has that same kind of feel as both "Bad Bad Boy" and "I Will Always Be There," and one won't be surprised when I name-check Whitesnake here, too. Through in a little "Mississippi Queen" like guitar riffs from Munkes, as well. Like the smoothly gliding harmonized voices here -- something drawn from late-period Beatles, but uh...nothing that I can pin specifically.

Munkes' solos and riffs are all over the place - these and the vocals are the album's most prominent feature, though the other instruments aren't mere second fiddle -- or second keys/drums in this case. There is a nice keyboard intro on "A Different Sign" (not Airey in this case, programmed by Munkes and Stefan Kaufmann) which leads to a classical-metal inspired solo from Munkes, though it does have a synthetic quality about it. It's a piece that has a need to go somewhere though, but doesn't. Of course, as instrumentals go, it's long that the title track that lasts a mere 23 seconds, and is really just build up, hardly a track at all. The album really kicks off with the classic melodic hard rock of "Fool In Love." Listening to Hypnotica is like listening to the kind of radio that existed up until about the mid-80s. I can only relate my Los Angeles radio experience, but 1984/85 is the year the Might Met (KMET) became KTWV (The Wave) ... when it went from New Wave of British Heavy Metal to New Age. Up to that point, it was Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Rush, Van Halen... etc., etc. (Okay, sometime afterward KNAC came into existence (I think it's online only nowadays), but my reception was spotty and by then I was moving towards progressive rock anyway).

Generally, it's music that's well done, but when one gets right down to it, is a litany of hard rock clichés. And it is typical of what is being released by the Lion Music label. None of it is progressive, neither in terms of genre nor execution. But, saying that doesn't mean it's a bad album. The intent isn't to be a progressive rock or metal release. If your tastes run to the metallic side of progressive music and you enjoy a healthy dose of AOR, then Empire is right up your alley. The bands that these folks have played with will give you some idea of what to expect -- well, maybe not National Health.

The album is meant as a return to the rock it emulates -- as an homage, the clichés would be fine, but otherwise... well, one would hope that the sound would be brought into the 00's.

Hynotica (0:23) / Fool In Love (3:40) / Into The Light (4:17) / You're All That I'm Looking For (3:58) / Spread My Wings (5:05) / Bad Bad Boy (3:38) / Here I Am (4:43) / I Will Always Be There (4:43) / A Different Sign (2:01) / Shelter (4:08) / Back To Me (4:08) / Another Place, Another Time (3:52)

Rolf Munkes - guitars and bass
Lance King - vocals (2, 4 - 7, 10-12)
Mark Boals - vocals (3, 8)
Neil Murray - bass
Gerald Kloos - drums (2, 4-8, 10, 11)
Anders Johansson - drums (3, 12)
Don Airey - keyboards (5)

Hypnotica (2001)
Trading Souls (2003)

Genre: Melodic Rock-AOR

Origin VA

Added: November 17th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.empire-rock.com
Hits: 921
Language: english


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