Blood Empire - Sermons of Suffering
Ah the Swedes – always the epicentre of most things metal in the world. Scandinavia (and Sweden in particular) has a long history of churning out exceptional, visionary bands, from the founding of black metal in Norway, to the birth of (dare I say it…) djent through Meshuggah, to the ‘Gothenburg’ sound pioneered by At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames. Heavy music just wouldn’t be the same without the contribution of our Northern Brothers.
So, on to a type of review I haven’t written all that often lately – the blind foray into a completely new band with very little in the way of context, or any idea of what to expect. The band in question are Blood Empire, a four-piece from Gävle, Sweden (Our Editor interviewed them here). They’re heading over here later this year for their first UK show (and, as I learned, what will be most of the members’ first trip to the UK in general) so there’s an understandable buzz in the air from both band and fans. For the uninitiated, it’s always fun to go to a local show and see a foreign band – I can testify from experience. There’s just something special about it. Maybe I’m just sick of posh people with accents stringing chords together on open mic nights (I am), but to have a young Swedish band in town playing a show which could well catapult them to brighter things – well, I think that’s great for the scene and for me as a music fan.
Anyway, to avoid missing the ‘review’ part of this review, I’m going to talk a little about Blood Empire’s debut EP Sermons of Suffering. The record consists of four fairly short tracks (no prog epics here) which aim to deliver as big a punch as possible to the listener. Sonically, the band approach songwriting with a concise vision and a melting pot of influences which include death metal (as the foundation), thrash, black metal and straight up rock ‘n roll. Immediately when firing up Emporor’s Game, I’m reminded of Entombed, Dismember and other classic bands of the Swedish death metal scene. This is death metal with genuine, legitimate hooks. In my opinion, all is as it should be. Across these four tracks, Blood Empire fold a lot of metal pastry into the pie and are always derivative but never stale. I’d actually recommend this EP as a pretty good entry point into this style of music as Blood Empire cover a lot of ground in no time at all.
Furnace Fire is a particular highlight here – cranking up the pure death metal tendencies and opening with a riff which could be straight off Cannibal Corpse’s The Bleeding. It’s a slow, pulverising track which sees the vicious blast-beats nearly trip up the guitars as things grind efficiently along. The guitar tone is also worth mentioning because, if you’re a fan of Swedish death metal, you’ll probably have a big grin on your face for much of this EP. It’s 100% old school, buzzsaw guitar riffs made even dirtier through the stripped back production. I also have to give kudos to the vocalist on this cut as he delivers a varied and memorable performance, mixing up high shrieks and low growls reminiscent of a Peter Tagtgren or Chris Barnes.
Sermons of Suffering is one of those albums where if you hate what came before, this won’t do anything to change your mind. If you’re interested in getting acquainted with this sort of style, though, you could do much worse than to check this EP out. Obviously, if you’ve already got your wall of Dark Tranquillity rarities from the 90’s and the only thing on your Christmas list is for In Flames to just be good again, then it goes without saying that Blood Empire are worth your time.
A strong prospect for the future, and if this EP is anything to go by, the live show should be a blast. Recommended!
Words: Ben Armstrong