New Jersey’s Dark Empire returns to the scene with their third release, From Refuge to Ruin. Fusing elements of extreme and classic metal, 70’s prog rock, and poetic, meaningful lyrics, Dark Empire bring forth a tremendously successful amalgam that is both refreshingly unique as well as raw and aggressive.
Dominating through the intricate songwriting are powerful new vocalist Brian Larkin (who replaces Jens Carlsson of Persuader and Savage Circus fame) and the commanding riffs of lead guitarist/main songwriter Matt Moliti, who also lends a chilling death vocal counterpoint to Larkin’s leather-throated melodic lines. In addition to Moliti’s elaborate guitar work and Larkin’s attention-grabbing vocals, Dark Empire features the deep resonance of bassist Randy Knecht and the “Dave Lombardo-meets-Gavin Harrison” drumming of session player Matt Graff.
Not being ones to repeat themselves, Dark Empire inject fresh new influences into their followup to 2008’s Humanity Dethroned. Taking a cue from 70’s prog masters such as Genesis and King Crimson, Dark Empire inventively utilize vintage Mellotron and Hammond Organ samples throughout the album, as well as delicate 12-string acoustic interludes and haunting, atmospheric melodies (coming to full fruition in the powerfully epic title track). This is not to undermine the push Dark Empire has also made in the heavier end of the dynamic spectrum, now utilizing seven-string guitars, crushing doom metal moments, and blistering death metal-inspired riffs. For older fans, these new elements serve to compliment, not overshadow, the band’s thrashy progressive metal roots, and the 13-minute-plus dark and doomy album closer “The Cleansing Fires” serves as a musical culmination of the broadened range of styles found throughout.
With pristine and powerful production from Jeremy Krull and artwork by Gustavo Sazes (Arch Enemy, Firewind, Morbid Angel) along with fresh creative input and exceptional talent, Dark Empire will surely become the new cross-over favorite for any metal fan.