We've been (im)patiently waiting for EMP!RE's debut EP since getting a taste of 'All The Rage' back in October. The 'Birth' EP dropped this weekend, and lives up to the anticipation. Fans of The Divine Secret will find a lot to like in Joe Green's new project, but then—so will pretty much everyone.
The British alt-rock quintet earns the exclamation point in their name by creating music that's angular, jagged, and hard but still hooky as hell. Singer Joe Green has a virtuosic wail rarely heard outside of the most bombastic retro metal (anyone else remember that week when The Darkness was the best thing on the planet and then we all agreed to never talk about them ever again? Good times.). But his vocal heft is never over the top. He remains anchored to the ground by a band that can turn on a dime but keeps their undeniable chops in check. There's something powerful in restraint.
There's a lot of early 2000's emo (is that still a dirty word? Or are we all ready to agree that Fallout Boy being terrible doesn't diminish Hey Mercedes' greatness?) in EMP!RE's DNA. “Cross My Heart” has the sung/screamed vocal dynamic that was unavoidable for a few years there. But rather than sounding like a tired retread, they remind us why it was so popular in the first place. “All The Rage” remains the big highlight here, but in fairness, it's also spent two months as a highlight in my playlist and would be a highlight in any context.
The whole EP is available on a name-your-own-price basis on in the music player above.
- Words by Nathan Leigh