Sound — 8
John Williams has been the source of many of the most quintessential film score moments in cinema history, and while that list includes classics like the "Indiana Jones" theme song, and the iconic tritone of the "Jaws" motif, the most legendary of all is his score to the "Star Wars" film series. Whether you're a fan of the franchise or not, just about anyone can recognize the opening salvo of horns that build up into the triumphant fanfare of the theme to "Episode IV: A New Hope," or the dour grandeur of the Imperial March, and Williams' compositions have inspired plenty of soundtracks, pastiches, and covers in its wake.
For Grant McFarland, the drummer for the metalcore band Century, he took his reverence for Williams' film scores beyond simply playing an instrument on top of the master track, and cultivated a full metal lineup called Galactic Empire, where all of the four members role-play as figures from the Empire to play progressive metal renditions of Williams' compositions from the original "Star Wars" trilogy and the prequel trilogy.
Aside from the obvious visual humor harped on in the band's couple of music videos, like seeing Darth Vader and Boba Fett deftly playing their instruments despite their cumbersome space armor, and the fact that the bassist is just a run-of-the-mill storm trooper, their metal reconstructions of Williams' compositions in their self-titled album boast integrity in instrumental skill. Along with outright metal energy taking the spotlight, whether it's the tricky guitar leads in "Main Theme" and "Ben's Death / Tie Fighter Attack," or McFarland's relentless drumming abilities in "Duel of the Fates" and "Cantina Band," the elaborate guitar layering in the album is a key appeal. Whether it's the high hammer-on licks emulating the string melodies throughout "The Asteroid Field," the tuplet horn rhythms easily translated into djents in "Imperial March," or the twinkling guitar melodies substituted for the original xylophone/harp parts in the outro of "The Force Theme," Galactic Empire's effort to redo all the original orchestral sections with metal guitar lines works well.
Only in a couple of cases do Galactic Empire's metal renditions feel faulty. "Across the Stars" meanders without offering anything too captivating (much like "Episode II: Attack of the Clones," which the original song was written for), and the jovial melodies in "Forest Battle" inch close to the cheesy sound of folk metal, but on top of their orchestral to metal translation, they offer other sonic flavors that embolden the modern prog metal feel in the album, like the hint of IDM-inspired production value thrown in "Main Theme," and the dry rapid strumming intro of "Battle of the Heroes" sounding like something from an Animals As Leaders album.
Lyrics — 8
[There are no lyrics in this album, so for those hoping to hear what Darth Vader's growling vocals would sound like, you'll just have to resort to your own imagination.]
Overall Impression — 7
Like Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the concept of covering classical compositions in a metal style will never be able to shake off the gimmick factor it inherently wields. Galactic Empire is no exception with their take on the "Star Wars" film scores, but given their aesthetic committed to the franchise, they own up to the niche they're confined in. So while Galactic Empire may only appeal to the intersection of the metalheads and "Star Wars" fans Venn diagram, their detailed commitment to emulating John Williams' compositions as accurately as they can with their metal instrumentation succeeds.