Sound: Most black metal receives scorn and praise in equal measure, although my general view is that it is mostly repetitive nonsense. However, there a bands such as Shade Empire that really detract from the norm. Founded in Finland a short while ago, they've gained some marginal popularity. This is their most recent album, Zero Nexus.
The bands sound is a mish-mash mix of Melodic death metal, melodic black metal and (surprisingly) electronica. To try and convey this sort of sound across to you, the reader, you'd really need to hear them yourself. As with a lot of black metal, theres a huge emphasis on trying to create 'atmosphere'. Although most bands try to do that with a terrible recording technique, Shade Empire keep it mid to HQ and have the same sort of 'air-y' feeling of Nightwish when combined with their electronic/symphonic keyboards. The sound is huge melodic as well, the riffs are more your basic chugging/tremelo muted melodeath riffs and melodic powerchords but when combined with the keyboards, they meld pretty well together. The guitars also have a big influence from groove based bands, as apparent on the song 'Serpent Angel' and use e-bows from time to time to create a silky feel. The bass is very chunky, although not as audible as say, Fieldy, its got a good amount of distortion and doesnt ruin the mix.
01. 9 in 1: immediately your pushed into this bass heavy, razor-edged guitar riffing that just speeds the whole thing forward into a blast beat filled cracker of a song. The keyboards back the clean chorus, which could easily be mistaken for a well known Soilwork song, and just has to be the main highlight of the song.
02. Adam & Eve: starting off on a more amelodic note than the previous track, the drums go all out here with blast beats and pedals. The keyboard backdrops are what bring the song to life, while the guitars just send in riff after heavy riff. Whats new here is the addition of a female vocalist for the chorus/bridge. Although mixed in a little weakly, they're very pretty. The section afterwards really makes it sound like a psuedo-opera metal power ballad.
03. Blood Colours The White: an industrial/metal intro thats heavily reminscent of Septic Flesh starts this slower but heavy track off. The double bass 'shreds' really make this track pound in your head. The keyboards are again, the main atmospheric contributor and are accompanied by the female vocalist from earlier. This is also one of the few tracks to feature a guitar solo. Although a little lacklustre, its definitly a good attribute of the song.
04. Flesh relinquished: a more black metal-esque song, and containing a heavy progressive influence in the intro (played in what sounds like 6/4). The riffs are still heavy and groove based than most black metal though. In a short section in the song, the vocalist adopts a more Slayer-esque shout, rather than black metal growl/scream but returns soon enough to the norm. The keyboards add the melodic edge right at the end of the song, and this is when you can hear the vocalists weaker approach to the cleans..
05. Harvesters of Death: one of my favourite songs from the album, and one of my most favourite metal songs in general, its opening is pretty explosive and fast. It shows more melodeath influence than black, although the raging blast beats still give it away. Infact, with all the elements combined, the song is very much like a Dark Tranquility track, the vocals even become more and more like Mikael Stanne. The keyboard melodies are exquisite, and the electronics set the more 'air-y' feel in the song. Although there arent any cleans in the song, its sheer power just blows your head out of the water.
06. Serpent-Angel: the intro is groovy with a keyboard riff that just sounds immense, although the verse outshines many of the other melodic moments on the rest of the album. The guitars chugging is rediculously catchy and the bridge has a KoRn-esque heavy riff, although how the drums (while playing blast beats) manages to keep the groove up is far beyond comprehension. The uh, unique clean vocals appear again in the pre-chorus and lead into a pretty great solo that just fits in so well with the melodies of the keyboards.
07. Whisper from the Deaths: a deep voiced intro that preludes to somethign far heavier starts this more electronic song. That said though, the vocals reach the levels of Bolt Throwers deep burble, yet the cleans are prominent and with the overall slowness, it sounds like an early Katatonia track, although the bass drum 'shreds' keep to the black metal basis.
08. Ecstacy of Black Light: the intro is heavily governed by this dance/trance-type keyboard section, but the guitar riffs are pretty bouncy and offset it somewhat. Theres this one riff thats pretty catchy though that begins at 1:24 in the song which is pretty addictive, although it soon goes into blast beats and tremelos, like a flood being unleashed every half a minute. The ebow background sets a melody over the Septic Flesh-esque guitar and drum sections.
09. Victory: the introduction is very grandiose, but it soon goes into a very melodeathy/fast verse that carries the same tempo/speed till the end of the song. The riffs are monumentally catchy, and the bridge-ish riff is much like the chorus to 'Monochromatic Stains' by Dark Tranquility, if a little slowed down. The vocals have the sound of the madman about them. Halfway through the song is the man highlight, where the female vocalist adds a backdrop along with the keyboards as well as (get this) a saxophone solo (which seems to be a trend in new bands these days). The rest of the song is a slow, melodic and intense outo that lasts a good 2 minutes and provides an epic closer to the song and album. // 8
Lyrics: Lyrics wise, well, its black metal: Although it isnt 'satanic' or typically anti christian, the big themes are mass murder, death, apocalypses and fallen angels. For example, from 'Harvesters of Death':
Humanity carries the knowledge of the beast
The living cannot teach the dead
but the dead can instruct the living
Bodies moving but hearts are not beating
nor is their blood warm
Legion that shuns no sacrifice
Their lives have already been given
Inspite of the lyrics being what they are, the vocalist is quite good. His growl sounds like an identical match to Ihsahn, and his clean voice (which he uses for a third or so of the tracks) isnt too bad either. It might need a little improving, but it carries the tone well. A female vocalist also lends her talents to much of the album and adds a powerful melodic force to the album. // 7
Overall Impression: Its apparent that Zero Nexus shares a multitude of traits with melodeath/power metal bands, although theres not really a band that can meld the electronics, the keyboards and the ferocity so well and make it sound good. The best songs from the album are '9 in 1' 'Harvester of Death' 'Serpent Angel' and 'Victory' and the rest don't come close to filler. Its a bit of a trip to listen to the entire thing and well worth it. // 8