Our Verdict: 4/5
Release date: Out now
Find it at: iTunes, Amazon, Google Play
Find out more: Million Empire’s website
Swathes of melody, buckets of emotion and some seriously strong arrangements: all can be found in abundance on the new EP from Midlands alt-rock three-piece, Million Empire.
Alternative rock genetics run rife through the four songs and seventeen minutes of The Lion Tamer. Opening track “Rabbit Punch” is all picked harmonic filigree guitar, undercut by rolling drums and bathed in Andy Crawford’s emotive rasp of a voice. The whole thing then sets course for outer space with a full bodied blast of a chorus, and the dial set firmly to epic. The arrangement builds, moves and maneuvers throughout it’s running time, carefully developing it’s structure with some classy alternative guitar breaks and a shrewd and skillful bass workout coming forward in the mix. It’s a thrilling ride that is carefully paired back for the coda that brings it to a close.
“Supertension” feels like more of a straightforward, heads-down, pedal-to-the-metal rock n’ roll track. But those paying closer attention with their discerning ear for music will soon discover that there’s much more going on. Layers of guitar and rhythm section weave intricately together through verse and chorus, wrapped up in a fragile covering of lyrical ennui: “We split in two halves and make jigsaw pieces, We’re riddled with holes, it makes captive viewing.” And listening too by all accounts. If only all heartbreak could ultimately result in the creation of music so captivating. The more reflective sound of the last minute or so of the song feels almost baroque, and it’s a perfectly nuanced fade to black.
“Blessed” picks up a similar pace from the get-go, the narrator dwelling on being “blessed by a broken heart.” The track certainly wouldn’t sound out of place on a Smashing Pumpkins album, with it’s fuzzy guitar lines and melancholic chord progressions, punctuated with dynamic staccato six-string stabs and bursts of energetic drum thump. The structure and arrangement are a particular delight here, with the rhythmic interplay towards the close of the track sending it in an altogether different direction, and at speed. It’s a goosebump kinda’ moment.
Finally, and all too quickly, it’s the turn of final and title track, “The Lion Tamer.” It sprints out of the blocks in full-on mid 00’s indie mode, as much about getting you shaking your ass and dancing as it is rocking out. It’s frantic, blustery middle section adds a healthy dose of aural thrash, before an almost falsetto vocal refrain lightens proceedings and allows you to take your breath for a moment. But it’s only a moment, and it’s soon disturbed by a thunderous, down-tuned chord that segues into a phased fret run and ascending progression that will blow your mind as well as your speakers. The song bows out in the majesty of a series of power chords that wouldn’t sound out of place in the dying throes of a Black Sabbath record, before fading away and leaving just a sinewy bass line to hang on to.
If there’s anything wrong with The Lion Tamer, it’s this: it’s just too damn short. Million Empire are a band worthy of a finely tuned album length release. They have the talent, the work ethic and the chops. God knows they can write a damn fine tune. What they need now is a following, some funding and a heap of highly vocal support.
Go give it to ’em.
Check out Million Empire’s teaser trailer for “The Lion Tamer” below:
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