Album Review: Empire State Bastard - Rivers Of Heresy
Reviewed by Tim Finch
Biffy Clyro are pretty much a household name these days, so when Simon Neil and Mike Vennart decided to embark on a side project, very much removed from the Biffy sound, it raised some eyebrows. When they drafted in the legendary figure of Dave Lombardo on drums the project took on a whole new dimensions. Not only was the interested of the Biffy fans piqued, but also so was that of a million and one more extreme music fans.
Upon breaking the news of the project, they commented “Empires fall, States rise, Bastards sing…”.
So what do they have in store? After a scattering of live dates they release ‘Rivers Of Heresy’ via Roadrunner Records this week.
The albums starts with the low heavy chug of the opening notes of ‘Harvest’, screaming vocals layered atop harsh riffs that complement each other perfectly. Biffy fans expecting tunes akin to ‘Many Of Horror’ may be turning off in disgust at this point; such is the ferocity at which the music is delivered, but in the same breath, Slayer this not either! It’s abrasive, rough around the edges, extreme music at its best.
‘Moi’ flips the album on its head, a slow bass driven intro with Dave Lombardo’s gentle beat sitting quietly in the background. Simon Neil’s vocals switch from the harshness of previous songs to a more tempered, gentle whisper in the listeners ears, his strong Scottish accent melting in your ear canals. However don’t get too relaxed as intermittently that anger, that angst, that aggression breaks through at break neck speed before stepping back once more.
As that last notes of ‘Moi’ seep away you are awoken by a manic Dave Lombardo drum beat and Simon screaming what would seem his last breath on ‘Tired, Aye’. The song purely drums and vocals shows how the trio are willing to experiment and push the envelope on what music should sound like.
In fact, the whole album is an exercise in stretching the boundaries of what people accept as “the norm”. Throughout they push hard, the abrasiveness of tracks sitting alongside the conflicting screams and melodies of Simon’s vocals. Fans of Biffy may want to skip this release, so too fans of Slayer, for a thrash metal classic this is not! Instead Empire State Bastard deliver a masterpiece of noise, aggressive extreme music. One that hits the reset button and puts everyone on notice, this band are here to test you in every way possible.