The wait is over. Polish death metal legends Vader’s new album The Empire is almost upon us. Their latest EP Iron Times gave us a taster of what’s to come when it was released in August, and with The Empire Vader have definitely delivered.
Opening the double-assault of “Angels of Steel” and “Tempest”. the album showcases a return to the straight up in-your-face death metal of Vader’s earlier releases. The songs are crushingly heavy and lightning fast which get the head banging instantly upon first listen. “Prayer to the God of War” (one of the songs showcased on Iron Times) brings the pace down a notch and is more or less unchanged from its original release but it flows nicely between “Tempest” and it’s follow-up “Iron Reign”. The aforementioned song is the longest and slowest song on the album, but it’s not out of place among its shorter sharper brethren. “Iron Reign” exhibits much more classic metal riffing and a stomping rhythm which makes for a welcome breather in between the legions of warp speed death metal blasts that blow up your speakers.
After listening to the first few songs of The Empire, it’s clear that Vader still have the magic touch when it comes to writing their brand of extreme death metal. The drums and bass (courtesy of James Stewart and Tomasz “Hal” Halicki respectively) are tight and pounding, guitarists Marek “Spider” Pajak and Piotr Wiwczarek are heavy and crushing, and Wiwczarek’s lead vocals are as aggressive and distinctive as ever. The music so far is generally simple and much shorter in comparison to some of The Empire’s predecessors (such as 2014’s Tibi et Igni and 2011’s Welcome to the Morbid Reich) but it’s undeniably energetic and sets the tone for the remainder of the album.
The second half of The Empire begins with “No Gravity”. Picking up the pace, the song continues Vader’s trademark blasting death metal that keeps the head banging from its thrashing verses to its stomping outro. “Genocidius” is another short sharp number featuring plenty of straight-up high speed riffing. The riffs showcase more uses of guitar harmonies and the chugging ending riffs highlight the commanding “join the empire!” refrain. “The Army-Geddon” continues the commanding ideas with it’s opening line, “Brothers! Sisters! Now listen to me!”, and the “join my army now!” refrain. The music has a much more moody feel with its extensive use of chugging and “machine gun” style open string riffing. Reaching the end The Empire is the penultimate pair of high velocity numbers “Feel My Pain” and and “Parabellum”. While the latter’s simple thrashing remains more or less the same as it’s original release on the Iron Times EP, the former is another lesson in how crushing, blastbeat-heavy death metal is done. The album closes with the storming stomp of “Send Me Back to Hell” which marks the final return of Vader’s slower and moodier riffing before the album ends.
The Empire, the latest album by Polish death metal legends Vader is a tour de force of straight-up, balls to the wall, blasting death metal. It’s crushingly heavy, lightning fast, and the band’s performance is awe-inspiring. As soon as I listened to the album the first time I wanted to smash myself into a wall. Vader may have gone back to the simpler territory of their earlier work, and they may not have reinvented the wheel with The Empire, but when it makes you want to bang your head and destroy things from hearing the first note you know it’s an awesome record. It’s been 25 years since their debut LP but it’s clear that Vader are still going strong and they won’t be going away any time soon.
Highlights – “Angels of Steel”, “Prayer to the God of War”, “Iron Reign”, and “The Army-Geddon”
Score – 8.5