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EMPYRE ‘Self Aware’ Review

Released by: EMPYRE

Release Date: 5TH July 2019

Genre: Atmospheric Rock

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Line-up:

Henrik Steenholdt – vocals & rhythm guitar

Did Coles – lead guitar

Grant Hockley – bass

Elliot Bale – drums

Tracklist:

1. My Bad

2. Stone

3. New Republic

4. Too Close

5. Just a Ride

6. Drive

7. Only Way Out

8. Cut to the Core

9. Too Little Too Late

10. Something Remains

11. Homegrown

Northamptonshire rockers EMPYRE are set to release their debut album on the 5th of July. Titled ‘Self Aware’, this very tight, original, well-orchestrated, and highly developed album doesn’t strike you as a debut. From their distinctive auditory structures, vocal phrasing, and sonic layering displayed throughout the album, ‘Self Aware’ offers a fresh and unique sound that stands out against the crowd.

As the album opens with ‘My Bad’ it is clear that this is not your typical rock album. With an incredibly tight arrangement, this song is a mere appetiser for what is yet to follow. This introduction to Henrik’s stunning vocals and the entire bands excellent musicianship sets the stage for what is a brilliant album. Up next is ‘Stone’, which for me is one of the first of three truly stand-out tracks on the album. This melodic track pulls you along languidly as the album expands and you start to get a feel for the band and the themes they are tackling.

Moving on, we have ‘New Republic’, the band’s latest single, and another stand-out track on the album. This gritty, angst-ridden, and grunge-infused track is described by the band as A song written as a retaliation to the crazy world we are currently living in. Where ideologies force humans to perform inhuman acts against each other in the name of religious theocracy or political authority.”


As we fast approach the middle of the album, we come to ‘Too Close’ which explores the concept of duality, the wistful ‘Just a Ride’, which is a nod to comedian Bill Hicks, and the more upbeat hard-rocker ‘Drive’. Up next we have the third of my stand-out tracks on Self Aware. The poignant and sonorous track ‘Only Way Out’, with its melancholy vibe, is a thought-provoking song that cuts you to your core as Henrik’s soaring vocals rise over the layered sonic structures of the song. Moving quickly towards the conclusion of the album, the lyrics of ‘Cut To The Core’ almost stand in opposition to the bright and catchy sound created by the song. This radio-ready track is bound to hook listeners from the get go.

Referred to by the band as a “kind of self-empowering anti-love song,” the menacing and rolling structure of the sound syncopated against Henrik’s angry vocals really drive home the dark themes of this song, which was inspired by the fallout from a toxic relationship.


Rounding out the album, we have the Indie-rock anthem ‘Something Remains’, and final track ‘Homegrown’. The final track on the album, with its acoustic guitar offset against the atmospheric lead guitar builds into an indictment against the part that guilt has to play in religion and the power it has over otherwise intelligent and free peoples. This provocative song brings the introspective Self Aware to a resounding close. Recorded and produced by Neil Haynes at Parlour Recording Studios in Kettering, Self Aware is a truly impressive first offering for a band.


It’s not very often an album comes along with a sound that almost single-handedly reinvents a genre, it’s even rarer when that album is a debut. Self Aware draws on a myriad of influences and redefines alternative rock to such an extent that it almost warrants its own classification. This unique band have created something fresh and original that is bound to propel them to the big leagues in no time. It may sound like exaggeration, but in my opinion EMPYRE could do for the current British New Wave of Classic Rock, what the Seattle sound did for rock in the 90s. The plush and resonating soundscape created throughout the album stand in stark contrast to the bands contemporaries and will leave listeners craving more of their sound. I have listened to a number of debuts recently, and for me, EMPYRE’s Self Aware is one of the best, if not the best of 2019. Do yourself a favour and add Self Aware to your music collection. It is a must have for any lover of rock music!

While you’re here why not check out our interview with Did & Henrick.

Ratings: 10/10

Written by: Erik De’Viking

My Global Mind – UK Editor

Erik De’Viking is a London based freelance music journalist. His musical interests include music in all its forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover and later preach about to the masses.

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