Out now on Lion Music

Another release in Lion Music’s Limited Edition Digipack reissue series, this review originally ran on the old Virtuosity One website in 2006.

If your musical interests do not expand beyond those of super technically proficient then you may as well stop reading this review right now. If you are a rock fan then read on. ‘Trading Souls’ is guitarist Rolf Munkes second album under the Empire name. The bands debut album featured Mark Boals on vocals on several tracks, but this there second see ex Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin handle all vocal responsibilities. Anders Johansson plays drums on a two tracks – hence the link to Yngwie.

Empire basically specialise in classic sounding hard rock that runs the gamut of commercial to classic. The songs all have very strong melody lines and Martin’s vocals are impeccable throughout. Rolf Munkes guitar work is very much in the vein of ‘for the song’ as opposed to boosting his own personal ego and he proves himself to be a very competent player with a good knack for knocking out a memorable riff and chord progression. Don Airey (Deep Purple/ex Rainbow) handles all keyboards and he makes nice use of a variety of sounds – hammond to orchestral backing, all giving the tracks a nice atmospheric base. The rhythm section is held down by bassist Neil Murray (Whitesnake/Black Sabbath amongst many others) and drums are handled by the aforementioned Johansson and Gerald Kloos. The production of the album is very clear and powerful, the mix is impeccable.

My personal favorites are the heavier darker numbers, “Pay Back Time” has a great chorus that whilst not being radio commercial is catchy enough to have you humming it back to yourself later on.

The second half of the album is where the band really hit their stride with some well worked out classic rock that convey the darker element once again whilst managing to keep an eye on melody. “You” manages to combine the Swedish hard rock pound of bands like Damned Nation. “Perfect Singularity” (cool title) which allows room for Martin’s vocal to breathe to maximum effect and its quite Dio in phrasing before the pre-chorus see the mood lighten a listen which in turn changes again for the commercial chorus.  “Wherever You Go” sees the album really hitting its stride and the elements of the bands sound seem to come together here, the chorus is superb and sounds very original, Munkes throws in some nice dirty guitar work and wah drenched unison bends to create a Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) vibe and its my favourite track of the album.

The only thing that lets this album down are the ballads which are a little sickly and Bon Jovi esque in places. Tony Martin even sounds like Jon Bon in places! These are easily enough skipped past, but hey it may make your girlfriend let you listen to some rock!?

Overall ‘Trading Souls’ is a strong album in the classic rock mold yet with a modern edge and great production.

Hot Spots : Wherever You Go, Perfect Singularity, Pay Back Time
Rating : 74%



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