Thinking person’s metal

 The Empire Shall Fall rise up on Awaken
By CHRIS CONTI  |  November 12, 2009

Local_TESFAwaken_main |
AGGRESSIVE AND SOULFUL The Empire Shall Fall.

Jerky’s Bar continues its hot streak of delivering quality live acts spanning all genres, and next weekend the hardcore metalheads will descend upon Richmond Street for a fistful of metalcore bands, including local crews Burning the Canvas and headliners Joint Damage, and the much-anticipated return of former Killswitch Engage/Seemless frontman Jesse Leach, back in a big way with his new band the Empire Shall Fall. They’re set to release their debut album, Awaken, next week on bassist Nick Sollecito’s Angle Side Side Records (a $15 T-shirt and CD pack is available for pre-order at AngleSideSide.com). Boston metal vets Diecast, as well as the Rhody debut of Maryland’s Anubis Unbound, round out the roster.

Although the members of the Empire Shall Fall originally met in Providence, the quintet is now scattered along the Northeast Corridor and Virginia, including Leach, who now resides in New York City. He checked in earlier this week via email and made clear that, contrary to rumors and ’net-fueled gossip, his vocal cords are not mangled, despite having screamed bloody murder with a handful of bands since the early ’90s.

“Any rumors or gossip over the years about my voice has been blown way out of proportion,” Leach said. “My voice is stronger than ever.” And while “work and school obligations” will limit TESF to New England and the New York area, Leach has no worries about his vox holding up while they tour the region in support of Awaken: “I am certain my voice will be able to handle any touring schedule,” he wrote. The band has played around 30 shows during their 18-month existence and “maybe about five practices together as a full band,” according to Sollecito, who first approached Leach with the idea of forming a band three years ago while visiting him in Manhattan. “Everything just clicked from Day One,” Sollecito said.

Awaken clicks on all cylinders, from Leach’s big vocals attacking the title track to the deafening closer “The Kingdom.” Leach can still unleash the bowel-churning, horrific screams to get his point across, sounds that should result in spitting up specks of bloody vocal cord. Leach’s throat shrapnel is compounded by the pummeling rhythm section across the album, courtesy of Sollecito and drummer Jeff Pitts. On killer tracks “Voices Forming Weapons” and “Our Own,” Leach flexes his big range amidst the growling and howling. “Choir of Angels” and “We the People” propel the album into overdrive midway through, each anchored by unique dips during the tightly-wound hammering (Pitts steals the show on a few tracks). There’s a little Deftones in there with your textbook death metal, melodic moments, and even some bluesy noodling closing out “Choir of Angels” that allow Leach to effectively seethe in subtle fashion.

“Our sound is both aggressive and soulful,” Leach said, “and I believe we can straddle genres.”

With other song titles like “Lords of War” and “These Colors Bleed,” it’d be safe to assume that Awaken is a 100-percent politically-charged, pissed-off opus penned by Leach. Or not. “I would really like people to hear the music, read the lyrics, and decide what it means,” Leach said. “The lyrics contain political and humanitarian themes, but I see them also as poetry, and not everything is meant to be literal.

“Without sounding too highbrow, I look at these songs as ‘stories’ that portray real emotion and intensity on different levels that requires more than simply listening, but rather thinking as well.”

THE EMPIRE SHALL FALL + JOINT DAMAGE + DIECAST + ANUBIS UNBOUND + BURNING THE CANVAS | Jerky’s Bar, 71 Richmond St., Providence | Friday, November 20 @ 8 pm | 18+ | $12 | 401.621.2244

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