Dark Empire - Distant tides 3.5/5

Reviewed: 3-31-06


1. We will never die
2. The alchemist
3. A soul divided
4. Distant tides
5. Northern sky
6. The final vision

This is the highly anticipated new release from guitar wizard Matt Moliti, distributed through CDInzane. There are several bands named Dark Empire spanning the globe; but this American band features an all star line-up. Jens Carlsson of Persuader & Savage Circus serves as the mercurial vocalist, Noah Martin of Lilitu emulates Steve DiGiorgio on the bass strings, and fusion drummer Teemu Tahkanen hammers the skins.

Matt Moliti is a relatively unknown guitarist in the metal mileu, who endeavors to really establish himself with this release. He was tutored by guitar god Joe Stump at the prestigious Berklee College of Music where he learned to maintain his musical integrity for every genre of metal. He formed Dark Empire in 2004 with several influences in mind. He wanted to combine deathrash stylings with a neo-classical bent. Picture Michael Romeo (Symphony X) or Toby Knapp (Onward) with Eric Petersen (Testament & Dragonlord), cancer victim James Murphy (Death, Obituary, Disincarnate) & the spiritually healed soul sadly taken from us: Chuck Shuldiner (Death, Slaughter, Control Denied).

His first attempt to create a unique band apart from the myriad of "cookie cutter" groups, was in hiring Jens Carlsson who had established himself as an amazingly talented vocalist, even if he did have a proclivity for channeling Hansi Kursch. On this CD, though, Jens sheds all Blind Guardian comparisons and sings in a manner and range quite unlike what he has performed in the past. On several songs he evokes the baritone effect which Chuck Billy made famous in the early 90s on thrashin' releases like Testament's 'Low'. His vocal histrionics range from semi-high to semi-harsh; yet he is still easily understood and clear enough to discern all lyrical themes.

This CD is relatively terse in length and barely 37 minutes with only 6 tracks averaging 5 to 6 minutes each. Yet, there is not a weak song present. Tracks like "The alchemist" & "Northern sky" are real burners with killer guitar solos and harmonizing. The last track "The final vision" is an exceptional instrumental. The guitar work reminds me of Vinnie Moore or Joe Satriani with some crushing drums added to the mix. It begins with a ominous hollow chant that reminds me of the penultimate scene from Jim Henson's 'The dark crystal'. Then it shifts into gear with some punishing rhythms and sweet solos. I can tolerate an instrumental on a CD, but never for too long. "The final vision" is an exception, as it really shows the talent and strength of this band.

This CD is neither progressive nor power metal. The keyboards are used conservatively, creating sufficient space for guitar, drums and bass. If you are searching for something a little different and you love guitar screams with melody and fervor. If you are a fan of any of Jens other efforts or if you love intense speed and thrash like me, then this an essential purchase!




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