Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past two or three years, you’ll undoubtedly know about the resurgence in popularity of Star Wars thanks to the new films to continue the story, and if the quality and (more importantly) box office success of both The Force Awakens and Rogue One are anything to go by, that doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. And just like any major franchise looking to wring out those last few pennies from the general public, the marketing, merchandising and cash-grab opportunities have also been working overtime. In few places is that more evident than with Galactic Empire, a band who dress up as villains from the series and play metal covers of the films’ scores.
And let’s be clear – it doesn’t take a genius to tell that this is clearly a gimmick, designed to have a laugh, maybe sell a few albums and little more. That’s because there is no way that Galactic Empire can have a longstanding career on basic principle alone. Forget the fact that, as an idea, this could be seen as just plain stupid, a series of progressive metal Star Wars covers simply wouldn’t work, especially if they’re as dull and lifeless as they are here. Strip away the novelty and this is an instrumental metal album that’s below average at best, going nowhere fast in terms of making a Star Wars-centric album sound compelling.
To give Galactic Empire at least some credit, they’re certainly competent musicians, and on a purely technical level, this album is actually pretty solid. There’s a deftness to the guitar work for some more complex rhythms, and when it’s tied together with some modern metal flourishes like double-kick drums and breakdowns, particularly on Main Theme, the results aren’t bad. There is definitely a few workable moments here – The Imperial March already has the thunderous regality that lends itself phenomenally to a metal cover, and while Cantina Band couldn’t be less suited to this sort of reworking, the bouncy, rubbery guitar licks at least show that Galactic Empire aren’t taking themselves too seriously.
Other than those couple of examples, you’d have a hard time finding anything on this album that really stands out; most of the time, the band’s work here seems to bleed away from the orchestral form of the originals into a sea of uninspired prog-metal wailing that gets old in a hurry. The reason that John Williams’ original scores are held in such high regard is thanks to their integration with their subsequent scenes. In isolation, there are identifiable moments, but without the visual stimulus the impact is capped greatly. That’s precisely the problem with Galactic Empire’s renditions, in that there are shards of identifiable flair within these songs, like the choir on Duel Of The Fates or the sweeping crescendo of Across The Stars, but prog guitars aren’t a suitable substitute for an orchestra in moments like this. There are very few moments where the guitars are allowed to ease back in the same way a strings section would, meaning that most of the time, this feels like a rather standard prog-metal album topped off with a few Star Wars-isms that are the only instances where it actually stands out.
But to be perfectly honest, no one really expected much from this. There was never a chance that Galactic Empire was going to produce something that could stand anywhere near the original soundtracks, and the fact that this album contains anything listenable at all is a borderline miracle. Saying that, it’s hard to think of who would really get enjoyment out of this besides the overlap of Star Wars and progressive metal fanbases. Even then there still isn’t a great deal of excitement here, just a very run-of-the-mill example of prog-metal that, if it wasn’t for all its gimmicks, you’d forget exists within a week.
For fans of: John Williams, Devin Townsend, Rush
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Galactic Empire’ by Galactic Empire is out now on Rise Records.