If EMP!RE had released their debut full-length any later than now, it would’ve been far too late. Even if they vastly surpassed the Britrock scene of a couple of years ago with Joe Green’s stunning vocal dexterity and range, their last release was still in 2016, and given how many sizable players have risen and succeeded since then, getting lost in the shuffle seemed like a more real proposition with each passing day. As such, Glue represents a prime opportunity for EMP!RE to take everything that could’ve been for them two years ago, and pull it into 2018.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as though this album is going to do that, not because it’s bad, but because British rock’s landscape has changed to almost unrecognisable levels, and EMP!RE simply don’t meet the requirements for great, widespread success anymore. That’s not to say there aren’t other niches they could muscle their way into though; put this in a more Coheed And Cambria-style vein, and Glue could do incredibly well as the histrionic-driven and flagrantly inflated take on alternative and progressive rock that it is. And all of that is a positive, because this is some fine work indeed.
And almost across the board, the similarities between EMP!RE and Coheed And Cambria are prevalent, at least with regards to their more streamlined material. The marriage of progressive tendencies, some formidably chunky guitar work and a keen ear for pop instantaneousness packs all the necessary potency on tracks like Colour Of Shame and My Party, My Rules, but their ace in the hole is truly in the vocals, with Joe Green carrying one of the most impressive performances of the year in displays of effortless soul and jaw-dropping range. It can honestly be a bit overbearing at times – moments of true subtlely are incredibly rare, and when they do appear like in the verses of Time Ain’t No Healer, they could go on a bit longer – but as far as technical skill goes, Glue is basically second to none.
Even more impressive is that EMP!RE can bring the hooks to back it up. It’s all well and good to have lung-busting power like this but it’s basically a lost cause if not put to good use, and even if a lot of EMP!RE’s efforts can occasionally bleed together (another unfortunate side effect of this album’s lack of modulation), there’s no denying that the likes of Miss Fortune and I For 1 pack a monstrous punch. There’s a lot of crossover with modern post-hardcore here, with Green trafficking in enormous emotionality above anything else and allowing a sleek, thoroughly modern production job fill in any holes and add some structural integrity.
Thankfully though, EMP!RE aren’t reliant on overpolish or production gimmickry, and thus Glue’s modernity works to its advantage. Size alone elevates it from being another run-of-the-mill rock album, but even on the most precise technical level, EMP!RE are leaps and bounds ahead of the Britrock crowd. And that’s ultimately why they don’t belong with them, yet in more progressive scenes, there are definitely cracks that show compared to more established peers. At the end of the day though, it’s great that EMP!RE have finally released the album they’ve always been capable of, and more than most, they deserve to have their efforts pay off.
For fans of: Coheed And Cambria, Biffy Clyro, Arcane Roots
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Glue’ by EMP!RE is released on 7th September on Silent Cult Records.