Empyre by Burning Point
Release date : February 2009
Reviewed by Anthony Morgan
In late February 2008, it was revealed that Finland's Burning Point had entered Helgate Studios in the group's hometown of Oulu to begin recording a fourth full length studio album, with a late 2008 issue being slated. Previous albums had included 2001's Salvation By Fire, 2003's Feeding the Flames, and 2007's Burned Down the Enemy. In mid June, drummer Jari Kaiponen left the outfit. The sticksman was unable to handle the schedules for Burning Point's fourth album, and felt that his personal time was extremely limited. From thereon in, Kaiponen pledged to make National Napalm Syndicate his prime musical concern. Keyboardist Jussi Ontero switched to drums, thus making the keyboardist spot vacant. Eventually, erstwhile Kalmah member Pasi Hiltula filled the empty position.
By late September, recording sessions had concluded, and the album's title was revealed to be Empyre. Eleven new compositions had been laid down, and additionally new interpretations of “Black Star” and “Lake of Fire”, originally featured upon Burning Point's 2001 album debut Salvation By Fire. Also, four cover versions were cut, all boasting guests. Vocalist Jonathan K (ex-Q5 / Nightshade) guested upon a rendition of Q5's “Let Go” (the original version was featured upon 1985's When the Mirror Cracks), whilst vocalist David “Rock” Feinstein (The Rods / Feinstein) guested upon a rendition of The Rods “Nuclear Skies” (the original version was featured upon 1984's Let Them Eat Metal). Finnish vocalist Taage Laiho (Kilpi / ex-Altaria) and Riku Kukkonen (ex-Kirka), meanwhile, guested upon an interpretation of Kirka's “I'll Be Yours” (originally included upon 1986's R. O. C. K.), whilst guitarist Majk Moti (ex-Running Wild) guested upon an interpretation of Running Wild's “Gods of Iron” (originally included upon 1985's Branded and Exiled). These four cover tracks would surface upon a limited edition first pressing of Empyre. By Minerva Pappi, the full length was mastered at Helsinki's Finnvox Studios.
During early December, Empyre's track listing was revealed, and its cover artwork additionally unveiled. The design was executed by Felipe Machado Franco, who's previously undertaken commissions for such artists as Iced Earth, Axel Rudi Pell and Blaze Bayley. That same month, the album was slated for a February 2009 release via Metal Heaven Records.
Without doubt, Classic eighties Metal lies at the very heart of Empyre. As its introductory cut, Empyre opts towards the theme to 1972 crime film The Godfather. Initially, the theme's familiar chords surface courtesy of twinkling, twinkling overtly resemblant of lullaby chimes heard at a children's crib. As the theme approaches half a minute, the chimes disappear, and guitars subsequently wield the refrain's famed notes.
Mostly, Empyre's tunes adhere to a familiar structure, as is evident upon the likes of “Empyre”, “Fool's Parade”, “Manic Merry-Go-Round”, and “Face the Truth”. Each respective track largely settles upon one strong, potent refrain, and pledges its faith and commitment towards that refrain. Clean and melodious, Ahonen's vocals prove firmly in the vein of such frontmen as Tim Owens (ex-Judas Priest / ex-Iced Earth / Beyond Fear / Yngwie Malmsteen), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), and Michael Kiske (Helloween) etc. As each chorus nears, Ahonen's vocals seem more multi-layered, lending the parts an additional potency. Extremely memorable as well as hook laden, each chorus firmly places its words upon the lips of the listener. Anthemic, it's difficult to not mouth those words as Ahonen belts away, and within a live setting, they'll certainly garner the lungs of audiences awhole. Upon several chorus airings, a guitar solo usually materializes roughly two to three minutes into the cut. Eighties oriented, the solos certainly hold their own.
Very minutely, fifth track “Fool's Parade” lessens the pace. Nonetheless, the composition distinguishes itself as an indisputable highlight. A slow, pensive guitar solo inaugurates “Was It Me”. Subsequently, this is followed by a sombre acoustic riff that furnishes much of the initial verses. As the chorus approaches, electric, melancholic guitars surface. Towards “Was It Me”'s conclusion, a brief acoustic solo is performed, and that solo is succeeded by a short guitar solo. Ahonen's vocals are “Was It Me”'s focal point, “Was It Me” being a massive testament to the man's vocal strength. “Walls of Stone”'s acoustic introduction maintains “Was It Me”'s ambience, but this is a fleeting moment, given the fact that an electric guitar quickly replaces its acoustic counterpart. Drumming opens “Sacrifice”, Ahonen subsequently wailing the track's title, a running solo paving the way for its inaugural verse. “Cruel World” favours a moderate pace, whilst swansong cuts “Blinded By the Darkness” and “Only the Wrong Will Survive” are rooted in much the same vein as Empyre's earlier cuts - albeit not mediocre by any listener's standards, they're nonetheless slightly weaker than their fellow numbers.
Albeit formulaic, Empyre's songwriting is extremely structured, and respectable. Furthermore, it's difficult to select actual highlights, though repeated listening (which is wholly recommended) will certainly unearth individual favourites. Empyre doesn't reinvent the wheel so to speak, and if solely critiqued upon distinct qualities, will fail to receive critical plaudits. However, those who focus upon such sentiments grossly miss the point. Music's purpose is to entertain, and Empyre does this in abundance.