REVIEW (Exclusive): I’ll Be An Empire – Aquarius [2013]


Artist: I’ll Be An Empire

Album: Aquarius


What exactly is an empire? How do we define it, and, more importantly, to what degree are they influential in today’s society? How can we quantify the progress made by the Roman Empire, or the Ottoman Empire in the way we live in the world today? Most importantly, do empires still exist today? Well, if they do, I’ll Be An Empire are almost certainly the rulers of the progressive deathcore empire. With their debut full-length album, Aquarius, I’ll Be An Empire prove they have all the heaviness of a back-breaking, brutalizing deathcore act, with the cunning instrumental ability of a progressive, multi-talented metal act–and the prowess to know how to flow between the two and combine them brilliantly. Aquarius is an absolutely brilliant release which solidifies this Atlanta-based act as prodigal rulers of their domain.

Like all great empires, Aquarius starts subtly, slowly creeping into existence. The opening portion of “Sigma” proceeds cautiously, just as a population would: carefully and thoughtfully placing one foot in front of the other on the ascent to greatness. Then, suddenly, an explosion–razor-sharp guitars and pummeling percussion slice and tear at the veil of silence which had shrouded the release. I’ll Be An Empire emerge, rampant, and armed with weapons of complete catchiness and imminent immersion, take the listener’s ears by storm. “Sigma” transitions smoothly into “Capitalist” and “Frequency,” two tracks which are approximately half of the length of “Sigma,” but pack all of the whallop. This is where the listener gets their first glimpse of the greatness which Aquarius is rapidly transforming into. The band’s ability to create such totally catchy and immersive atmospheres in such a short time is nothing short of awe-inspiring–and much of it is owed to the instrumentation which is pervasive throughout the release.

Aquarius is home to a variety of more-than-applaudable instrumental attacks which completely captivate the listener. Whether it’s the simmering, sheer beauty of the cymbals on “Capitalist,” the lacerating, furious fretwork on “Annunaki” or any such combination of the two (especially on “Frequency”), the instruments are always at the top of their game. The drums and bass lay the foundation for the empire that Aquarius undeniably is. These elements are as if the slaves, or the workforce of the release–constantly working at one-hundred-and-ten percent, taking brief breaks only to recharge and attack with more fervor than before. Driving these peons–the tools of annihilation–are the true masters: the guitars. Dual attacks from the rhythm and lead guitars toggle on and off, keeping the listener more than occupied throughout the entire release. One second, both guitars might be making the most out of a completely guttural and abrasive tone, chugging alongside the bass and the drums to completely punish the listener. The next second? One guitar takes a skyward leap for the heavens,  soaring high above the listener’s head, only to crash back down on them with the fury of a vengeful God. However, there are moments like the fading seconds of “Annunaki,” in which the guitars reach the most perfect form of syncope, and I’ll Be An Empire work as a beautifully crafted and well-oiled machine, snaring the listener with a groovy riff which morphs into one of the catchiest leads the listener will have ever heard.

“Surely,” you’re thinking to yourself, “if the instrumentation takes that much attention away from the vocals, then they must be lack-luster at best.” Ah, but here’s where the listener makes a crucial mistake: who ever said the instrumentation takes attention away from the vocals? The vocals–which range from a hearty, mid-range shout to either a subterranean bellow or a shrieking high–operate in a detailed dynamic with the musicianship as to avoid such a conundrum. Take “Annunaki,” again, for example. In this track, while the instruments are cranking away, the vocals reign as king, dictating the flow of the song and detailing the atmosphere to perfection. However, when turmoil emerges and the instruments stage an upheaval, the vocals lose precedence, and fade to allow the glorious guitar and piercing percussion to shine. This trend is one which is seen throughout the entire release: when the vocals need to be the star of the show, they take over, and simply are. However, when the instrumentation demands attention–when the riffs need hearing and drums roll alongside them–the vocals are more than happy to back down. In this respect, the vocals are more than a shuttle for the otherwise superb lyrics: they are the choke point which determines which way the album will flow next, by determining what mood the song will take on, and when it decides to do so. The vocals are the crown on the head of Aquarius, ushering it in as king of the progressive deathcore empire.

Don’t let the grandiose notion of empires; monarchies and earthly rule deter you. I’ll Be An Empire are a hard-hitting, yet miraculously smooth and progressive deathcore act which will leave you absolutely floored. If you like your leads catchy, your drums heavy and your vocals visceral, don’t let Aquarius go unnoticed–because the next time you check, you’ll see I’ll Be An Empire ruling the scene.



For Fans Of: Entities, Invocation, Meridian, The Storm Picturesque

By: Connor Welsh