Newcomers to the band New Jacobin Club through this release, their sixth album entitled Empire of Dis, will immediately note several things. One of the first things is that for all of the band’s horror-show bluster, their theatrics in the songs and on stage, you can boil them down to their essence as a simple, straight-forward rock band. It emerges strong in the album’s first song entitled “In Crimson Snow”.
They obviously are following a metal/hard-rock trajectory with these songs but their dynamic vision is wide. New Jacobin Club never restricts themselves to your father’s idea of metal songs with horror movie themes, ala some Black Sabbath ripoff, and instead adopts a progressive tilt for many of Empire of Dis’ songs. Balancing that out against the band’s rugged guitar-oriented sound has an effortless vibe here – but it’s far from that.
It’s ingrained into a band that began life in the 1990’s as a trio in Western Canada and, over the years, has earned much of their reputation for visually and musically awesome live shows. They have since expanded to a six person lineup but it is a remarkably uncluttered musical attack. “The Priestess” brings The Luminous’ electric cello into a hard rock/metal world without missing a beat and mixes well with Poison Candi’s lead vocals. It’s full-steam ahead for the band’s remaining instrumentalists and founding member/guitarist Xerxes Praetorius Horde’s playing has a bite you won’t soon forget.
His playing is equally ferocious on the later “Behind the Veil”. Female lead singers with powerhouse voices, once a novelty, have now pushed through to make their presence rightly felt on the scene and few bands bring those voices into metal as well as New Jacobin Club. The romping path it takes tramples over any lingering resistance and Mistress Nagini’s synthesizer work fills the explosive attack with improbably lush cascades of notes
Another prog-metal peak for the album comes with the track “Gloriana Engine”. It’s another of the band’s condensed multi-part epics in miniature, however. They never run on too long. Bursting with ideas though, as they often seem, can be a dizzying experience to deal with, but the bulk of listeners will be gripped by the band’s performance here. It’s imaginative and forceful. An unexpected poetic touch comes into the lyrics for “What is the Night” without ever overstating itself. Their devotion to the themes and subject matter at hand remain the same, but it is a nice shift. It’s also highly appropriate for the album’s lone acoustic number.
“Empire of Dis”, the title song, is cut from the same cloth as earlier album centerpieces such as the opener, “Behind the Veil”, and “Gloriana Engine”. Most bands have a predilection for restating an album’s musical ideas in a single package when it comes to title songs. This is no exception. New Jacobin Club, however, breathes new life into the subject and themes that makes you want to come back for more, but there’s a lot to enjoy first on Empire of Dis.
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