Friday, April 9, 2010

What It Takes To Move Forward Review

When it comes to the emo genre, I have little experience. I've of course heard of the major emo movement that took place during the 90's, but I've never taken much interest in the artists within it. Up until the moment I was introduced to Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate), I was completely oblivious to what I may have been missing out on. It didn't take long for me to grow accustomed to the heartfelt lyrics and dreary musical trend that would be a constant throughout their album, "What It Takes To Move Forward." Initially, I wasn't sure what to think of the group hailing from Michigan, but after a few listens there wasn't a doubt that I would soon become enthralled by Empire!'s surprisingly superb first impression on me.

The band itself has little past, releasing two albums (to my knowledge) within one year of each other. It began with front man Keith Latinen working the band as a solo project and it eventually evolved into the full group that they are today. Onto the album at hand, "What It Takes To Move Forward" meshes together all the necessary elements to make a successfully emotional album -- A decidedly whiny singer over the clean and ever-calm music, as well as some heart-wrenching, yet intelligent lyrics. Empire! appears to do everything right here, never once slipping up in the musical department, with the guitar riffs on songs such as "An Idea Is A Greater Monument Than A Cathedral" and "What Safe Means" providing a wonderful backdrop for Latinen to work his magic with -- And he indeed works magic here.

Contrary to the excessively long song titles, the music never displays overtly pretentious facets -- which is surprising with only one song falling under the four minute mark. The music perfectly complements Latinen's sorrowful lyrics and ever-shifting vocals. He swings from highs to lows with surprising ease on "Keep What You Built Up Here" and the music follows suit with its rapid rises and steady falls. The crescendo never once feels stale or abused despite it being utilized more than once throughout the record. On the other hand, his vocal work could easily be a turn off for new listeners with its consistently whiny tone and fragile delivery -- But if taken in context with the lyrics it feels appropriate and even accentuates the mood of the song.

Speaking of the songwriting, Latinen's vocal delivery isn't the only thing drenched with emotion on this record. On "With Your Greatest Fears Realized, You Will Never Be Comforted" he creates a gloomy stage with use of wonderful imagery and tells an exceptionally depressing story. With lines like "The summer she gave her life for you/And your father blamed you/Was the summer you began to blame yourself too" you can't help but be plunged into the darkest depths of the character's mind. This beautiful narration is used for the majority of the album and works to great effect with the band's music, leaving a definite emotional impact.

When I first encountered Empire!, I had high expectations from the moment the first track started. It was hyped a great deal for me and I couldn't resist expecting a wonderful album, and what I got was not just a wonderful album, but a wonderful experience. Throughout the eleven tracks that make up "What It Takes To Move Forward" you're fed emotionally assaulting songs that never cease to impact you. Whether it be the combination of Latinen's genuine vocals and his keen ability to write cheerless words to make your heart ache or the wonderful musicianship presented, you'll be entranced by Empire!'s beautifully sad release, "What It Takes To Move Forward".

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