Poland’s death metal war machine Vader return with The Empire, the twelfth full-length studio album from this pioneering death metal band founded by guitarist/vocalist Piotr “Peter” Wiwczarek. Wiwczarek has been the one constant in Vader, and he has managed to surround himself with a stable lineup for about the last five years or so. Within this context, The Empire is the second album to feature all of the current members of Vader, the first being 2014’s Tibi Et Igni.
Although Tibi Et Igni is a solid album, The Empire is much better with efficiently written songs, stellar, extremely tight musicianship and solid production. Granted, at this stage of the game, Vader is not going to change much from album to album and from the get go, the album opener, “Angels of Steel,” is instantly recognizable as Vader with Wiwczarek’s distinctive vocals, fast riffs, and blastbeats.
However, The Empire also features songs that proceed at a less than breakneck speed, instead going for a mid-paced gallop that reveals thrash metal as one of Vader’s early influences. Early on, Vader were always being compared to Slayer, and you can hear hints of that for the first time in quite awhile. Songs such as “Prayer to the God of War,” “Iron Reign,” and the album closer “Send Me Back to Hell” would fit comfortably within the confines of Bay Area thrash metal circa 1986 or so.
However, Vader were always a lot faster, and plenty of songs on The Empire push the accelerator down firmly to the mat. Songs such as “Tempest” and “Genocidus” rival anything off of Litany, Vader’s best known, and perhaps most intense album, for sheer speed and intensity. Expertly interweaving the slower songs within the out and out corkers has allowed Vader to produce a stellar album that sits alongside their best work very nicely. The album is also a little short at 34 minutes, but the short running time (a full eight minutes shorter than Tibi Et Igni) gives it a taut efficiency, thereby enhancing its intensity even more.
The Empire is not a game changer within death metal by any means, but it speaks volumes to Vader’s lasting longevity and demonstrates that Wiwczarek’s death metal beast is still very much a force to be reckoned with. Heck, I even enjoyed the pseudo Star Wars/Game of Thrones mash up cover art/theme.
(released November 4, 2016 on Nuclear Blast Records)