Sunday, January 26, 2014

EMPERORS AND ELEPHANTS "Devil In The Lake"

(c) 2014 Pavement Music
 
  1. Bring It Down
  2. Who You Are
  3. Your Will
  4. Man Of God
  5. Locust
  6. Hit Of Red
  7. Deep Sleep
  8. Change
  9. Wicked Game
  10. Ghost In The Mirror
  11. You And I
  12. Man Of God--Dupermang Remix
Jesse Andrews--Vocals
Jason Meudt--Drums
Jeph Stiph--Guitars
Randy "The Arsonist" Cooper--Guitars
Ron "Stoppable" Vanders--Bass
 
Emperors And Elephants is a new-to-the-scene modern hard rock group that obviously grew up in the Sevendust school of rock, as the stop/start crunch of that band is evident in the stylings of many of the songs here.  Not surprisingly, a bit of Randy Cooper's old band, Texas Hippie Coalition, can also be heard in the aggressive nature of these songs, with his axe work particularly strong in tracks such as "Man Of God", "Locust", and "Bring It Down", although he shines in various spots throughout.  "Deep Sleep" is another powerful rocker that will be a contender for satellite radio airplay, I would suspect.  But there is more here than the standard modern rock fare, with a definite post-grunge feel to a few songs, such as "Ghost In The Mirror".  Equally intriguing is the remake of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" which has some really heavy bottom end to it to keep things pulsing along nicely while the buzzsaw guitars of Cooper and Stiph go to work throughout the rest of the track which is not really all that recognizable if you don't catch the lyrics and the hook of the 80's original.
 
While much of the record has that really heavy vibe to it, every now and then a song will jump up and surprise you.  "Hit Of Red" is just such a track, incorporating a much smoother, mellower vibe that reminds me of Soundgarden to a degree.  However, I will go on the record and state that I will take Andrews' vocals over Chris Cornell's any day of the week, as I think Andrews has an amazingly powerful delivery that more bands would be well-served to listen to.  He doesn't have to bark every song or scream his vocal chords into bloody masses to get his feelings across.  "Change" is another more laid back track that gets this point across very nicely, and "You And I" is a piano-based acoustic number which showcases the band's depth as well as serving to give the listener a break from the otherwise punishing riffage that is found throughout this record.
 
One thing I do have to mark the album down for a bit is the fact that a lot of the music here, while nicely executed, has a definite "heard this before" quality that prevents a few of the songs from really distinguishing themselves.  Case in point is the previously mentioned, "Locust".  This is easily one of my favorite songs here, but if the vocals were being handled by Lajon Witherspoon instead of Jesse Andrews, I think the average listener...and even many seasoned listeners...would have a hard time distinguishing the rest of the band from Sevendust in spots. This is the case in a couple of other spots, but it doesn't destroy the album, although I wish a bit more originality could have leaked through in a place or two.   
 
That is not to say the band's members are lacking in talent, because they are definitely not.  Of particular note here is the exceptionally strong backline of Vanders and Meudt, who deliver some crushing rhythms upon which the band builds their brand of hard-but-still-radio-friendly rock.  Definitely one of the more talented and interesting bands I have heard in this style, I am impressed enough with this debut to keep it spinning for the past week and a half, and I suspect that it will survive my unofficial "three month test" for whether or not an album has the strength to become a long-term listener.
 
Rating:  So much better than most of the Sirius-XM Octane crowd, Emperors and Elephants gets a crankable 8 on their debut.  Let's hope they keep progressing and let their originality shine through even more on the follow-up!
 

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