EMPIRE OF ONE – Empire Of One EP

This self-titled disc may be the first release from Empire Of One, but their frontman Wil Seabrook has been around for a while.  He has released a few solo albums and an early single achieved the “Record of the Week” accolade on BBC Radio 2.  Rather more regrettably, some of you may remember him from “Rock Star: INXS” [the talent show where the Aussie rockers refused to let their musical legacy die with Michael Hutchence, and instead chose to whore themselves on TV].  Wil performed a couple of songs before being voted out at an early stage.

It turns out that not getting the INXS job was a blessing, since he’s a clearly talented vocalist and this debut EP from Empire Of One features some great material. It’s a good example of radio friendly pop-rock played at a superbly professional level, with just enough grit to stop things ever becoming too sweet.  Empire Of One’s sound may not be immediately striking but this EP only requires a couple of plays before the musicianship and songs begin to shine.

‘If I Let Myself Dream’ comes straight out of the stalls with no intro, with Seabrook’s vocals arriving alongside a rumble of drums.  This lends an edge, which, at first, seems like it ought to fade in order to let the song’s less crashy elements shine through.  In a surprising move, the drums remain insistent throughout, giving this opening track a tough edge.  All the while, Seabrook’s crying voice ensures the track has a strong sense of melody, with the repeated line “always, always I’m with you now” providing the main hook. ‘Roam’ is a touch more accessible. Ringing guitars and more emotive vocals recall the likes of Train (in a less drippy mood) and while the music may not be edgy, the rhythms which dominate the piece give everything a slightly angular approach.  While this is already enjoyable, the song’s best elements come from the superbly played bass, which dances in the background throughout, while doing a sterling job of holding everything together.

While not stretching Empire Of One’s musical range particularly, ‘I Wouldn’t Wait’ and ‘Better Than’ bring two more slices of impeccably played radio rock.  ‘I’m Still Here’ finishes the EP on a real high, however, really showcasing the band’s talent, as another top chorus is rounded out by jangly guitars and solid work from the rhythm department.  The guitars recall mid-period U2, which combined with a slightly breathy vocal line gives this number a cinematic feel.  If you were to pick just one number as a taster for the EP, you would not go far wrong here.

Based on this short release, Pasadena’s Empire Of One are a talented bunch. Harder than Coldplay, happier than Doves and infinitely more interesting than The Killers, this short collection of songs is just about ten thousand times better than most of the limp and somewhat sorry collection of tunes presented on Train’s 2012 effort in the name of radio friendliness.  While the US isn’t short on bands which fill this musical niche, there’s always room for more…especially when they’re this enjoyable.

May 2012

New interview with alternative Christian rockers P.O.D. posted online

On May 13th 2012, Backstage Entertainment conducted a short interview with members of P.O.D., prior to the release of their new album. You can now watch the chat below, via the embedded YouTube link.

P.O.D.’s 2012 release ‘Murdered Love’ is released on July 13th in the US on Razor & Tie Records. It will be P.O.D.’s eighth full length studio release, and amazingly their twelfth overall release. It is produced by veteran producer Howard Benson, whom as well as producing previous P.O.D. releases is known for his studio work with Bang Tango and ska-punk kings Less Than Jake.

[By clicking on the TouTube logo, you will be taken to Backstage Entertainment’s official YouTube channel where you can view other interviews]

Slash announces Australasian tour dates for August

In support of his second “solo” album, Slash has announced dates for Australia and New Zealand as part of his lengthy world tour.

Fans in the southern hemisphere can catch the legendary guitarist in August at the following venues:
Aug 17 – Auckland, NZ – Vector Arena
Aug 19 – Addington, NZ – CBS Arena
Aug 23 – Brisbane, AU – The Riverstage 
Aug 25 – Sydney, AU – Entertainment Centre 
Aug 26 – Melbourne, AU – Hisense Arena 
Aug 28 – Adelaide, AU – Thebarton Theatre 
Aug 30 – Perth, AU – Metro City 

These seven shows are just part of Slash’s ‘Apocalyptic Love’ tour which also includes a show at the UK Download Festival in June.

POLUTION – Beyond Control

Five years after Polution’s ‘Overheated’, the four members of the Betschart family (augmented by Pascal Gwerder on vocals) returned in 2012 with a second selection of old school hard rock tunes, bringing toughness and melodies together in a way which ought to please fans of Euro hard rock.

After a brief acoustic based intro, ‘Fire’ starts relatively strongly, featuring some great some great twin lead guitar work.  From a song writing perspective, there’s not much which makes Polution stand out on first listen, but that riff combined with a reasonable chorus results in something solid enough.  ‘Live Until You Die’ fares better, going all out on a stomping three chord rocker, blending the best elements of early 80s AC/DC and the Euro rock of Gotthard.  As the kind of song that works best at high volume, its over-riding simplicity makes it a winner,  Also, it must be said, this tune features a lovely guitar solo which, although brief, features a couple of nice touches.   The high energy approach on this number is also much better suited to Gwerder’s ragged vocal style.  From this point, if you’re still listening, ‘Beyond Control’ has a few enjoyable tunes to offer, alongside a couple which were never destined for greatness.

The best of the bunch, ‘Flying’, aims for that radio hit.  During the slower verses, the clean toned guitar riffs lend a gentle atmosphere before breaking into a crunchy, full electric chorus.  There’s a hint of Nickelback’s more famous radio staples and the band sound great on the whole, although Pascal Gwerder’s heavily accented voice, once again, doesn’t always sound as smooth as some.  Still, focusing on the music, this is a standout track, made even better by a sweeping guitar solo.  ‘Follow Me’ opens with another simple riff – again bringing in those twin lead elements – before crashing into a meaty mid paced riff driven by some pumping bass.  The old-school style dressed in a slightly 90s production sound highlights the toughness in the band’s arrangement. It’s on slightly slower, slightly meater tracks such as this where Polution really hit their mark and overall, it’s certainly an enjoyable track. 

Sadly, on the other side of the musical coin ‘Bite Me’ offers a riff that sounds like a Metallica outing circa 1991 (played in a lacklustre way) coupled with required amounts of chug.  Since Polution are capable of great guitar melodies, this level of (fake) angst definitely sounds like a band trying way too hard; luckily the harmony vocals on the chorus bring a sense of melodic balance, but it’s not quite enough to stop ‘Bite Me’ being a bit of a stinker.Throughout the intro of ‘The Band’, Andreas Betschart uses his bass as a lead instrument, a technique which brings a great sound. Before too long the guitars take a predictable frontline, resulting in another 80s inspired piece of hard rock, heavy on the twin guitar motifs.  It’s all decent enough rock fare which, when delivered by their chosen amount of gusto, makes it another good showcase for this Swiss band’s talents.

While it’s unlikely this release is top of your list of releases to check out – the slightly embarrassing ‘Bite Me’ aside – the tunes featured on this album are of a reasonable to good standard, and occasionally even better.  While not all the songs are great, it’s hard to argue with Polution’s level of enthusiasm.  ‘Beyond Control’ may not claim to be edgy, but as albums go, it is mostly well constructed and well played.  Like the second release from Maltese rockers Fire, it’s not going to change the world, but it is likely going to provide a little old-school listening enjoyment for hard rock fans over a certain age.