Empress AD

Still Life Moving Fast

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Relatively removed from the increasingly fertile U.K. djent scene, but retaining flashes of its palm-muted fury, the debut long player from the London-based progressive metal unit formerly known as Empress wears its influences well, offering up an evocative, brutal, wily, and occasionally wistful set of post-hardcore-, art-rock-, and ambient pop-fueled confections that fall somewhere between the cracks of a road well-traveled by bands like Mastodon, Elbow, Isis, Protest the Hero, Tesseract, Pelican, and Opeth. Vocalist and guitarist Oliver Loring makes his entrance as a solid, if largely predictable screamer before switching to a measured yet powerful clean style that includes a sonorous falsetto, and the band's rhythm section eschews the breakdown-laden gymnastics of metalcore for a more hammer-of-the-gods approach that colors much of the material, even at its most divergent, with a smoky, classic rock patina that suggests a steady diet of Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, Rush, King Crimson, and early Yes. Front-loaded with a pair of dark gems in the shape-shifting single "Invisible Conductor" and the psych-heavy "Black Hole Sun"-kissed "Delve Into the Retrospect," Still Life Moving Fast repeatedly dips its pen into an awfully deep inkwell, pulling out bits of Brit-pop ("From Where I Cannot Reach"), industrial ("Did We See"), and brooding, Jeff Buckley-esque alt-rock ("Consumed"), with a surprising amount of dexterity. It's a huge sound for a four-piece, but Empress AD seem like they're up to the task of feeding such an unruly beast, and Still Life Moving Fast never fails to engage, even as it pummels the listener with ideas.

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