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Westward

Empire of Deception

Review by Gary Hill

This new disc is based around a dark and guitar heavy brand of progressive rock. These guys are aligned in the direction of the modern alternative rock centered school of prog. This album has a decent range of sounds. It never feels redundant. There are a couple songs here that don't stand quite as tall as the rest, but everything here is pretty darned good. It should be mentioned that I've reviewed the first single, "The Last Stand" on its own. For the sake of consistency I'll use that track review here.

 

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Empire of Deception
Keyboards bring this in with an intriguing electronic vibe. There is a soundbite at the beginning of Orson Welles' introduction to "War of the Worlds" radio play. This song has a cool trippy electronic music element. It rather dark and lush. Around the minute and a half mark a driving, rocking sound enters and pulls it forward from there.

Enchantment
This stomper is a much harder rocking. It's still land it under progressive rock, but it's more on the crunchy side of the equation. The vocal performance doesn't work as well for me here as it did on the opener. That's really only true of the first half of the song, though. It pulls together nicely later. There is some pounding hard rock. Parts of this lean heavily toward heavy metal (especially the instrumental movement at the end), but other sections land closer to space rock.
The Last Stand
What a ride this is. It starts with a mellower, but still rocking, section. That movement is a bit quirky, but has a cool guitar riff that keeps driving it. The tune works out to more screaming stuff later. The whole piece just melds together so well. It's one of the best songs of the whole disc. It's aggressive, but it is definitely artistic and prog based. The closing movement actually makes me think of Dream Theater a bit.
Machines
While this isn't a huge change from the previous cut, it would never be mistaken for that tune. There is a dramatic, artsy kind of driving rock sound to this. It, like the bulk of the album, has a "snowball going down the hill" building movement to it. This gets quite driving and rocking. It's another highlight.
Force and Matter
There is a bit more of a straight-ahead, driving rock vibe to this. Parts of it make me think of an old song, but I can't place what song it is. This is perhaps less proggy than some of the rest are. Still, the shifts and turns land it under prog rock.
Time
There is much more of an alternative rock vibe to this. If anything here lands outside the prog rock heading, it's this. Still, there are enough minor elements to land it there. I have to say, though, that this tune is just sort of an "also ran" compared the rest of the stuff here.
Redemption
There is a sound here that makes me think of the whole shoegaze school of modern prog. The tune has a bit of an alternative rock hook to it, too. This is a killer rocker with some intriguing sounds and changes.
Risk Factor 5
I dig the hard rocking groove on this tune. It has an intriguing melodic element, too. There is a bit of a space rock thing here, as well.
Defiance
Coming in mellower with guitars that are less distorted, this works forward in this more melodic way. It's a bit on the side of a ballad. Past the half-way point it powers out to harder rocking stuff with a more distorted guitar presence. This is one that's not overly prog rock oriented, but it has enough quirky edges to land it there. It's a dynamic number that works pretty well.
Fall From The Sky
There was a type of song that Queen used to do that seemed to be based very old-fashioned folk music. This comes in with that same kind of sound. In fact, this really sounds a lot like Queen. There are some hints of space rock on this, but they are rare and well in the backdrop. Overall, this is set more in that old-fashioned sound.


 
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