Southern Empire, an Australia based band, was formed by Sean Timms following the dissolution of his previous band Unitopia. Somehow I missed their eponymous titled debut album in 2016. So This second release “Civilisation” is my introduction to their music. Music that sometimes has a hard and edgy sound but at the same time is always catchy and has great melodic hooks. The album has been released on the Giant Electric Pea label.
Steve Umruh - violin and flute; James Capatch - soprano & tenor saxophone, flute; Marek Arnold - soprano saxophone
As a progressive rock fan, the first thing that you will notice is the fact that this album has only four tracks ... I hear you thinking .. Epics! The second thing I noticed is that all members of the band have their vocal contributions. This fact gives the band the opportunity to bring us vocal harmonies and catchy vocal refrains. The possibilities are almost endless. Just listen to the album opener “Goliath’s Moon” which is written by guitarist Cam Blokland. So many colors in the vocal department. And what about the music ... well I am sure this album will blow you away. We are dealing here with first class musicians and a great vocalist. Expect great melodic hooks, a great diversity of vocal colors, beautiful community singing and lovely melodies that are interspersed with instrumental wizardry. I am impressed by the work of drummer Brody Green and bass player Jez Martin who both lay the solid foundation on which the keyboard parts of Sean Timms and the guitars of Cam Blokland rest. “Goliath’s Moon” is an overwhelming start of a great album.
The next song “Cries for The Lonely” is a real epic of almost 20 minutes. It is a band creation in which drummer Brody Green had a huge hand. After a nice synth introduction the drums and the synth melodies are right into your face. Later joined by some aggressive guitars. The vocal melodies and harmonies in this piece are very strong. Musically I hear some influences of Dream Theater and Rush ... especially as you listen to the drum parts and some guitar parts. But the music of Southern Empire is more melodic and catchy. After a nice electric violin solo guest Steve Unruh exchanges the violin for the flute (or is guest James Capatch playing the flute here?) and the character of the music changes into a delicate part with delicate sung vocals and acoustic guitar. A nice bridge to the next catchy vocal parts and the next musical wizardry with freaky guitar solo’s and a fat synth solo. All this on top of the steady rhythm section in which drummer Brody Green excels. This epic has the so needed diversity, the wizardry on the instruments is alternated with delicate sung vocal parts and beautiful violin and melodic guitar parts. Talking about guitars, this song ends with a beautiful guitar battle with soaring guitar solo’s.
Well if you think that a song of almost 20 minutes is the big epic of this album, you are wrong, the following track has an impressive duration of almost 30 minutes. The song is called “Crossroads” and is a re-worked, extended version of a song that Sean Timms wrote with Mark Trueack for an abandoned Unitopia album. The opening with some samples of African drums first sounds like a kind of jazz fusion song, but soon the song develops further and becomes more heavy and powerful. Love the violin in our beloved progressive rock. The hectic moments are alternated with beautiful passages with flute, tasteful fret-less bass and nice guitar parts. The saxophone and the violin enriches the already broad sound pallet of the band. You can find some amazing violin parts in this epic. An epic of great diversity with some amazing vocal melodies and sometimes a little bit jazzy atmosphere, there are even parts with a Classical/Spanish guitar. The ending of this long track is working nicely towards a big climax. Crossroads is a real tour the force.
The album ends worthy with “Innocence & Fortune”, a song of Sean Timms and Steve Unruh (Samurai Of Prog). Again we can enjoy beautiful vocal lines and delicate played flute and acoustic guitars parts. The melodies in this song are very beautiful. After a nice melodic electric guitar solo we are treated with a classical piano part which generates the name of the late Keith Emerson in my mind. Maybe because Keith was also into classical music. As Prog lover I can recommend you to also discover the world of the classical composers ... but that is another story.