Empire, ‘Trading Souls’ Album Review.

Empire are your traditional four piece classic rock metal band, the hair, jeans or leathers and the boots together with a package of soaring vocals and catchy riffs. We have Rolf Munkes on guitars, Tony Martin vocalist, Neil Murray on bass, Don Airey on keyboards and Gerald Kloos on drums. There is also a guest appearance from Hammerfall’s drummer Anders Johansson on two tracks. He was also a special guest on Empire’s previous debut album “Hypnotica”.

‘Trading Souls’ has a great collbration of some of the greatest musicians in the melodic rock industry.Rolf Munkes is the producer song-writer of Empire, he is also an ex member of  Vanice along with Co-producer drummer Gerald Kloos who has played in many bands with Rolf  since the early nineties.  Tony Martin as we know has recorded albums and toured the globe with Black Sabbath.  To complete the line up we have ex base player of Whitesnake Neil Murray and ex keyboard player from Rainbow, Deep Purple and Silver Don Airey. ‘Trading Solos’ was originally released in 2003, for Lion music to re-release almost a decade later as a new limited edition digipack with a sound that is still crisp and fresh for 2012.

The album starts with ‘One in a Million’  bringing in Rolf and Don with a strong opening of guitar and keys. First thing you really notice is Tony Martin’s iconic vocals, however the harmonies brought forward in the chorus give it a really outdated pop feel.  The song slowly fades out leading into ‘Pay Back Time’ again a hard hitting opening but then it starts to fall flat with harmonies that take that edge of Melodic Hard Rock. The lightness of the song, I feel really drags down the beginning of the album, since the song was chosen for the album, it should of been further down to the end of the album and not the second track. The solo really picks it up giving it a Dann Huff  ‘Giant’ influence, returning interest back to the listener.

Empire  take an acoustic turn in their third song ‘ Teenage Deadhead’. It creates a live image of a full crowd sing along and firelighters in the air. It has a great melody that you pick up on so easy, your singing along on the first listen to the song. Tony really shows us his impressive vocal range. The electric guitar is also re-introduced in a fantastic harmonic solo.

The hard edge is back  with ‘Big World, Little Man’, with a ‘Dokken’ kick to the guitar, but again the vocal harmonies are fed in through out the whole song, giving this song similarities between the previous songs, with not much diversity. Half way through the album with ‘You’ and I’m starting to get the feeling I have heard this song already on the album, with a really similar melody, rhythm and harmony, this leads again into a very similar song of ‘You’ to ‘Perfect Singularity’. In both songs the solos have healthy build, but the build seems to end abruptly instead of having stimulating finish.

‘Wherever You Go’ has a fierce guitar riff and an echo effect on vocals, taking an edge of an in your face song, until again a mistake of harmonies. The harmonies completely take away the masculinity Empire have embedded within the song. The lyrics are dominant and dynamic, the solo is powerful and robust. This potentially is their best song on the album.

Empire return to their acoustic elements with ‘Did you ever Love me’ where the vocal harmonies and melody have a good effect on the listener. The backing harmonies really boost the overall power of Tony Martins vocals and the solo is another blast of harmonic goodness! The song unfortunately fades out, where as if they had made a blasting finish it would of had a bigger effect.

‘I’m Coming Home’ has a groovier rhythm and punchy vocals. The rhythm section truly show their talent and skills in ‘I’m coming Home’, with a solo that’s impulsive and technical. The sharp ending leaves the listener wanting more, as the next song kicks straight in with heavy guitar and drums, ‘Back in the Light’.

Overall the album seems outdated, there are times where the solos lacks intensity and the melody’s are repetitive.  There seems to be an obsession with backing vocal harmonies, where at times in this album it really works, other times it seems completely out of place. The keys can be a great asset to some of the songs, giving a  more symphonic or sharp effect. It is an album that would attract more passive listeners. [6/10]

Genre: Melodic Hard Rock, Heavy Rock, Metal

Line up:

Tony Martin (vocals)
Neil Marray (bass)
Rolf Munkes (guitar)
Gerald Kloos (drums)
Donald Airey (keyboards)
Anders Johansson (drums)


1. One In A Million 4:05
2. Pay Back Time 4:44
3. Teenage Deadhead 4:45
4. Big World, Little Man 4:09
5. You 4:48
6. Perfect Singularity 4:40
7. Wherever You Go 4:23
8. Did You Ever Love Me 4:46
9. Comin’ Home 4:16
10. Back In The Light 4:16


About Del Preston

So there I am, in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, at about 3 o'clock in the morning, looking for one thousand brown M&Ms to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn't go on stage that night. So, Jeff Beck pops his head 'round the door, and mentions there's a little sweet shop on the edge of town. So - we go. And - it's closed. So there's me and Keith Moon and David Crosby, breaking into that little sweet shop, eh. Well, instead of a guard dog, they've got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shop owner and his son, that's a different story altogether. I had to beat them to death with their own shoes. Nasty business really. But sure enough, I got the M&Ms and Ozzy went on stage and did a great show.