If their self-titled debut album is a sign of things to come, UK rock band Emperor Chung is going to be one impressive and incendiary proposition for British rock music. The eleven track release is a riveting introduction to a band which has been causing quite a stir with their fresh and diverse sound. It is an album which does miss the opportunity to be an instant classic but as a reservoir of promise and the seed of expectations of big things to come, it is a striking and potent triumph.
Coming from Ilkeston in Derbyshire and formed in late 2011, Emperor Chung has taken little time in making their mark locally and further afield with a sound which has drawn comparisons to those such as Queen, Thin Lizzy, Coheed & Cambria, and Alter Bridge in various ways. Consisting of vocalist Martin Jackson, guitarists Danny Beardsley (formerly of Isolysis) and Richard Shaw (also of NG26), bassist Dan Hayes, and drummer Eddie Hodgkinson (formerly Eight Idle Hands), all bringing strong experience from their previous exploits, Emperor Chung has been on a rapid and impressive rise which their album is sure to accelerate. Their performance at Download earlier this year set the country’s rock scene on full alert, which the album creatively reinforces and with appearances at the YNOT festival with The Darkness, Macmillanfest with Tesseract, and numerous other shows taking the year into the next you can only feel their ascent is picking up speed.
The wintery scene to the start of I Vow This Day brings in instant drama and menace which has thoughts licking their lips, especially when a tight inviting groove from the guitar beckons. The impressive vocals of Jackson soon make their appealing mark also and when the chorus with Beardsley adding his strong tones moves over for an even greater lure to that original groove, the track has full eager attention. From there it does not exactly hold its grip but with good sonic displays and feisty rhythms perpetually nagging the ear, it is a pleasing if not striking start to the album.
The following To Bring Justice and Downpour soon raise levels as the band and release begins to stretch their creativity and adventure. The first is a smouldering heat of strong vocals and melodic imagination which from its stirring opening flexing of sinews and emotive intensity evolves into a tantalising weave of progressive rock and evocative colour crafted by the guitars and veined by the throaty call of the bass and the snarling riffs. It is the first pinnacle of the album and does makes its predecessor look a little pale. The classic rock sculpted build of its successor provides a muscular and equally warm sonic blaze. The track creates a contagious web around the ears but as a few times on the album just does not take that final step or bite to secure a lingering slavery of the passion; nevertheless the song as the album is a richly appetising encounter which leaves satisfaction full.
The album is themed by a story of an Emperor Penguin, Chico Chung who is hunting down the members of the Chinese zodiac who murdered his father. It sounds a little Kung Fu Panda like taken out of context but the wrap of the bands enterprise, which starts with the outstanding artwork around the album to the lyrical fun and craft not forgetting gripping sounds, brings the premise successfully within the potent persuasion of tracks, like the next up My Next Foe and Pyramid. Both tracks in their individual landscapes paint an evocative progressive/melodic narrative which explores the imagination, and though neither grips the plateaus of some of the other songs they leave a brewing hunger in their wake for more, which the likes of No Mercy and the band’s first single The Bloodline supply with accomplished craft and inventive temptation. The first of these two has a familiarity to it and often reminds of Coheed & Cambria whilst the second offers a slowly building melodic caress from guitars and vocals which takes little time to seduce attention and thoughts. It is an obvious lead into the album for newcomers if not the best track on the release.
That honour belongs to Our Weaknesses, a scintillating track which from its intriguing guitar mystique at the start soon expels a technically teasing and invigorating fire of intensity and invention which reminds of Tesseract though across the enthralling song and not for the first time on the album, there is also a strong breeze of Manic Street Preachers coating its irresistible flames. It is the best thing on the album by far, which considering the strength of all songs gives an idea of its majesty, guitars carving out an addictive entrapment which the great rhythmic predation and snarling vocals stalk and ignite further.
The impressive Victory’s Calling and the mouth-watering Apex bring the album towards an intensely enjoyable close leaving Free At Least and its melodic yet rapacious suasion to conclude a thoroughly thrilling and impressive release. As impressive as it is you do feel there is an element of a lost opportunity with not enough songs fulfilling their open potential but with all drenched in unmistakable and infectious promise it is only a matter of time before Emperor Chung do create a ‘classic’ you feel. For now their debut is a wholly enterprising and hunger sufficing treat from a band destined to major things.
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