Empyre's track-by-track guide to new album Relentless

Empyre press photo
(Image credit: Rob Blackham)

Relentless is our third album and our second electric instalment, the follow-up to our debut, 2019’s Self Aware. This time we brandish Empyre songs that incorporate our anthemic ambitions, delve into new musical territory with orchestral arrangements and (we hope) maintain our aim of creating atmospheric, melodic and memorable rock. 

Once you’ve discovered the music we can also tempt you with artwork galore, washing machine love, 360 degree videos and AI generated infinite zoom sequences to name but a few bits of off-album content. But before the visuals let’s whet your appetite with the aural aspects of our new album. Here’s our track by track introduction to Relentless.


1. Relentless

The title of the album, and also the first single release. A song about self-belief, drive and determination, with aggressive, angsty lyrics. It sets the tone in terms of emotional intensity for what’s to come.

Henrik wrote the leading guitar part around the time our first album was hitting the airwaves in 2019, he was aiming for a Guns N' Roses style riff with a vocal style in the chorus of verbal machine gun fire.

The track felt a little bare as just guitars, bass, drums and vocals and we wanted to add another couple of hooks to it, so with a midi synth we used samples in the verse and chorus to add that extra element. Oddly it's actually a clean guitar sample, but doesn’t really sound like that at all.

The music video features some Empyre lighting creativity, those red bars seen throughout were assembled by us on set prior to filming and we love the effect that this adds, especially mixed with a prism lens.

2. Waking Light

For those that knows us we’ve become synonymous with aiming to sound big, anthemic and atmospheric. This was definitely the intention behind Waking Light

The song is about the pursuit of building Empyre as a band, as if it were an empire. We'd like this track to become an anthem for us with people really rallying behind it either to embrace our music or find meaning from the song in their own way. We’d describe the overall sound as Empyre sandwiched between The Killers and Muse.

The music video is a trippy, AI infinite zoom montage, brace yourself! 

Fun facts: The handclaps you hear are at least in part our own handclaps (Did, Elliot, and Henrik anyway) where we went into the recording room to literally record the clap sound. Also this track includes Grant's bass part doubled with a synth bass to add even more depth for the part. The track in its demo stage was called Soft Pin, we have no recollection as to why.

3. Parasites 

One of the heaviest tracks on this record and a new venture for us sonically, exploring baritone tunings. This track began with Did writing a chord pattern on guitar to morph into a hard hitting rock chorus. When Elliot added the drum parts the song really took off. 

From a drums perspective it’s an all-round physical workout and sensation of coordiation seeing him execute this live! Parasites is a darkly angelic song that lyrically touches on the idea of people becoming like parasites as a relationship turns evermore toxic. It’s aggressive in places and has certain musical nods to Rage Against The Machine, Metallica, and even Sting. 

Our debut album had a track called New Republic which we love and it received a great response, we wanted to create a track on this album that had a vaguely similar approach. Our songs often have a code name for the demo, for this track it was 4 to the floor/altered bridge.

4. Cry Wolf 

Cry Wolf is arguably one of our most musically explorative songs on the album. It's like 3 songs in one! 

A full minute of orchestral intro that started as backing to the breakdown section half way through the song. It grew and grew in parts and complexity to point we gave it it’s own moment in the sun. Our thanks to Spitfire Audio and the BBC Symphony Orchestra for inspiring Empyre’s songwriting there. Empyre movie soundtrack anyone?

There's a lot going on once you get into the heart of the song, we move from two, to three, to four guitar parts and the chorus follows a call and response pattern with backing vocals answering Henrik’s main melody, before we introduce the instrumental section which catapults you into some Prog territory. Finally you’re thrown back into two different versions of the chorus. 

5. Hit and Run

At this point the album takes a softer turn. From the icy sentiment that fills Relentless, Parasites and Cry Wolf we gently usher you into a warmer, lusher and more dream like place. Welcome to the 80s.

Hit And Run is a song for a hot day, with a refreshing cool breeze. Henrik came up with the shimmering intro guitar riff, Did added some countermelodies for the verses, and we hint at our love for soundtracks once more with a melodic nod to the last son of Krypton. 

Lyrically this song emerged from the phrase "I don't know what's around me" as Henrik cast his mind back to re-visiting Sønderborg, Denmark (where he spent his college years) ten years after leaving and realising "There's nothing that means that much here, anymore". Which in itself is based on a line from the Razorlight song America: "Nothing on the TV, nothing on the radio that means that much to me".

Pop-rock guitars and synth give this song a bit of a Don Henley/Bruce Springsteen vibe and the video was filmed during the golden hour one hot evening in the summer of 2022. When the writing process began the code name for this song was Octave Key Mode, a reference to a button on Henrik’s Komplete keyboard.

6. Forget Me

The first aim Henrik had for this song was to write the saddest song he could, and he took inspiration from a variety of places including a book by philosopher called David Benatar called Better Never To Have Been. Forget Me was originally conceived as a duet with one person singing the verses and another singing the choruses, this was inspired by the beautiful Steven Wilson track Pariah, and the songs also share a similar structure.

Starting out acoustic, adding weeping guitars, more acoustic layers including mandolin before the chorus vocal becomes a duet with the lead guitar (we couldn’t get Amy Lee). Forget Me builds layer after layer before swooping down into a solemn piano break and rising to the climatic finale with a euphoric instrumental outro. 

Another track with heavy emphasis on orchestration building the tension, and Grant thoroughly enjoyed investing in his kit addiction by purchasing a fretless bass for silky smooth slides and a softer ‘double bass’ feel in many parts of this song. It’s an emotional rollercoaster.

7. Silence Screaming

Code name 5 And Drive, a phrase used by a friend with questionable drinking habits, the song doesn’t relate to that reference at all. Track 7 is another multifaceted Empyre track, taking twists and turns through hard rock, grunge, and classical aspects. The verses were the final part of the puzzle while constructing the song. Originally sung at twice the tempo Henrik tried a more Kurt Cobain approach to the verses, drawing the words out. That grunge vocal approach lead to building a more funky Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar and bass feel underlying that part of the song.

Silence Screaming lyrically explores feelings of loss and grief that can ensue when someone dies. A sombre subject, yet this track is fuelled with driving rock riffage. 

8. Road To Nowhere

The hard rock song this became is different to the slower tempo and eerie, arguably Bowie-esq demo we originally created. That version lacked drive and energy, so Road to Nowhere became a higher tempo, regimented and assured march towards the unknown.

Lyrically dark and echoing the aggressive (but now more subdued) sentiment running through the early part of the album it was the first song we started to record in the studio and is probably the one that has the closest connection with some of our earlier material on Self Aware.

9. Quiet Commotion

The intensity of this track really ebbs and flows. Did and Henrik swop guitar duties, with Henrik taking on lead, and the arrangement of Quiet Commotion provides all the Empyre members with a real work out on their respective instruments.

It’s another track we felt would be enhanced by some light and lush 80s synth, kept tightly in check so as not to intrude on the guitars, but simply provide an underlying atmosphere. It’s not until the second chorus almost 4 minutes into the song that we give you the first full force blast of all the synths.

It’s Empyre so you can guess where it goes from there, we bring you right down with melancholic and melodic interweaved guitars, before ramping up the drive, throwing in the strings section of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, firing tom-filled tribal drum beats and catapulting you towards the summit.

10. Your Whole Life Slows

And…relax. Our work here is almost done. Sit back and enjoy the Shepard tone inspired by Grant’s washing machine’s spin cycle (no joke), as we break you very gently into Your Whole Life Slows. The weeping guitars are back and the vocal reverb is turned up for our most experimental track. The Shepard tone is an aural illusion seemingly on a never ending downward journey throughout the song. Pronounced to start with, then pushed to the back of the mix, omnipresent, and with a twist, because as the orchestra and distorted guitars break to the fore the Shepard tone makes an about turn into an infinite rise. 

Our shortest song on the album, we treat it as three parts; the intro, verse and chorus comprising of one, the middle eight we lovingly refer to as the “Kate Bush section”, and think of the third part being Henrik’s audition for scoring the next Bond film.

Empyre's Relentless is out now. 

Did Coles and Henrik Steenholdt

Did Coles and Henrik Steenholdt are the guitarist and frontman with Northampton rising stars Empyre. They signed to Kscope in late 2022 and new album Relentless – the follow-up to 2019’s Self Aware – is out now. Empyre perform intense, atmospheric rock, with a dark and introspective edge to their writing. They’ve also been described as the love-child of Pink Floyd and Soundgarden.