Shade Empire: Omega Arcane

Epic death/black metal, with an epic running time too

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Whether it’s a deliberate gear shift or simply that they now have the resources and know-how to achieve their ambitions, Shade Empire’s fourth outing (their first album in five years) is far and away the most epic thing they have done.

The symphonic aspect is much more prominent over the brutal yet tuneful riff barrage, and it’s done properly – that is to say there are strong musical ideas in the orchestration itself, and they complement the guitar parts rather than disguising the weakness of them.

There’s a touch of Dimmu Borgir with a Finnish flavour floating around (Ash Statues has the kind of huge sweeping strings and brass melody they haven’t managed in a decade) along with the influence Hans Zimmer’s film scores seem to be having on symphonic metal. There are some very Dark Knight flashes, such as on the impressive Disembodiment.

Omega Arcane may be too long at over 75 minutes, occasionally overusing its ideas, but the combination of rousing orchestra and chugging riffage is irresistible if this kind of shtick is your cup of tea.