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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Album Review: Riotgod - Invisible Empire

Listening to , you get the impression that when ’s rhythm section, bassist Jim Baglino and drummer Bob Pantella, first discussed forming a side-project they must have been literally bursting with ideas for ground that they wanted to cover. The surprise here is that they were most definitely looking backwards not forwards. The players have clearly gorged themselves upon rock music’s back catalogue and are now fit-to-burst with a smorgasbord of different tones and textures.

The simple construction and swaggering cadence of the music helps knit the whole project together, but there is still plenty of track-to-track chopping about between styles. The guitars lay down most of the groundwork, but it is Mark Sunshine’s vocal affectations that provide the hammer to bash in the nails here. In doing so, he becomes the focal point that so identifies each change of direction. He’s there with a Stockdale-esque yelp when the band hit upon a cosmic jerkiness so reminiscent of , as they do for “Breed” and “Loosely Bound”, and he’s not averse to developing an affected Coverdale lilt for the surprisingly -a-like “Slow Death”.

At points through the swaggering “Fool”, “Tomorrow’s Today” and the menacing “Crossfade” you’ll hear some interesting grunge elements popping in. The band plunge themselves into recreating a kind of meets vibe with Sunshine finding time to piece together some Cantrell harmonies and they ram home the point with the standout track, “Firebrand”, which recreates the dark verses and soaring chorus that are so reminiscent of . Even the lyrics recall Cornell’s elemental writing style – “Nothing is spared from your wide open mind / Swallow and flower the seed.”

Having been birthed from such a vast stoner beast as , it’s definitely a surprise to find hardly any heavy-lidded plodding and so many classic and alternative rock threads. You’d assume naturally that a band attempting to span both these genres, might struggle and end up producing a messy product but, save for the ostentatious acoustic “Gas Station Roses” and the disconcertingly haphazard psych break in “Hollow Mirror”, they do keep it all flowing along relatively smoothly.

They may have borrowed a couple of striking chord progressions and clichéd riffs here and there and Sunshine is certainly guilty of paying plenty of homage, but you’d balk at suggesting that this sophomore effort isn’t an enjoyable album because of it. Invisible Empire rolls along at a fair lick and is full of little treats along the way (the rock n’ roll punch of “Saving It Up” or the sweeping melodics of “Rebirth”, for instance). If you value invention over devotion then I’d suggest you steer clear of . The rest of you, especially those with a penchant for grunge or rock music with a modish kicker, step right this way.

Also online (with track samples) @ The New Review = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/riotgod-invisible-empire

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