Friday, April 28, 2017

LET THEM EAT METAL #14: Galactic Empire by Galactic Empire

Entry XIV: Galactic Empire

“The dark side has taken over heavy metal, and now black, death, and grind have a strong grip on the genre’s presence.

Due to this, the GALACTIC EMPIRE has set up a squadron of heavy metal musicians versed in advanced musical manipulation of the Force to do their dirty work.

To combat this, the Rebel Alliance has sent a new member, the Rock Otaku, to study their craft to find a way to stop their plans and bring traditional metal back to the galaxy….

Why does this always happen when I have stolen Imperial documents?
Hello degenerates, heathens, weirdos, and deviants.  I am the Rock Otaku, and I’m here to show you worlds such as hard rock, metal, punk, alternative rock, movies, TV, anime, video games, and anything that makes us scream, shout, and walk this way.

This series is dedicated to the best that heavy metal can offer.  As you will read, I will take you on a journey though the annals of heavy metal’s storied history from its beginning in early 70s, its crystallization in the late 70s and early 80s, its breakthrough into mainstream conscience in the early to mid-80s, its maturation in the late 80s and 90s, its dominance (sort of) in the 2000s and even today, and the rare moments that very few talk about unless in the company of like-minded fans.  Not in that order, but I’ll be looking at the footnotes of metal history in the order I desire.  In short, this series is about metal, plain and simple.

But from the modified intro, I enter another possible world of heavy metal artists: gimmick bands.  Yes, gimmicks are a thing in heavy metal, probably more so than in most mainstream music genres.  You get the idea, for something to be mainstream, the artist has to appeal to as many people as possible.  As a result, you have to follow trends, formulas, and popular themes that the masses are into to ensure your success in the music industry.  But, in a way, that is the quick and easy path to success, and one likely to cause one to succumb to the Dark Side of the Music Industry.

Then there’s the Light, which for me sounds more experimental, weird, lawless, and, more importantly, passionate than anything in the American mainstream.  As a result of our cultural melting-pot, EVERYTHING in mainstream music has to be able to appeal to everyone, with one side appealing to both the rich and poor in the city and another appealing to the bright and stupid in the country.  Either way, this leads to a herd-like mentality that condemns originality and uniqueness in the music industry in favor of mass-produced, clean, and vanilla pop where unless the melody is good and the lyrics relevant, I should just throw it all into the Sarlacc pit.

To combat that, while rock and metal becoming huge would be great, it’s also a good thing that most of it is underground, since most of the mainstream rock that happens tends to be, well:
Can we call these guys rock?
Some of their stuff is good, the rest is pretty lame.
Can someone just punch Adam Levine in the nuts already?!
When they’re the only legitimately great act here, you know we have a problem.
They’re on track for me to hate them.
So nu metal is back, huh?
Depends on the mood.
And this has been happening for a while, too.

Yeah, no wonder I only aim for GOOD mainstream rock, but even then, there’s some kind of gimmick going on with recent bands.  Think about it.  BABYMETAL’s gimmick is the j-pop vocals and idols paired with crushing metal.  Alestorm is about pirates.  A majority of Sabaton’s work is about historical wars.  Ghost has its Satan-worshipping theme.  Band-Maid is a band of maids playing hard rock.  Steel Panther is a parody of 80s glam metal.  Then there’s Ex Deo, a side project of Kataclysm that’s themed to Ancient Rome.  And finally, there’s today’s band, Galactic Empire.

Formed in England by extreme and progressive metal performers who all are clear Star Wars fans, this band of intergalactic cosplayers have one goal in mind: translate the music of John Williams from the films into instrumental progressive metal and show just how metal the soundtracks to one of the most iconic film franchises of all time is.  And based on this music video from when their image was closer to cosplaying as a Star Wars villain supergroup…
…rather than their Star Wars OCs from DeviantArt, I can say that they do a great job in this department.  And that’s based on the main theme from the first movie.  Which in their take includes the opening notes from the score, up to the attack on the Rebel transport by Vader’s Star Destroyer above Tatooine, to part of the credits music from A New Hope, including “Luke’s Theme”.  And this is only with guitars, bass, and drums.  And the band has a regular Stormtrooper on bass while a TIE Pilot and an Imperial Guard are guitarists with Darth Vader.  And of course Boba Fett is the drummer.  Then they released their cover of “The Imperial March” to build up anticipation for their debut.  Here it is:
I’ll get to it, but this is where some of their instrument gimmick started to take hold and make us realize, after signing to Rise Records, that they are serious about the Star Wars gimmick.  To the point where they changed their image to the aforementioned DeviantArt-esque OCs based on their chosen Star Wars characters:
It’s as if the actual characters were so busy with the Rebel Alliance that the Emperor had to hire knock-offs.
And yes, in the videos, they went under psuendoems to avoid copyright infringement, which is something I’m sure the actual Empire (Disney in this case) has to deal with on a daily basis.  But am I against this?  Nope.  If this is their gimmick, and this is the only way they can do this legally, then I support it, and there are greater signs lately that the Empire’s musical forces are more like us than the Emperor as a bunch of geeks.  In short, we have a band of Star Wars nerds playing Star Wars-based metal for Star Wars nerds.  And even metalheads.

Plus you have to give credit to their road crew for cosplaying as Imperial generals.  That is dedication.

As for my introduction to this band, I don’t need to say too much as it’s practically the same thing for most of you: seeing the first YouTube video they did and thinking: “Wow, this actually exists.”  After that, I’ve decided to wait on anything about them, until Rocked did a review of this album, talking about how interesting it is that I decided to check it out on Spotify.  As a result, we’re not going over this album, and you better get ready for the thunder.  And now, let’s get to how I’m going to review it.

From the Tenth entry of this, I’ve pointed out that I’m more than willing to do a track-by-track review for albums that came out a year before the entry’s confirmed release date, but do another type of review if it came out within the last 12 months.  As a result, I’m considering looking into the elements that make this album possible and go from there.  So if you want me to dissect the album track by track, then I find you lack of faith disturbing.  Anyway, let’s get to…
Palpatine: “Oh, I’m afraid that your chosen method for reviewing my musical squadron’s assault on your planet will lead to down a terrifying path.”
Emperor Palpatine?  What are you doing here?
Palpatine: “Have I ever told you of the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise?"
Uh, no?
Palpatine: “I thought not.  It’s not a story the Jedi would tell you. It’s a Sith Legend.  Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the…”
Stop there, you were about to reference something that most Original Trilogy fans deem non canon in their headcanon, so can you back off for a sec.
Palpatine: “Anyway, he had such knowledge of the dark side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.”
Palpatine: “The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.”
I get that, with the lightning you use on bitches.
Palpatine: “He became so powerful… the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power, which eventually, of course he did.  Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew, then his apprentice killed him in his sleep.  Ironic.  He could save others from death, but not himself."
Why are you telling me this story?  Are you saying that there’s some punchline involving Darth Pagueis and how his powers can bring me back after you kill me?
Palpatine: “I will if you don’t do a track-by-track review.”
Palpatine, you know I don’t deal with this kind of stuff for recent albums, as in it needs to be a year old for me to do this.
Palpatine: “I’ve seen your obsession with the one called Natsuru.  You mind that I change your appearance to match?”
Palpatine: “Good.  Let the hate flow.  Strike me down with all your hatred, and your journey to the dark side will be complete.”
Damn, looks like I’m doing this track by track, then.
Palpatine: “Good.  Good.”
Okay then, it’s usually easier when I do this anyway.  Here’s the track-by-track analysis of the Empire’s best metal musicians:

1.         Main Theme:

I’m sure I have this up earlier, so I don’t have to show it to you again.  But for this track, if this was you’re introduction to Galactic Empire, then it’s a bizarre, mysterious way to start.  Beginning their galactic assault on the eardrums with the most obvious opening track ever, the opening theme of each of the movies, the band makes their statement of turning the work of John Williams into heavy metal into a battle cry of the Sith (and Gray Jedi as well).  What’s even better is that they perform the opening of A New Hope, right down to the music when the Rebel Transport Ship is attacked by the Star Destroyer, then play the End Credits music from the same movie, including the segment from “Luke’s Theme” that’s part of that.  It’s rather beautiful, and the only way to truly criticize it is to compare it to the pieces of music that it’s covering, which I’ll let all in the Rebel Alliance, Imperial Forces, and others do right now:
Yes, both songs have similar notes but played in different styles, with symphonic for the original and metal for the cover.  And both are great.

2.         The Imperial March:

I’m sure I’ve also shown this, so there’s really no need to, but let me clarify this: this was the most obvious cover the band HAD to do.  There’s a sort of rule that anything themed to the Empire has to cover or incorporate its theme into their work, may it be a heavy metal band themed to the music and imagery of Star Wars.  And of course, this song, while not feeling as fresh or interesting as the previous track or the others due to how obvious this is, is still a musical grip of steel on the galaxy.  With its pummeling rhythms, intense delivery, menacing guitars and bass, and signs that not even Dark Vader will not skimp on lead guitar, even when it comes to his employer’s big theme, this song is still a pounding metal battle cry of oppressive tyranny.  As long as Donald Trump doesn’t adopt this as the metal theme of his presidency.  And again, the only issue is that compared to this…
…it’s pretty hard to top.  What about a song from the prequels?

3.         Duel of the Fates:
No seriously, this band decided to be extra evil and take the most recognized pieces of music from the prequels and cover them.  And starting their heavy metal assault on our sensitive spots where the prequels cause us pain, they begin with The Phantom Menace’s killer lightsaber battle theme, “Duel of the Fates.”  And it’s equal parts both scary and awesome, turning an already dark, ominous track with drive, intensity, and a desire to kick ass into a metal version of that, and dark, ominous, driven, intense, and kick ass are concepts that excel in heavy metal.  And it’s outright delicious that the band brought in a choir to sing the Sanskrit lines in the song like in the song, even if they sound like they came out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (same composer).  Seriously, the mix of choral arrangements and guitar pyrotechnics manages to create a sense that this band is more machine than man, with minds twisted and evil.  Seriously, here’s the original song to compare:
Holy Bantha Crap, that is wild.

4.         The Force Theme:
As for songs that are also a little obvious to cover, but are beautiful to cover in heavy metal, there’s the theme to The Force itself.  Like with the original song, this song is outright beautiful, mysterious, and contemplative, even when the rhythm section comes in to send you flying off in another direction and out a window.
That’s what happens when you don’t complete your training, Luke.
I don’t need to say much more, outside of the fact that the music does channel the soft-loud dynamic of the original track well.  Hell, it’s more of a metal update to the original track, which is right here:
In short, this is an interesting track, and definitely one to recommend to people who are unconvinced that this band is worth something.

5.         The Asteroid Field:
I bet most of you hardcore Star Wars fans will recognize this piece from this scene from The Empire Strikes Back:
Though it’s kind of embarrassing to the Empire to glorify this music since those damn asteroids really messed up their forces and got a bunch of them killed.  And it would have been even weirder if the sound effects included the dialogue and the sound effects, so that while pulse-pounding metal is playing, the audio of laser blasts, Han’s quips and C3PO’s whining would have supplemented the guitars, electronic effects, bass, and furious drum work.  And it would have been weird for the band to suddenly GLORIFY their losses in their chase of the Millennium Falcon into hard-to-travel environments and their Star Destroyers crashing into each other (Han’s a sneaky bastard, if you remember).  And it’s surprisingly weird that the band would not just nail this song, with their intense production, instrumentation, and musical prowess, and even get the more heroic parts of the score down, with some of the musical elements adding to the epic feel of the score.  In short, while it’s weird to cover this, I do give the band kudos for doing so.  Speaking of kudos.

6.         Battle of the Heroes:
The original track is arguably one of John William’s best prequel-era tracks, with the music reflecting the broken relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan during their climatic duel at the end of Revenge of the Sith on Mustafar.  And turning that into metal is arguably one of the most daring moves by this band.  With its intense music and even emotions, the guitarists manage to take this…
…and transcribe it into a musical hurricane that matches the intense bass and drum work, matching it with blast beats, and being as musically and emotionally intense and moving.  And it does add to the tragedy of the original piece’s purpose, of creating a battle theme that also represents the destruction of the bonds between two heroes.  And the production, instrumentation, and technicality on display all add to this.  It’s as if to pay tribute to Dark Vader’s inspiration’s downfall and final turn to the dark side, the band but their all, from their skill to their metal credibility, into this massive epic duel of former brothers-turned-enemies.  It’s outright moving.

7.         Cantina Band:
Now for the most fun track on here.  Like with the music in the Cantina in that memorable scene from A New Hope, specifically this one…
…this song is a jazzy, swinging, and sleazy track that goes into the dark underbelly of the galaxy in search for the best in great ideas for metal.  And this melodic, metal take on the music, from the production to the instrumentation, is nothing short of a surprisingly fun.  And the ultimate proof that these guys are Star Wars nerds (in their non-galactic guises) to anyone who hasn’t caught on to that fact yet.  And after the emotionally driven “Battle of Heroes,” it’s a little relaxing to get music like this.  Unfortunately, I can see droids not liking this, while it’s also bad idea to get on the wrong side of deformed doctors and walrus-faced creatures.  Just saying.

8.         Ben’s Death / TIE Fighter Attack:
Talk about a curveball.  It’s one thing to just cover the notable songs from Star Wars, but it’s another to take music from key scenes and make progressive metal covers that match the emotional and situational aspects of theme and match theme with the appropriate metal elements.  Such as going from intense after the music goes past the moment where Ben Kenobi is killed to the escape from the Death Star, then going back to aggressive when Han and Luke get ready to ward off TIE Fighters and start shooting them down.  And the music here is about as ass-kicking as the original music from the movie.  Talk about a flurry of both emotions from the opening minute to the onslaught of intensity and determination to get the hell out of certain predicaments that follow.  And like “The Asteroid Field” from this album, I can easily see the audio from the movies incorporated into this track with ease.  Imagine taking this…
…and having the score be this version, and it fits surprisingly well.  I’d like to see more stuff like this.  Which would be weird, but I know this band can pull it off.  Though I’m sure Han has a few words for them:

9.         Across the Stars:
And now for what is arguably the best thing to come out of Attack of the Clones.  Let’s face it, since this is the love theme between a pre-Darth Vader Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala, it makes sense to give this the prog-power metal treatment.  And it surprisingly works here, with the sense of tragedy that the original does better than the script and converts it to bone-crushing metal with the intensity to boot.  It’s as if, despite this being an emotionally-charged track already and one that I’m sure was the only thing ensuring that there was some sort of shred of care in that poorly-done romance, the band knew that this song was loaded with some dark connotations to not just the fans but the characters they are connected to and decided to, again, show their metal credentials by making this somehow awesome to headbang to, even if you shed a tear or two when realizing that this kind of music does encapsulate the concept of star-crossed lovers to perfection.  Even with the original:
Even with the flaws of the romance that this song makes up for, and both versions to be exact, it’s still a better love story than Twilight.

10.       The Forest Battle:
As for this track, it’s weird that we get a pulse-pounding, aggressive song that’s from Return of the Jedi and is arguably the perfect song for the mosh pit, right from the savage opening to even the increase in intensity to stuff like the Ewok theme while also being very melodic and having the touches of John Williams that allows his music to be enjoyed by all generations, from the fun aspects with this cover to the darker elements.  And the production, intensity, instrumentation, and technicality on display here all add to that.  It’s weird that this is the only major Jedi tune here, but it’s arguably one of the better tunes to use (even if “Lapti Nek” and “Yub Nub” are also great condenders to be covered in the follow-up album).  It’s also helped by the massive drive to kick some Imperial ass here, leads to a steady, hot-blooded headbanger (and I’m suddenly wondering whose side this band is really on, or if, based on some of the heroic themes, they are actually Rebel double agents disguised as imperial musicians).  I could say more, but I’m sure that this is a great version of this in general:
And both versions are why John Williams is one of my favorite composers of all time.

11.       The Throne Room / End Title:
And now for the big finale.  Fittingly enough, they end their inaugural album with the piece of music composed over the ending of A New Hope, when Luke and Han receive medals for their bravery and valor in the fight against the Evil Empire (again, this is making me consider the band actually being Rebel spies).  And the music is as equally triumphant and epic, before going into the first part of the credits music, which segues into…the end title for The Empire Strikes Back!  Before we go further, this end title is probably my favorite in the series, both in how strikingly different is from the others, and how it’s less triumphant than the others but more beautiful in how ominous it is.  It represents that things went to Hell for our heroes, and they are getting stronger as they go on, plus it uses the music associated with Yoda lifting Luke’s X-Wing for the first part, creating a feeling that Luke himself is lifting himself out of the rut he got himself into, and the use of “The Imperial March” and the love theme between Han and Leia are also expertly used, to create this feeling that even if the bad guys won, love will still last.  And the ending notes are outright amazing, creating a sense that we survived absolute disaster and are stronger than ever.  And the band goes for metal with this, and they outright nail the feelings and emotions related to that track.  Plus it’s interesting that they go from New Hope to Empire in a single song, proving their worth as progressive metal Star Wars fans.  In short, this was a GREAT way to end the album.

So overall, this is was a fascinating journey into the dark side of heavy metal, and it’s one I’d actually recommend to people.  If there is an overarching flaw with this album, it’s that the songs take the bombast and larger-than-life feelings of the original music and takes them up to 11.  While that’s a small gripe, it’s ultimately part of the charm, and you’re either with it or you’re not.  Plus some of the tracks and arrangements, while well-performed, are pretty obvious, as it’s a sign that the band had to showcase their talents by taking the quick and easy path.  But that works better since it’s easier to have more recognizable songs covered to convince casuals that you’re really doing this and putting hard work and effort into it.  But if there’s a major note of praise I have to give this, it’s that the album spans not just the Original Trilogy but the Prequels as well, having at least one song, may it be a part of the soundtrack that spiced up a scene or a major theme in that movie.  And it’s even better when you realize that most of the instrumentation was based around guitars, bass, and drums, with electronics and a choir only used for certain songs where they fit.  Plus there’s also the sense that, with time, more meditation and mastery of The Force, we could see songs from the Sequel Trilogy that Disney is doing in the near future (imagine a metal version of “Rey’s Theme” and from these guys).  Yes, that would be over the top due to how the villains in that series are The First Order rather than the Empire, and there are more tracks from the first six movies the band can use, despite having the same composer for all seven “Episode” films.  For spin-offs like Rogue One, I can easily see a few tracks covered.  But for this album, it’s a magnificent ride through the Star Wars Saga via the amazing musicianship, pyrotechnics, and intensity of heavy metal.  Definitely for Star Wars fans, metalheads, and any combination of the two.

Final Score: 9/10 (A valiant effort by forces of the Empire)

Before I go, I need to address a certain Emperor about something.
Palpatine: “By the way, you have not seen the power of the dark side.”
What do you mean, Palpatine?  Are you going to shock me?
Vader: “(I suddenly remember that this jackass told me I killed my wife, yet I have twins.  I need to do something about him.)”
Well, that was easy.  Too bad Vader’s likely going to die from this.

If you agree or disagree, feel free to leave a comment below telling me what you think.  Also, make sure to like my Facebook page here:  Be sure to follow me on Twitter here:, my Instagram page is here:, and my Tumblr is at this link:  That and be sure to follow my blog.  The way to do so is to the right of this page.

Next Time on Let Them Eat Metal: Summer’s around the corner, so it’s time to take a dive.

Until next time, this is the Rock Otaku.  Live Loud, Play Hard, and Eat Metal.

All used references are done under the rules of fair use and are owned by their original creators.

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