Southern Empire – Civilisation

SouthernEmpire Civilisation coverWell… here we are. The band whose debut album was my top release of 2016 has returned! Southern Empire introduce their sophomore effort and they definitely ramped up the epicness this go around. It clocks in at 4 tracks and just a tad over 68 minutes. Yep… So we can check off the “track length” box of the prog criteria right there. But before we go digging into the rest of what makes up this great album, let’s dig into the band just a bit in case you aren’t familiar with them.
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Sean Timms (Keyboards, Vocals, Sax, and Lap Steel Guitar) formed the band sometime around 2013 or so and paired up with lead Vocalist/Guitarist Danny Lopresto, present and accounted for on this second album as well! Also returning are Cam Blokland (guitars/vocals), Jez Martin (bass/vocals), and Brody Green (drums/vocals). That’s a lot of vocals! And they use them! And joining the band on this new album is Steve Unruh from Samurai of Prog, playing violin and some flute in various places.
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Starting us off, Danny is really trying to find a diamond… or maybe Cam is (as he primarily wrote this one). Goliath’s Moon documents that loss. Back are the catchy hooks and harmonies that defined the first album as well as some rocking prog to boot. Not really sure why the first verse is repeated right off the bat. Found that a little odd but no biggie. This is the shortest song on the album and a great rocking tune. We are treated to some of those cool, syncopated (I think that is what they are called. Layered anyway) vocals that Spock’s Beard and, I’m told, Gentle Giant, made famous. Famous to me, at least. 😁
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Up next is one of the epics on the album (really though… 4 tracks in just under 70 minutes… aren’t they all epics in some form?), hovering around the 20 minute mark, Cries for the Lonely. Steve Unruh shows up here to lay down some Kansas like violin solos with some flute. Along with a breakdown reminscent of Short Skirt/Long Jacket by Cake (Theme from the Chuck tv show) and some meaty, soulful guitar solos to see us through to the end.
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SE2 band-smallestest
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Has time been rewritten?
Or is time running out?
The end of the ages
Weighs heavy with doubt
What consequences
Do we bring upon ourselves?
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And then we hit THE epic. An almost 30 minute beast. Travel is a big theme on The Crossroads and we go through many musical styles over the course of this track. It is a beast of a song, indeed. And worth every minute of your time. After my 6th pass on this and it still hasn’t gotten old.
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We close things up with Innocence & Fortune. These guys know how to do a chorus: full of harmony and melody. Another fantastic guitar solo followed by some classical keys, ala Rick Wakeman. I heard from Sean that this song has its roots in two Doctor Who episodes from Season 9: Heaven Sent and Hell Bent. Very cool. Haven’t seen them yet, but definitely plan on doing so to get a better feel for the song’s meaning.
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Overall, this is a fantastic album. I feel the Epic would have been better suited at the end as a closer (just going on the way each song ends) but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the music here.
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Another great, epic album from down under! Definitely listen with the headphones on first go around if you can. There is a lot going on here and it deserves your attention. And if you haven’t picked up their first one yet, you need to do yourself a favor and do so!
Recommended if you like: Transatlantic.
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Did I mention epic?
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Note: The release date is July 20th, though it seems some retailers already have it and are shipping them now.
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Note Note: The band is touring the UK this November.
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Rating: 9.5/10
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Tracklist:
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1. Goliath’s Moon  (9:11)
2. Cries For The Lonely (19:12)
3. The Crossroads (29:14)
4. Innocence & Fortune (10:22)
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Label: Giant Electric Pea
Release Date: 20 July 2018

 

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