Chicago’s Emperors and Elephants, a band that formed in 2010, has been gathering momentum through the years. It’s already achieved some radio support for the single, “Your Will,” and has opened for larger acts like SOiL and Pop Evil during tours. Texas Hippie Coalition guitarist Randy Cooper has just joined the ensemble and helped record the full length debut album, entitled Devil In The Lake, due out on Jan. 21.
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From the onset, it’s easy to tell that the band are packing. From the huge crunching riffs of the opener, “Bring It Down,” we understand that we’ve come to the right place for some modern rock madness. A solo sneaks up and bites us before we know it, with plenty more on the way, where Randy unleashes bends that dig into the pocket before coming back up for air. The album is littered with heavy-hitters like this one, from “Man Of God,” with its digitized introduction; “Locust,” with drum hits hard enough to break the skin; and the staccato-staggered guitar mayhem of “Deep Sleep.” But the guys realize the need for toning back, and tracks like “Your Will,” “Hit Of Red” and “Change” bring at least a partially acoustic element to accent the heavier tracks that surround them.
I didn’t have the benefit of a lyric sheet for this release, but from the album title and some names, one can quickly ascertain a release of darker material. However, there is a spirit of positivity and hope in the words that are sung. The vocalist, Jesse Andrews, sings with a passion that others should look to emulate. There seems to be a trade-off though, which is that sometimes his passion trumps clarity, leaving me unsure of what’s actually being sung. This is a shame because some of the lyrics are truly touching. This doesn’t prevent the tracks from being powerful and energized; each tune leaps into soaring choruses and possesses something that prevents the spotlight from getting stuck on any one song. I’m never left to guess which track I’m listening to, which is sometimes the case with bands that seem to use one riff recycled for every song.
Emperors and Elephants is just at the beginning of its career, but it has already achieved quite a promising start. For a debut album… hell, even for a sophomore album, Devil In The Lake is an astounding release. It’s overflowing with passion and teeming with unique tracks that are so solid as to stand up without being book-ended by the others. I applaud the men for coming up with such enjoyable material out of the starting gate. I’ll be interested to see where you go from here.