When people think of grunge, the first band that comes to their mind is Nirvana. I’m not here to argue origins, as I’m sure I’ll hear a bunch of Mudhoney or The Melvins references. But Kurt Cobain and his ensemble were the flagship band of this movement, whether they characterized themselves as such or not. Personally, it took me quite a while to appreciate this genre. I had grown up as a lover of classic rock and 80s heavy metal, and when I began listening to grunge, I was also neck-deep in the technique of 80s music virtuosos who were playing Johann Sebastian Bach on electric guitar. But after some time my appreciate grew, so when a fellow by the name of Michael Dole approached me with his solo effort called Empire Of Gold, which falls under this umbrella, I hesitantly listened.
Empire Of Gold’s brand new EP is entitled Raw and it is aptly labeled. There is not a whole lot of production that stands between the listeners and the instruments and it’s even apparent from the album artwork. With the opening track, “What Are You Waiting For?,” we’re met with a barrage of distortion that only builds. Yet, while this very well could have been recorded in Dole’s garage, the Foo Fighters have shown us with Wasting Light that a high cost recording studio isn’t necessary for greatness. I don’t mean to say that Raw is on the same level as that album, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well these tunes have been put together. Rough as the EP itself might be, it’s obvious Dole has an ear for music.
For those of you who are looking for a good time, run far away. Perhaps, however, take a copy of the EP with you for those days where nothing seems to go your way. This release is dripping with self-deprecation and won’t find a welcome place on any mix you might have been putting together for those Summer house parties. But then again, this is grunge, so that’s not surprising. Tracks like the ballad “You (Shouted The Worst You Could Do),” which documents a really brutal end to a relationship, as well as my personal favorite “Help Me” are not happy songs. But there is an occasion for this sort of mood, and I believe this would make a great addition to anything else that might find its way to your ears during those times. Michael Dole and Empire Of Gold can be happy about one thing: Raw is an honest piece of music that holds great promise for the future.