Portland’s Sleep Rebellion promise “libertarian sci-fi lyrics” within a new prog/hard rock framework. If that concept fills you with dread then it may be best to turn away now but the more broad-minded listener will be rewarded with a surprisingly melodic and durable album.
The title track sets an early template for heavy post-rock guitars and mighty percussion. Guitars and drums are duly slayed although one of the most pleasing elements is Chris McGraw’s strident yet somewhat innocent-sounding vocals. Even better is ‘Dark Is Our Fear’ which comes across like a prog version of Ultravox’s ‘Hymn’; a portentous anthem concerning surveillance state society, complete with a powerful chorus. Granted there are moments of over-indulgence with showy guitar solos (‘Helicopter Ben’) and unnecessary keyboard solos (‘Transhuman’) which threaten to undermine some otherwise impressive songwriting but for the most part the duo of McGraw and Randy Hart stick to a formula which merits repeated plays.
The unfussy ‘False Messiah’ makes a mockery of its six minute length with a lean, bruising, no-nonsense delivery, the synth-heavy ‘New Worlds’ is swish and energising and on ‘The Creator’ they could give Muse a run for their money. Furthermore, ‘The Agorist’ is rich and complex and the last song ‘Fearless’ is a defiant way to end the record (“Courage takes passion. Revolution takes persistence. So rise up, and join the resistance” sounds like a political call to arms at this time of year).
Those melodramatic lyrics aside, ‘Empire Of Lies’ is a record to be taken seriously. Their music may belong to another time zone (hereafter referred to as the retro-futurist prog period perhaps?) but the duo have created an album of largely memorable sturdy rock anthems and there’s certainly no crime in that.
Ultravox, Rush, Muse