Those with a taste for the aggressive end of the prog/power metal spectrum may want to check out DARK EMPIRE's sophomore effort, "Humanity Dethroned". The heaviness factor comes from substantial thrash elements in the riffing, heavy beats, and the occasional death vocal. But make no mistake about it; the album is anchored in melody and bright colors, rather than dissonance and dark hues (for the most part), placing it comfortably within the confines of the prog/power genre.
How does it match up with some of the better known acts playing a similar style, such as fellow New Jersey natives SYMPHONY X? Pretty well, overall. The first few songs ("Eyes of Defiance", "No Sign of Life", and the title track) in particular are real barnstormers, playing to the band's strengths with the SX-esque riffs and solos (courtesy of shredder Matt Moliti), as well as strong chorus melodies. Veteran singer Jens Carlsson (PERSUADER, SAVAGE CIRCUS) gives an edgy performance with a voice that is both husky and more than capable of carrying a tune. That said, his peculiar voice inflection takes a little getting used to. The echoes of SYMPHONY X are brought to the fore on the eight-minute "The Forgotten Sin", which features some very Romeo-like (as in Michael) guitar work, most noticeably during the first main guitar break and solo section. The album rounds out with the four-part "The Apparition Sequence", which includes the obligatory instrumental "Prelude", a tough customer called "Haunted" (employing no less than three vocal styles), the tuneful "Possessed (We Are One)", and the mediocre ballad "Closure".
While the musicianship is beyond reproach and the arrangements intelligently assembled, I did not find the album to be as memorable as I would have expected for reasons that I cannot quite put my finger on. Maybe a handful of the melodies didn't impact strongly enough. But that is only to say that "Humanity Dethroned" is a good prog/power metal album, rather than a great one. Either way, it is without reservation that I can recommend it to fans of the style.