Longdistancerunner - Competition of Martyrs (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Competition of Martyrs (2005)


Many were impressed with the 2005 effort of Holy Roman Empire, coming from a rich pedigree that included Shai Hulud, the Hope Conspiracy, and Rise Against. The band that was not mentioned in that pedigree is the short-lived Chicago five-piece Longdistancerunner, which is where vocalist Emily Schambra first made her talents known.

And really, Longdistancerunner doesn't sound all that far off from Holy Roman Empire. In both bands, Schambra's booming vocal chords propel the frantic punk backbone. She's capable of taking the entire weight of a band, and each and every song putting it square on her shoulders, and running with it. Even in her more reserved moments, you can feel the pent up power that's just itching for that chance to be unleashed.

While it's not an issue with Holy Roman Empire, some of these songs do face some instrumental issues. Not in the sense that the members lack talent or the ability to make some cohesive song structures, only in that with a voice as powerful as they have at the helm, there has to be some real solid music to back it up. While it's decent, it's never anything remembered after the album, or even the individual song is over. Schambra's voice is just such a beacon of sound and power that everything else sounds weak just by comparison.

The first half of the record is solid, but it's not until track seven, "Still Shot Romance," where the band truly hits their stride, and breaks into being something special. The tight rhythms and splashing on the cymbals provide a great background for the soaring vocals, and the track after, "Asphyxiation," keeps up with more of the same. The relatively demure beginning quickly gives way to some louder guitars and even louder vocals than before, staying engaging and invigorating all the way through. Even the guitar work at the end of the song really impresses, not only in speed but interplay between the guitarists, seemingly dueling back and forth. The band could have picked a stronger track to close the album than the aptly named "Exit," but it's a minor blemish on what's an otherwise clear record.

It's interesting to hear where Schambra came from, and it's quite evident that her immense talent didn't come out of nowhere. Holy Roman Empire feel like a more complete band, but you won't be kicking yourself by checking this out.