Battlefields - Stained with the Blood of an Empire (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Stained with the Blood of an Empire (2006)


Even when quiet, there is rage.

Building, festering, slowly approaching the inevitable crescendo which will cause everything to come crashing down. Those more reserved moments aren't so much a reprieve as an opportunity to brace yourself for the coming onslaught; pounding drums and riffs so heavy they could bring down a building are never very far behind.

The loud/soft dynamic done so well by bands like Buried Inside, Angel Eyes, and the Minor Times is what helps elevate Stained with the Blood of an Empire to a much more revered status, as the flow that these four tracks ride on is one defined by unexpected action. The songs course through such a path that anticipation is impossible, leaving tracks like "Tides Up the Crescent City" in a place that requires attention to each drum pattern, each riff, each bass bridge.

There's no telling when this four-piece will combust into a cathartic musical explosion, and often there's instances where it seems for a few minutes that they're on the cusp, only to have the chord progressions peak and louden just a little bit more. That tactic is worked to perfection in the aforementioned track, as the first five minutes is spent in a tense pattern of increasing the volume as much as possible without hitting the edge, until finally the Circle Takes the Square-esque screams enter the fray and create a storm of passion only quelled by the crashing cymbals behind it. Singer and guitarist Andrew Wallin is able to build off his bandmates and adjust his vocal patterns to whatever is being played; no matter how loud or soft, no matter how fast or slow, he matches and intensifies the rhythm to create an even more chaotic situation than was present before.

"A Lifeless Polar Desert" begins in somewhat of an uncharacteristic fashion, as the vocals and instrumentation begin at the very same time, both slowly brooding, until the vocals cut out and the riffing intensifies, becoming louder but more melodic at the same time, until Wallin again unleashes some chilling screams -- and the song is only a third of a the way over. A plethora of ups, downs, twists and turns follow, with vocals cascading in and out, guitars squalling and crushing, drums and bass keeping it all in check.

While maybe not as epic as some of their counterparts, Battlefields maintain, if nothing else, a sense of dynamics. They know when to turn it up, when to turn it down, and maybe more importantly, when to just keep everyone guessing.