Listen carefully to 'Empress' and a work of fragile beauty is revealed.
Just as Slint once advised people to listen to their releases solely on vinyl, and Kyuss’ sleevenotes stated that their records should be listened to “without distraction”, Empress’ eponymous second long-player should have come with similar instruction. These should further recommend, incidentally, that you turn your volume dials to double the normal setting – if you don’t, this LP could drift by unnoticed. And that would be a bit of a shame.
For Leeds-based three-piece trio Empress do not sing, they whisper. They pluck rather than strum, and stroke the drums rather than strike them.
Sometimes, they sound like a muted Movietone, sometimes like a progressive rock act stripped of their bombast. Listen carefully to ‘Empress’ and a work of fragile beauty is revealed. Opening track ‘If No Hope’ quickly sets the tone – slowly unravelling, it eventually picks up the pace of a funeral march, with Nicola Hodgkinson’s barely audible utterances adding a definite chill to proceedings. Only the haunting ‘Quiet Nights’ breaks the mould, a plaintive, delicate interlude of sparse pianos and echoing vocals.
Clocking in at 28 minutes, ‘Empress’ is perhaps too short to bloom fully, but still, it never withers. Empress have more
than justified their grandiloquent name.