Empire State Bastard - Rivers Of Hersey

Empire State Bastard – Rivers Of Hersey

Being somewhat late in submitting this review, the first part is aimed squarely at anyone who has not yet heard Rivers Of Heresy. I unapologetically say that late reviews can give an album a second wind – and even revive interest in those who ummed and aahed and then forgot to buy the album. So here we are!

Trust me. I’m a Dad and a Grandfather. I know all about tucking the kids in with a chapter of Narnia and a soothing cassette-full of dreamy music. OK m’kiddies, are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin.

This band didn’t come from nowhere. They have pedigree. But this is completely unexpected! Anyone familiar with Biffy Clyro, or their live guitarist’s now defunct band, Oceansize, may be somewhat surprised at the tone of this album, especially as the band name contains a naughty word! Given that Mr. Vennart’s aforementioned band Oceansize supported Porcupine Tree on the Fear Of A Blank Planet tour and is now Biffy’s touring guitarist, you just wouldn’t pin him down as this sort of a musician. Mr. Neil, as Biffy’s front man, guitarist and, I believe, principal songwriter and Mr. Vennart show just how serious they are, doffing some unthreatening suits and well-groomed moustaches to create music clearly designed to soothe and even purge the soul.

The tender opening tones of track one, Harvest, gently eases us in, caressing our ears with lashings of pure elemental truth and post rock ambient noodling. You’ll want to get your Dad to rock your inner child into a dream state furnished with fluffy cuddly candy floss bunny rabbits and pwink ubicawns.

Only kidding.




The music demands someone who can properly thump those tubs. In some kind of coup, the band has legitimate metal drumming royalty providing extra racket, Dave Lombardo. You may know Mr. Lombardo from his work with such combos as Slayer and Mr.Bungle. As part of Empire State Bastard Mr. Lombardo can be heard thrashing a drum set to death and then continue beating it into a bloody porridge of polyester, mylar, wood splinters, slithers of brass and a stack of iron filings.

Were you fooled earlier by me name-dropping everyone’s favourite melancholic neo-progressive rock band? The most significant thing Empire State Bastard has in common with Steven Wilson’s old band is their signing to Roadrunner between 2006 and 2010. Yesterday’s Porcupine Tree may have dabbled with becoming Spikey Mammal Bush back then, but Empire State Bastard show what a talented, if sweaty, heartthrob writer of progressive pop-rock and a post-math-psychedelic-space-rock icon (just go with that) can do if they put their minds to it. Empire State Bastard are on a prehistoric level of heavy. Is it Prog? Is it 7#£k! This album makes Mick Gordon’s Doom soundtrack sound like it’s on the same level of cutesy as the theme tune to Remy and Boo.

Mr. Vennart handles all the guitars and riffage. Oh yes, Mr. Vennart plays all the absolutely filthy, dirty, fuzzy, distorted, screaming drop-tuned riffs you hear. Meanwhile, Mr Neil concentrates on the lyrics and vocals, and, oh my, does he do that! I find this surprising. Not because he doesn’t handle vocals or write lyrics, he does this for Biffy Clyro with aplomb. The root of my surprise is that Mr. Neil is an extremely accomplished guitarist in his own right. I bet he had a go when they toured the album. Sadly, I was unable to make it to any of their gigs, so I’ll never know. Unless someone tells me.

I paraphrase, but Mr Neil described the mission statement of this album as wanting to make: “music that embodies pure rage”. The trio is clearly unified in this objective, with Messrs. Vennart and Neil each going as far as sporting their own take on Evil Cowboy Moustaches.

There’s not much respite from the rage, either. The “softest” track is most probably the rhythmically janky and stripped down aggression of track eight, Dusty.

Whether you are an ummer and aaher or you are simply as frustrated with the state of the world in this post-Obama, post-Brexit age as are Neil and Vennart, and you too want to rage in the purest way, then buy the album, grow an evil cowboy moustache, put on your Sunday-Best-Weddings-And-Funerals Suit, turn your amp up to eleven and thrash yourself stupid.

And remember, it’s not my job to guarantee that you’ll like an album. I’m not even your real Dad.

01. Harvest (2:50)
02. Blusher (2:44)
03. Moi? (4:23)
04. Tired, Aye? (2:43)
05. Sons and Daughters (5:37)
06. Stutter (2:20)
07. Palms of Hands (2:24)
08. Dusty (2:13)
09. Sold! (3:29)
10. The Looming (6:39)

Total Time – 35:22

Simon Neil – Vocals, Additional Guitars, Keyboards
Mike Vennart – Guitars, Bass
Dave Lombardo – Drums

Record Label: Roadrunner Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 1st September 2023

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