Review: Galactic Empire (self-titled)

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As a concept, Galactic Empire could’ve gone wrong on a number of levels.

Metal and classical music have a lot in common, but that doesn’t mean the two genres mix easily. So called “metal opera” often sounds cheesy, and the metal versions of Mozart, Holst and others I’ve heard were not particularly impressive. It seems classical music often doesn’t translate well to metal — or, perhaps, the classical-metal crossovers I’ve heard were simply performed by musicians that weren’t up to the challenge.

So I was a little leery when I ran across Galactic Empire, a band that translates John Williams’ scores from the “Star Wars” movies to metal. Let’s face it, “Star Wars” also hasn’t fared well musically outside the classical realm. Do you remember the “Star Wars” disco medley? Or have you just tried desperately to forget it? I know I’ve tried because, frankly, disco sucks.

So what a relief it is to say Galactic Empire does Williams and the “Star Wars” scores right. It also manages to rock quite hard, with some pretty stellar muscianship.

The musicianship is strong because, frankly, it has to be — Williams’ “Star Wars” scores are hard, and would challenge the chops of any musician. Galactic Empire rises to Williams’ musical challenge.

The band (Boba Sett, Dark Vader, Shadow Ranger, Red Guard and Bass Commander, on drums, three guitars and bass, respectively) have done their home work with Williams scores. The band does an excellent job of recreating “The Imperial March” “The Asteroid Field,” “Across the Stars” and other themes from the first six “Star Wars” movies in a way that’s interesting yet faithful to the original music. That’s no small feat — Williams’s scores are full of undercurrents of melody, to the the band can often be heard performing three melodies at once.

Since the music was created for the films, the songs are already heavy on dramatic moments and opportunities to be heavy. In terms of “shred (and who doesn’t like shred?) the band members take those scores and run with them — there’s already a lot of shredding built into the music, and each band member has multiple opportunities to shine (drummer Boba Sett in particular continues to amaze me, so kudos to him).

 

Now, it would be easy for the Metal Police or the “trver than thou” to laugh off Galactic Empire as a joke, and say that sc-fi music performed by a band in full costume is not “serious” metal. But that attitude would be silly, and you don’t have to be a “Star Wars” fan to enjoy the wild musical ride here. Hell, Take “Star Wars” completely out of the picture, and what you have is fantastic, intricate instrumental music, played by a band in top form.

So if you’re thinking that you’re too cool for this, you seriously need to lighten up. This is fun, high energy metal. And we allow fun in metal (it doesn’t have to be all nuclear war, catastrophe and evil, you know). This is an album that deserves being checked out.

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