Music, Pop Culture

“Empire” by Cedars 

Equal parts careful melodicism and brash intensity akin to something much more menacing than the status quo would normally allow for, the lead vocal that attacks us at full strength in Cedars’ “Empire” definitely makes the track feel pretty rock solid, and it’s not the only element doing so. What makes “Empire” sound so rebellious is its tempo, its gritty instrumental tone, the attitude of its lead singer, and even the stylization of its cover, all of which pay homage to an era in rock n’ roll history that couldn’t feel much further from the mainstream in a year like 2023. This is an alternative, and it couldn’t have come soon enough this year.

The beat is controlling the mood of this music even more than the lyrics, and I would argue that the narrative in the song would be entirely different – even with the same lyrical structure and content as it contains now – if presented at a slightly slower pace. The modulated melodies and ebbtide of the rhythm are what make “Empire” feel like a waving fist aimed squarely at the establishment in rock today, and if you take that away from its construction, you don’t have the fiery piece of material you certainly do in this case.

This mix is definitely on the retro side of the spectrum, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s lacking the depth to appeal to more modern listeners who didn’t grow up with a more DIY-influenced aesthetic playing on the radio. The abrasiveness of the guitar parts is rather mild in comparison to what the vocal is putting up in the middle of the firestorm, and save for a couple of moments where the bumpiness of the bass comes in contact with the swing of the drums, the bottom-end is consistently more foundational in this track than it typically is in most modern rock.

I will say that while the guitar parts are a little lower in this mix than I would normally prefer, I can understand what Cedars might have been going for when deciding to go with this angle over something a little louder and hard-charging. There’s nothing wrong with limiting the presence of a boisterous distorted guitar when you’ve got as much heat coming off of the other instruments as we do here, and to some extent, I think you could even say this act is going further with the ‘alternative’ labeling in doing something most rock bands never will – putting the guitar in the backseat of the mix.

If this is Cedars at their most carefree and wild, there’s going to be an influx of excellent feedback coming in the direction of “Empire” this July. It’s been trying times in the late history of rock n’ roll music lately, but just hearing a bit of aggression coming from this strain of underground talent has got to be enough to put a smile on a lot of diehard rock fans’ faces. It will be a tough fight for sure, but material like this can put the style back on the map everywhere.

Cleopatra Patel


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