By Jason Wellwood
I don’t often follow the progress of albums being created as I find it either builds up my expectations or makes me disinterested by the time the album actually arrives. For some reason though, I’ve been checking in with Riotgod on a regular basis to find out how Invisible Empire was going and when I could finally hear some of it. So, when the chance to review the album prior to its North American release came around, I was just about bouncing with excitement. Which doesn’t happen often these days, let me tell you!
The first Riotgod album was terrific and Invisible Empire may actually leap-frog over it. Riotgod’s 70’s hard rock by way of 90’s Seattle sound is still very much intact, making for a damn groovy vibe, but this time it’s a little more subversive. You may think that the band has shifted things down a notch or two too much and then realize you’ve been nodding along and pounding the steering wheel the entire time. ‘Breed’ kicks off the album like a lead pipe to the face, it’s easily the heaviest track the band has recorded and by the end you feel beaten and elated…and you have no idea what the hell just happened. A song of love for Riotgod’s fans couldn’t be any less heavy or more perfect. Mark Sunshine channels the vocals of a young Chris Cornell once again on ‘Fool’ and a healthy dose of Alice In Chains-esque background vocals appear as well. As with the first Riotgod record it’s hard not to compare the band to some others you may have heard as their influences are worn very much on their sleeves. Make no mistake though, this isn’t a ‘retro’ band, and it’s not derivative, the band channels their influences and obviously loves what they do. You can’t fake that, even on record. Invisible Empire definitely has less Monster Magnet feel to it though and that’s not a bad thing at all, giving Bob and Jim a little distance from their ‘other’ band lets Riotgod stretch a little more as well.
Aggressively beating the sophomore curse on Invisible Empire, Riotgod are most likely going to be quite busy in 2012. If the album had come out in North America last year, it would definitely have made my top 10 of the year and is going to be an album to beat this year.