Vancouver post-metal project Empress are refreshingly candid about their band’s origins. The genesis of the band is linked to the majesty of witnessing psych heavyweights Elder live. But Empress isn’t a tribute project or defined by shallow mimicry. After their supernova of inspiration, Empress has explored introspective themes across their introductory releases. Now they’re releasing their debut LP Premonition, scheduled to be uncaged on October 9th. The album will be released by new Hammerheart Records sister label, Petrichor. Lucky for you, we have an exclusive stream of the full record 9 days early.
From the first bars of “A Pale Wanderer,” Premonition pours from an open heart. Whether they’re basking in lunar melodies or unleashing blastbeats, Empress retain an emotional core throughout Premonition. The opening track slyly dips into sun-warmed psychedelia before taking shelter in the shadows of nocturnal shoegaze. The crawling bass of “Sepulchre” invokes Conan’s heft if they sang about slaying mental illness. “Passage” coils around a sizzling guitar solo. Disembodied from the record, the tortured blasts of “Trost” feel like they’re on a different planet than the muted menace of “Hiraeth.” But the progressive post-metal of Premonition boasts a wildly eclectic of influences. Despite the variety, the album feels cohesive. Each song solemnly burns the same funereal incense. By the time the roar of “Lion’s Blood” fades, Empress personifies catharsis across 49 minutes of evocative heaviness. The album is dedicated to the memory of bassist Brenden Gunn, who unfortunately left us last October. The agility of each song’s composition feels like the spectrum of human emotion. Loss and melancholy. Ensuing rage. The warmth of remembrance.
Listen to Premonition below before it’s released on October 9th from Petrichor. Also check out the interview with vocalist/guitarist Peter Sacco below. But first, surrender to lush melodies and jagged aggression by pressing play NOW.
Decibel Magazine interview with Empress vocalist/guitarist Peter Sacco
Premonition is the band’s first full-length release. What changes to your sound or songwriting did you want to make after your EP and split release?
PS: We considered more of the post-metal direction this time around. Over time we felt that was what we do best, actually. We had already done the sludge/doom thing, and weren’t ready to step fully into one direction overall, I’d say. Luckily we had written so much material already that we had the luxury of taking our time to decide what we needed to sound like for us all to be happy with it at the end of the day. It definitely felt like a large leap forward.
It seems like collaborative songwriting is important to the band. Does that approach rely on building more trust and chemistry than in other projects you’ve participated in?
PS: All projects we have all been a part of have a level of trust to want to participate is a creative venture, of course. The intention with the importance of collaborative songwriting gives a more human feel behind everything. Lots of interesting parts that a single person on their own could not have thought of. As well as listening to music is a personal experience for a lot of people. The equal amount of effort is needed for anyone to want to pay attention at all. The chemistry between all members creating what we have is special. If it is not special to us, it’s shit to everyone else. If no one in the band is actually happy about playing the music, then it’s a bedroom project for one person.
The album’s themes focus on the impact of mental illness. Do you think those topics are becoming less taboo to discuss in vulnerable ways in heavy music?
PS: Yes, it has become a more open thing to touch on and be vocal about. That was not noticed initially because the topic of this album was actually planned out years ago. Then the last few years went by and we noticed more people wanting to talk about it. Which is a great thing, with metal especially. You only have something to gain by being vulnerable in the first place.
Who are some of your favorite writers and lyricists who have impacted you and your style?
PS: To be honest, I never looked up to many people. Empress is my first Project giving this whole thing a shot. Ozzy Osbourne was a big one for me, and Colin H. van Eeckhout of Amenra and Chve. At least that’s where I chose to draw confidence from. My style is, well… I make a lot up in the studio on the fly. I have no idea what will or won’t work ’til the pressure is on. My favorite ideas have come from that. So if anything comes across as more intimate than intended, it really is.
The band’s bio specifically mentions a formative experience seeing the band Elder live. What about the live performance impacted you so deeply?
PS: It wasn’t actually anything they were doing, it was the crowd’s reaction to them. Hell, Nick Disalvo’s amp blew up and smoked out the room. Me and Chris were beside each other the whole time enjoying every bit of it. The crowd waited half an hour for them to sort that out and continued to crush everyone in the room. Afterward it was just a light bulb of “we need to do that.” For me at least, I want to create what a room of people will experience as absolute joy like the way I saw that crowd.
What does Empress have planned for the rest of 2020 and beyond?
PS: We are left with so much time to just create again. So we are already well into making new music and merch. As well as releasing other new music in early 2021. So we aren’t quite done even after this album comes out. I am certain a lot of people we know will be happy to hear that.