Architect of Hope
(Melodic Rock 2015)
Stu Marshall is a well-known Australian guitar slinger who made a name for himself in the early 2000s as resident shredder in Dungeon on acclaimed albums like ‘A Rise to Power,’ ‘One Step Beyond’ and the ‘Resurrection’ re-recording project. He’s also currently a cornerstone of hard-charging international metal supergroup Death Dealer (also featuring Ross the Boss and Sean Peck). In his spare time, Stu writes and records solo albums under the banner Empires of Eden. ‘Architect of Hope’ marks the fourth Empires of Eden effort, and it’s definitely worth a listen.
What differentiates Empires of Eden from many guitarists’ vanity projects is the use of a supporting cast of powerhouse guest vocalists (some known, others unknown) from all over the heavy metal universe. Each singer gets a song to which he applies his own talents and style in composing suitable lyrics and vocal melodies. The result is that each vocalist gets to put his own unique, personal stamp on the song, making the performances feel authentic and heartfelt, rather than the cold, calculated, perfunctory cash-grab that characterizes many metal luminaries’ guest appearances on somebody else’s record. The slate of singers on ‘Architect of Hope’ includes the likes of Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Rick Altzi (Masterplan), Mike Dimeo (Riot), George Call (Aska) and Jeff Martin (Racer X). I can honestly say that, for all their different styles, every singer knocks it out of the park and delivers a top-notch performance on this album. Even the vocalists I’ve never heard of before did a fantastic job, and made me want to investigate their work with their primary bands. A handful of songs also include guest guitar solos from the likes of Ross the Boss and Metal Mike Chlasiak, not that Stu Marshall required any assistance from anybody in that department.
Perhaps the most impressive facet of ‘Architect of Hope’ is that, for all the diversity of players and voices on display, the album feels remarkably cohesive and unified. Credit goes to Marshall for writing and arranging these songs in such a manner that they mesh together as part of a consistent, seamless vision. That vision is high-quality heavy/power metal, at tempos ranging from midpaced to frenetic, with big hooks, a crushing guitar tone and ripping solos. One of the best compliments I can give ‘Architect of Hope’ is that, for all the high-powered instrumental skills Marshall brings to the table, he once again avoids the trap of making a self-indulgent guitar-hero album. It’s a cliché, but this album really is about the songs, rather than the fancy licks and leads. Musicians may listen to ‘Architect of Hope’ with slack-jawed admiration for the high-level technical playing, but non-musicians can listen to it and sit back and rock out. In short, anyone with an appreciation for modern heavy/power metal with fiery guitars and screaming ‘Painkiller’ vocals will find Empires of Eden’s latest offering to be a most worthy addition to their musical collections.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~