Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The River Empires - Epilogue


Track Listing:
17. Lillius
20. Wildbriar

To continue my streak, I present to you yet another concept album, Epilogue by The River Empires. However, unlike the the previous concept albums I've recently reviewed, this album does not weave a chronological story; rather, it acts as the soundtrack to a yet unmade screenplay trilogy called, well, The River Empires. Don't you fret, though; Epilogue doesn't not reveal any spoilers as the album is too difficult to make sense of. If you're looking to learn more about the cultivation of this peculiar album because you found my brief explanation hollow, emotionless, and inadequate, then read this.

Moving onward, The River Empires came to fruition when Falling Up's Jessy Ribordy and Josh Shroy teamed up with the likes of The Dear Hunter's Casey Crescenzo (What a coincidence—I swear I'm not stalking him) and a collaboration of other talented artists to bring to life this intricate story of two children who stumble upon a cryptic message in a bottle. The band has a sound all its own which combines bluegrass, folk, and indie with soothing vocals, deep-country twang, soundscape, and standard rock instrumentals.

The album begins with and ends with two variations of the soundtrack's theme, The River Empires Theme I and The River Empires Theme II. The first version of the theme starts off with a repetitive, slightly mournful piano melody as a childish, fragmented piano plays in the background. The song then seamlessly transitions into Overture In Thales Summer, where Jessy Ribody's tranquilizing vocals are put on display. The second variation, The River Empires Theme II, starts in the same way as the initial theme but later implements orchestral and surreal instrumentation to close out the album. It appropriately correlates to the album's title as the initial theme evokes speculations of finality; whereas, the second theme is expressive of tranquility and completeness (I try so hard to make sense. It's sometimes painful).

The album is comprised of songs varying in tempos and ranges. A few of the tracks carry a hymn-like atmosphere such as The Coventry and others maintain a soothing atmosphere such as Catacombs And Orchards. Usually these songs are heavy in piano melodies and hold a conservative use of string instruments.

However, there are also purely instrumental tracks which appear as though they signify action including From Faye To Astral and The Pelican, which songs that sound almost sly and mischievous, and The First Message and Wildbriar, which seems suggestive of rapid-paced action or passage of time. Furthermore, there are tracks that the band seemingly uses as playgrounds for experimental sounds, soundscape, and recorded conversations such as Galloping Through Day BloomsStag Hollow Fair, and The Woods Of Northland.

The songs which verily bring forth The River Empires' full range of talent are the upbeat songs which sport a heavy bluegrass influence and an indie rock persona. The three best examples of this are A Toast To The Snake KingThree Tigers, and A Dimmer LuxA Toast To The Snake King isn't at all shy with the amount of twangity twang. It is definitely the most upbeat and fast-paced song on the album, as well. Three Tigers doesn't flaunt the bluegrass influence quite as much as A Toast To The Snake Kin, but that's not to say that it isn't at all apparent. What really sets this song apart from the rest is the band-wide chant that takes place at 2:20. Now, I'm not usually a fan of chants, but this band executes it flawlessly, which is a bizarre claim considering that they emphasize the flaws in the chant (i.e. vocals drawing longer on than expected, varying pitches). Lastly,  A Dimmer Lux holds the trophy for the catchiest and most mesmerizing beat. It is, in my opinion, the best track on the album.

Alright, to wrap up this long-winded review, I'll leave you off with a bit of a synopsis. Although I feel as if The River Empires might go a little haywire with the experimental tracks and the album is difficult to interpret in context, the sound is one-of-a-kind. This mix of genre is so original and the band executes it so exquisitely that you'll be doing yourself an injustice not to give it a chance. It may not be for everyone, but I reiterate, it deserves some gosh darn attention.

Final Verdict:


  1. I gave this a full listen through, simply because it was so unique. I've never heard anything like it. I may not play it all the time, but this is definitely something I'm adding to my collection.

    1. Awesome! I was quite taken with the uniqueness myself. Luckily, the shorter tracks make this an easy album to listen to in one go. Also, I'm with you on the "may not play it all the time, but... definitely something I'm adding to my collection" bit.

  2. I like this. I think I like this.

    I'm about halfway through. Not in love with the singer's voice, but that might be a good sign - most of my favorite singers took me months before I could stand their voices... A couple took me years.

    The mix of banjo and strings occupies its own little space, and the concept part of it is there but just obvious enough for you to know there's supposed to be a conceptual cohesiveness.

    Cool. I will give it a chance!

    1. Yeah, it takes me some time to get into certain albums, but I'm glad that you find it at the very least intriguing. I think the singer has a decent voice, but somewhat limited range. Then again, who am I to talk? My musical ability is equivalent to that of a drunken sloth's.