At the tail end of 2017, Ancient Empire dropped their third album, The Tower. Eight months later, the band announced the completion of Eternal Soldier which promptly received a digital release shortly after this announcement. Exciting, if not sudden, news.
If you’re new to Ancient Empire, let me assure you that little has changed in the band’s composition. The lead single “Eternal Soldier” has all of the elements that have made Ancient Empire such an underground favorite: melodic guitar solo intro courtesy of vocalist/guitarist/bassist Joe Liszt, the galloping rhythm of Liszt and drummer Steve Pelletier, and Liszt’s husky vocals complementing lyricist Rich Pelletier’s storytelling skills. Even though this has become an almost standard formula, it’s not a bad thing and first-time listeners will have a satisfying go-to song. “War Without End” continues the same pace, comfortably fitting in with the rest of the band’s discography while longtime listeners may find themselves intrigued by the maturity shown on “For the One I Lost,” Ancient Empire’s most brooding track to date. The chorus of side A closer, “Shadows From the Past,” is breezy and its catchiness would give the song a nice home on any theoretical greatest hits album in the future.
Side B opener, “Time Itself,” continues the trend of catchy choruses, and its introspection really adds seasoning to Rich Pelletier’s storytelling style. The opening gallop on “Upon This Withered Earth” makes way for a nice burst of headbanging before settling into the band’s mellow paced rhythm, and the acoustic outro provides a nice touch of variety. As the heaviness picks up on “I, Alone,” you may find yourself pondering whether this is Ancient Empire’s best song to date. A challenge further compounded by album closer, “The Fifth Column,” which is easily the heaviest song on the album.
As mentioned earlier, the release of this album was rather sudden. As a fan, terms such as “phoned in” and “rushed” filled my mind with dread. After several listens it occurred to me that there’s nothing rushed about this album and the band sounds like they had a blast recording it. I had to listen to Eternal Soldier several more times to make sure that I wasn’t mistaken, but I have no choice other than to classify Eternal Soldier as perfect.