Australian pop-rockers New Empire emerge from the blistering heat and almost constant sunshine of Australia with their third album, In a Breath. This is their debut album for Tooth and Nail Records and comes at the height of their success, which has led to them playing alongside the likes of Switchfoot and Relient K. They also performed at least year’s Sydney leg of the Vans Warped Tour. This success is a direct result of New Empire’s brilliant talent. They take pop-rock and turn it on its head.
New Empire strays from the standard path of pop-rock, where most artists stock up on three-chord riffs, high-pitched vocals and love songs. Instead they produce haunting melodies which are hooks in themselves. These melodies are imbued with soaring piano playing and a slight pop-rock flourish. New Empire neglects to follow the standard lyrical theme of love songs, instead opting for relatable themes of loss, authenticity, regret and honesty. They produce a sound that is both complex and refreshing. You can so easily lose yourself in this album.
In a Breath is kicked off by the beautiful “Tale of Jonah”. As the song title suggests, it is a song about the Old Testament tale of Jonah who was swallowed by a whale for disobeying God. It is a modern take on that tale but instead of portraying it as a fairytale, lead vocalist Jeremy Fowler wrote a dark and gritty track to carry across the cold reality of running away from everything you’re meant to be and then being swallowed by a whale. The song is tinged by a haunting melody which is overlaid by the uplifting instrumental. The track demonstrates how Fowler’s faith influences his writing.
“The Sun Won’t Sleep” is a more upbeat song with an upbeat melody that is supported by the instrumentals. The song is about being in one of those days you just don’t want to end. It is one of those amazing days where it seems to go on forever and it is at those moments that we experience life at its fullest. Overall, the track has a very upbeat pop-rock feel to it, minus the bubblegum pop chords.
“Relight the Fire” has a soaring melody that you just get lost in. It haunts the back of your mind even after the song finishes. It was written from the point of Fowler being at a crisis point in his life and crying out to the Lord. At the same time, he was on a trip to Dubai and he translated those Eastern influences into the writing of the song. This sees the combination of Middle Eastern stringed instruments and a pop-driven chorus.
“Say It Like You Mean It” may be one of the few times that New Empire touches the theme of love, yet they do it in a way that isn’t clichéd. They still keep it within their soaring melodic sound tinged with an upbeat pop chorus. This track also draws more on the band’s Christian influences and speaks more of a love for God. It inspires hope with the lyric “Say it like you mean it/like we’ve got a reason to go on.”
“In a Breath” is the title track of the album and the mid-point. It is a soaring piano-based song with an uplifting chorus and a horned section that creates a beautiful lamenting sound. The song discusses the burden of grief and of loss. The lyrics “I’m saving the pictures of your soul/To some you’re just a memory/To me you’re home/And I will never say I don’t miss you/Cause I can’t lie you know me too well/And I’ll see you in a breath/I will see you in a breath” touch on the burden of loss and the hope of reunion.
“Wise Fox”, “Fallen Soldiers” and “Left Behind” demonstrate the band’s ability to create colourful and unique songs. They show the creativity of the band as the songs are characterised by a soaring sonic sound that is drenched in authenticity and emotion.
”A Little Braver” is my favourite song on the album. It contains a haunting piano melody for the main verses while the chorus is driven by a rousing pop melody tinged with the sound of a violin. The song is about standing on the edge of a New Year and recounting the past year while preparing yourself for the year ahead. The chorus has the brilliant lyrics of “When it gets hard/I get a little stronger now/I get a little bit braver now.”
“Outshine the Brightest” brings the album to an end with a soaring piano melody tinged with a pop-rock instrumental. The song brings the album to a close with such a sense of authenticity that I find to be lacking within modern love songs. It closes with the lyrics “Tell me a story or two about the way things used to be.”
A mention must be made to the acoustic version of “Relight the Fire” that is found at the end of In a Breath. It showcases the band’s tremendous talent, a talent that is lacking in pop music. It is not often that I fall head over heels for a pop-rock band, but New Empire blew me away with their haunting melodies and sheer authenticity and honesty. Each track is a refreshing blast of fresh air as they explore various relatable themes. Consider me to be quite moved by this band.