Hands of Ruin - "Empire And Dust"
"Empire and Dust" is the new self released album from martial/neo-classical project Hands of Ruin. The album is predominately bombastic martial, reminiscent of Triarii, Arditi, and the like. Heavy, marching beats; lofty, cinematic strings; and war-conjuring melodic elements are the order of the day. There are hints of neo-classical, especially on "An Unstained Soul" and "In A Bitter Sea". You know how it goes, they say if you've heard one martial industrial album than you've heard them all, and that's more or less true. "Empire and Dust" pretty much sounds like every other release in the genre - which is both good and bad. It doesn't stand out, though at the same time it's equally as good as most of them. The song structures are good (not great), as there are generally some sections in the tracks and some degree of evolution & rise and fall of tension. Tracks are kept brief and to the point (3-4 minutes) which allows them to hit hard, get their point across, and exit before overstaying their welcome. Each track utilizes enough different elements and sounds that the album neither get boring nor repetitive. The production is solid, and better/cleaner than stuff like Arditi or Toroidh. The instrumentation sounds great and punches through the mix; the beats hit hard and sound thick & full (as they should for this type of music), and the overall mix is clean. It's not as good as Triarii (the pinnacle of this style in my opinion) or as diverse as Rukkanor, and it carries a synthetic feel (i.e. likely made with VSTs - esp. the percussion, which sounds like StormDrum). Regardless, my only real critique is that I wish this had some vocals or spoken samples (I'd also accept choirs) - for whatever reason I feel like it is really lacking in that area and having some of that content would take this to the next level. It's like standing within the grand halls of an ancient city, military assembled, awaiting a passionate speech from the ruler - a great prelude, but yet missing a key element. I'm surprised Hands of Ruin is not on a label, and I hope to see this act "move up the ranks" in the future. Fans of martial definitely check this out. [7.5-8/10]