Stripping down Radiohead, dragging in The Pretty Things, and cocking an ear to prog, The Empty Mirror is reaching for more than they can quite grasp but the effort shows where they'll hopefully be going in the future. Overwhelm is a collage of civilization in collapse: terror, fear, apocalypse, and death with nary a hope of redemption in between. The quartet is nihilistic, and that's a damn good thing—someone's finally admitting to the mindlessness of it all. Appropriately, the compositions are driving and relentless, though cuts like Olive, one of the best on the disc, step back for a breather.
I really like the guitar dominance, and these guys lean into it (lotsa early Kinks), but there are almost no leads (when they do appear, they're slightly off), and the aggregate sound is crying out for keyboards, being almost symphonic in that rough weird way Mars Volta is. The harmony vocals are excellent and the band could use more interludes like the righteous breakup in The Indian Embassy, a song waxing Voivod-ish. Virginia Wagner's Paul Whitehead-ish cover painting is the tip-off to everything, a dark and fiery promise of pain and despair. I'm a fan of such talented up-and-comers with exploding raw talent, but there's a missing factor or two to Overwhelm: one is not quite enough time in rehearsing, another is a need for hard-headed outside production. These guys are so close to their epiphany that it hurts.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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