In a year that’s seen its fair share of musical experimentation, the Biffy Clyro side-project, Empire State Bastard, has emerged as one of the standout acts of 2023 with their electrifying extreme metal album, “Rivers Of Heresy.” This bold musical endeavor draws inspiration from a variety of sources, ranging from Converge and Fantomas to the iconic drum work of Slayer legend Dave Lombardo.
The origins of Empire State Bastard trace back to a chance encounter on a Biffy Clyro tour bus nearly a decade ago. Simon Neil, the frontman of Biffy Clyro, and the band’s long-time live guitarist, Mike Vennart, bonded over their shared passion for extreme and obscure music. While Biffy Clyro is no stranger to pushing musical boundaries, Empire State Bastard takes their exploration of the extreme to new heights.
On “Rivers Of Heresy,” Simon Neil’s vocal prowess is on full display. His screams seem to emanate from the depths of his soul, delivering a raw and uncompromising intensity that is nothing short of captivating. Mike Vennart, the project’s chief musical composer, expertly crafts an unsettling atmosphere that keeps listeners on the edge of their seats.
Describing the album’s creative process, Mike Vennart stated, “I set about making the most [expletive] poisonous vile music I possibly could, just unabridged hatred in musical form.” The band’s lineup is rounded out by live bassist Naomi Macleod from Bitch Falcon, and the renowned drummer Dave Lombardo, known for his work with Slayer and the avant-metal supergroup Fantomas.
“Rivers Of Heresy” showcases moments of blistering thrash metal, with Lombardo’s double bass drumming adding an extra layer of intensity. Yet, it’s Empire State Bastard’s ability to draw from various approaches that sets them apart. The album’s opening track and single, “Harvest,” is a savage onslaught of sludgy riffs and piercing screams, juxtaposed with alt-rock guitar interplay and spoken-word segments reminiscent of Mike Patton’s work in Fantomas.
The album’s diversity is evident in tracks like “Blusher,” a brief but relentless burst of grinding noise, and “Moi?,” which begins with sparse bass and evolves into modern Biffy-style clean singing tinged with paranoia and ultimately returning to screams and stoner riffs. “Tired, Aye?” stands out as a highlight, with Simon Neil riding Lombardo’s groove, showcasing the drummer’s exceptional talent in a guitar-free soundscape.
Mike Vennart’s versatility shines through, drawing influence from bands like Melvins and Converge while defying easy categorization in certain segments. The album culminates in “The Looming,” a claustrophobic and introspective journey that contemplates mortality amidst a cacophony of noise, illuminated by sporadic electronic melodies.
“Rivers Of Heresy” may have been a decade in the making, but it proves to be well worth the wait. This debut album is a masterful exploration of twisted musical dimensions, and it leaves audiences eagerly anticipating the continuation of Empire State Bastard’s sonic journey. ‘Mon the Bastard!