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Album Review
Collapse Under the Empire - Shoulders & Giants Album Cover

Collapse Under the Empire - Shoulders & Giants

Reviewed by
7.5
Collapse Under the Empire - Shoulders & Giants
Record Label: Sister Jack Records
Release Date: October 21, 2011
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
While many bands (If These Trees Could Talk, Over the Ocean) do it exceptionally well, Collapse Under the Empire have chosen to move past the cliched hyper-strumming sound walls that have begun to stagnate the genre. Rather than taking that approach, which has been inflated both in terms of crowding and in feigned intricacy, the band moves post-rock in a new direction. In their previous albums, guitar work was relatively minimal. In their latest masterpiece, Shoulders & Giants, the aforementioned guitar work is instead layered far back in the mix, giving much more frontal attention to the superbly innovative percussion work and the beautifully arranged keyboard and electronic frills that dot the entire tapestry. While this has always been a foundational attribute in Collapse Under the Empire's work, Shoulders & Giants forms a new, more balanced take between the two techniques as opposed to their earlier albums.

Thematically, like many other post-rock albums, Shoulders & Giants radiates the atmosphere that even a barren wasteland can be appreciated for its own beauty, just as the album art implies. The firm foundation of the guitar work creates an immersive effect on the listener into the theme which the other instruments create. Those instruments, namely the delicate keys, the lo-fi spacy tones, and the murky industrial-esque guitar and percussion create a dark aura that is yet somehow simultaneously beautiful and calming. Even the arrangements themselves work in favor of this imagery, with tracks like "There's No Sky" creating a gentle upward slope in energy.

Collapse Under the Empire have proven with Shoulders & Giants that they can stick to an individual theme while disallowing the individual tracks from morphing into an excessively similar conglomerate. The way that they go about this is particularly interesting to me, in that it isn't immediately apparent on first listen. The subtle variations between tracks appear to be coaxed out of the woodwork in the midst of each track's build. During the builds, a single instrument takes center stage over the others. For example, "Disclosure" takes a heavily industrial approach, where the following track, "After the Thaw", is mostly guitar-driven. The very next track, "Days of Freezing", is very dependent upon the gentle twinkling of the spacy artificial effects. This remains true for the entirety of the album, with the most musically interesting example being present in "Incident", which uses a centralizing drum tempo that one might expect in a hip-hop song, along with what appear to be beautifully produced vocal sequences.

Shoulders & Giants turns out to be a very appropriate album name for Collapse Under the Empire, as they stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before them. They utilize the familiar old techniques of the genre in a new medley with their previous style to move the genre up and beyond what has already been established, all while maintaining the beautiful theme and atmosphere that the genre demands.

Recommended If You LikeCloudkicker - Let Yourself Be Huge, The American Dollar, The Calm Blue Sea, Pelican, Mogwai, Maybeshewill

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Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 17
09:19 AM on 12/29/11
#2
tottivillarossi
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Solid review.

Just curious, what previous albums of theirs have you listened to? Because you say "In their previous albums, guitar work was relatively minimal". I really like their album before this, "The Sirens Sound", but it's as guitar-centric as any post-rock album you're likely to hear.
09:27 AM on 12/29/11
#3
tottivillarossi
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Also, I believe the record label is Sister Jack Records, not the band name
10:15 AM on 12/29/11
#4
JoshSalas
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I enjoyed this album quite a lot. Great review as always.

Solid review.

Just curious, what previous albums of theirs have you listened to? Because you say "In their previous albums, guitar work was relatively minimal". I really like their album before this, "The Sirens Sound", but it's as guitar-centric as any post-rock album you're likely to hear.

I guess The Sirens Sound music blog was named after their previous album? Haha.
10:43 AM on 12/29/11
#5
Sean Rizzo
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Also, I believe the record label is Sister Jack Records, not the band name
weird, amazon had it listed as what I put so I assumed they had their own label. I'll doublecheck this and fix if need be.

EDIT: itunes says it's the band name too.
10:44 AM on 12/29/11
#6
tottivillarossi
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I enjoyed this album quite a lot. Great review as always.



I guess The Sirens Sound music blog was named after their previous album? Haha.
Haha, I'm not sure! Is The Sirens Sound blog a post-rock one then?
10:48 AM on 12/29/11
#7
Sean Rizzo
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Solid review.

Just curious, what previous albums of theirs have you listened to? Because you say "In their previous albums, guitar work was relatively minimal". I really like their album before this, "The Sirens Sound", but it's as guitar-centric as any post-rock album you're likely to hear.
It was mostly Systembreakdown, but I think the guitars are more prevalent in this as opposed to The Sirens Sound as well.
10:49 AM on 12/29/11
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JoshSalas
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Haha, I'm not sure! Is The Sirens Sound blog a post-rock one then?
Yep! They discover new (to me at least) post-rock bands at a ridiculous rate, I'd recommend it since I see you post on post-rock albums a lot.
10:54 AM on 12/29/11
#9
tottivillarossi
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It was mostly Systembreakdown, but I think the guitars are more prevalent in this as opposed to The Sirens Sound as well.
We might have to agree to disagree then. But I think in "The Sirens Sound" the guitars were the dominant (aggressively so) feature of their sound in the sense that the songs all went for the soaring guitar-driven crescendo, whereas here it's much more cinematic and there's more space for other areas of their sound to come forward.
10:56 AM on 12/29/11
tottivillarossi
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11:03 AM on 12/29/11
tottivillarossi
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Yep! They discover new (to me at least) post-rock bands at a ridiculous rate, I'd recommend it since I see you post on post-rock albums a lot.
Awesome, I will check it out. Thanks
11:07 AM on 12/29/11
Sean Rizzo
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Are you sure that's not region-specific? Usually bands want the record label assigned to a particular region which the particular website that is reviewing the album caters to. I wouldn't be too surprised if they had to self-release it in North America.
04:04 PM on 12/29/11
tottivillarossi
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Are you sure that's not region-specific? Usually bands want the record label assigned to a particular region which the particular website that is reviewing the album caters to. I wouldn't be too surprised if they had to self-release it in North America.
How did you acquire the album? I'm fairly certain the download is through Sister Jack Records, the physical is distributed via Cargo Records. As far as I'm aware, the album, so far, has only had a European release - you've even used the European release date. If Amazon and iTunes, too, used that release date, then it's probable that they didn't know the labels Sister Jack/Cargo, and filled the missing information with the band's name for the sake of it.

For what it's worth, the band's own site lists Sister Jack as the official label, and lists the price with the American dollar, despite being from Germany.
06:14 PM on 12/29/11
Rob McWilliams
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You haven't failed me yet, Sean. I'll check it out.
03:44 PM on 12/30/11
Irishbands
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Good review

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