New Jacobin Club’s Empire of Dis is the first studio collection in six years and restores the six piece to their status as one of the metal/hard rock genre’s most imaginative acts. The band began life in 1995 as a goth/punk trio with a special emphasis on Victorian-style horror and you can still hear much of that guiding initial spirit in New Jacobin Club’s songs. Their innovative and no-holds-barred live act garnered them a lot of press, not all positive, in their native Canada and served notice early on that the band brokers no compromise.
Their name has since spread far and wide from the western Canadian city of Saskatoon where they first began and Empire of Dis is the biggest megaphone masquerading as an album yet for the band’s founding member Xerxes Praetorius Horde, otherwise known as The Horde. He’s joined by the band’s usual suspects such as second singer Poison Candi, Mistress Nagini providing backing vocals as well as synthesizer playing and on-stage antics. They are joined by The Luminous’ electric cello and the rhythm section of The Ruin on bass and The Rat King on drums.
“In Crimson Snow” reintroduces New Jacobin Club to listeners in a big, yet musically significant, way. Naysayers might dismiss this band as an all-show, no substance band upon first hearing and seeing their music but, if those listeners persist, they will have to cede that New Jacobin Club still pack an enormous musical punch. They sound more powerful than ever before. The lyrics for this track, as well, are among some of the album’s relatable because they do such a great job of merging the band’s thematic preoccupations with more classic rock and roll subject matter.
“Behind the Veil” is another of the album high-points. There are several unique qualities pushing New Jacobin Club but one of them, without question, are the dueling lead vocals, one male and one female, with a third female vocalist chiming in as well. The inherent potential of the former, the dueling singers, gets one of its best full-workouts here. Acoustic guitar opens “What is the Night?” and its plaintive strum pairs well with Poison Candi’s lead vocal. Horde provides a lower harmony for her at recurring times, but she carries the day with impressive aplomb.
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The song name-checks the Slenderman urban myth, so it is natural to hear the following instrumental of the same name as an extension of “What is the Night?” Listeners can interpret the positioning of these tracks in such a way that “Slenderman” plays as an extended coda instead of a standalone instrumental. It has a lot of value in both regards. Empire of Dis closes with the punk rager “Blue Serpents” and New Jacobin Club keep their foot down on the accelerating throughout the song. There’s just enough of a commercial edge to help the song get under listeners’ skins. The extended mid-tempo instrumental break in the song’s second half is a definite highlight.
Empire of Dis is the first release from the band in over half a decade but doesn’t play as if there’s been some tremendous gulf opening between New Jacobin Club and today’s music. The same daring, uncompromising power, and high-end musicianship heard in the band’s peers is present in New Jacobin Club’s music as well.