Getting to write this review is a treat for me. I've known the guys in Empire for 2 years, now, and they're some of the hardest working, talented, honest people I know. With this EP, they've taken a turn--and a welcome one at that. Evolving from melodic post-hardcore to a painfully authentic hardcore sound, they've lost some of the frills, but none of the heart. Taking cues from Modern Life Is War, Touche Amore, and even bands like Converge, this EP is not so much a "new effort" but a rebirth. With "Shedding Skin," Empire has established itself fully as a force to be reckoned with.

Coming from an average of 4-5 minute songs on their previous albums, this release tears through 5 tracks at only 12 minutes--12 minutes filled with no remorse, no release; filled, instead, with full-blown anxiety and frightening apathy. Chilling, haunting, and exactly what I wanted from these NC boys.

"Set In Stone" is an introduction in the truest sense of the term. This song shows a tear from their previous efforts, and sets the stage for their EP: a damn nice stage, at that. While throwing in melody, something they know all too well, there's not a single second of catharsis in the mix. A killer, killer intro.

"Moore Square Station" and "Minour" both implement melody, but are so counteracted by time changes and aggressive vocals that they are more reminiscent of Jane Doe than Parting The Sea.... The guitar tone on this album is absolutely mind-blowing; clear on the melodies, but crunching with the weight and intensity of a dying sun. Goddamn.

"... And I Am Drawing Down" is the shortest track on the EP, but by no means a filler track. The shrills of feedback are timed perfectly, and the bass production is on-point like very few hardcore albums have really ever done. "Look me in the eyes and tell me what you've done." Haunting.

The album's closer, "The Iconoclast," deals with time changes like it deals with its production--incredibly. The drums are a little weak, recording-wise, but all the parts working together made up for anything lacking. This song is moving, and made by people who've been moved.

The overall tone and heaviness of this album left me wondering what other bands are doing wrong. Empire didn't reinvent the wheel, they just made it large enough to crush their competition. This EP is a work of art.