The past few years have proven to be incredibly busy for Klayton. Since 2012 he has released nine EPs, three full-length LPs, four remix albums, three compilations, and produced Blue Stahli’s The Devil which released just over a month ago. It goes to show just how dedicated Klayton really is towards music, regardless of whether or not it’s his own work. Moving from the Nine Inch Nails industrial rock-based sound of his self-titled debut towards a more electronic-based flair that provided the sound of Wish Upon A Blackstar, Klayton has certainly grown as an artist. But if there is one thing that hasn’t changed over the years it’s his knack for being incredibly ambitious (even pretentious at times), and his latest album, End of an Empire, is no exception.
For about a year, we’ve been fed this record in bite-sized portions in the form of four EP’s, which each consisted of two full-length songs, three concept-based instrumentals, and god-knows-how-many remixes. With all of this content being presented to us, it became clear that Klayton turned up the ambition dial to eleven and was planning to go all out on this new project. He was doing more than just creating another album, he was preparing the audience for an epic showdown that would be regarded as his greatest accomplishment to date-or at least that was what he wanted to do. However, there is a price to pay when you release about 90% of your material before the whole album lands at your local Best Buy. With all of the material being released months ahead of the actual release date, the final product doesn’t really hold any surprises in the end. You’ve already heard most of the album already so it’s rather pointless to actually buy the whole thing just for a few extra songs.
But even so, the full album itself is far from terrible. If anything, End of an Empire holds its own as Celldweller’s best album since his debut. While the overall sound of the album isn’t exactly genre defining, it combines the elements of both the debut’s raw guitar sound (‘Lost in Time’) and the electronic beats of Wish Upon a Blackstar (‘New Elysium’). The result is a heavier, crunchier, and more unique sounding record. Practically every aspect of Klayton’s musicianship, from the clean cut production, the visceral electric guitars, to his vocal performance, has improved greatly. The title track is quite possibly the best example as all of these improvements are put into focus. What arises are memorable guitar riffs, infectious choruses, and atmospheric synths to provide the song’s melody. In the meantime, songs like ‘Down to Earth’ and ‘Jericho’ offers the record’s catchier side using dub beats and intense bass, while ‘Just Like You’ and ‘Precious One’ delivers the album’s melodic side, which in turn gives a much needed break in the record’s overall pace. The heavier moments of ‘Good L_ck (Yo_r F_cked)’, ‘New Elysium’, and ‘Breakout’ use the album’s electric guitars to help create more of an alternative metal edge.
However, what ultimately sells End of an Empire is the amount of variety that is represented in each and every track. Most, if not all the of songs are practically their own character, as no two songs sound the same throughout the entire record. Even the instrumental factions help give the album substance and develop the record’s atmosphere while carrying the concept at the same time. Even so, the record’s few weak spots are somewhat glaring. The lack of maturity within the lyricism has always been one of Celldweller’s biggest weaknesses and it’s no exception on here. Much of it is rather cheesy and cringeworthy at times, ‘Heart On’ being a perfect example with Klayton constantly screaming “I fucking love you” over and over again. The final two songs also both stick out like a sore thumb as they’re just simple remixes that serve as pure filler. Regardless, the overall quality of the production and instrumentation throughout the rest of the album all but make up for it.
Despite a few issues, Klayton’s ambition manages to pay off in the end. Thanks to his fantastic performances and technical skills behind the studio, End of an Empire succeeds in becoming the best Celldweller record since his debut album and will certainly satisfy his fanbase. The record delivers one of the more unique and refreshing experiences of the alt-metal/industrial genre this year, and it also raises the question: what exactly will Klayton do for his next vocal album? For the time being, all we can do is enjoy this album until the next major record comes out and hope that Klayton’s ambition doesn’t become his ultimate downfall.