CFTCE Album Review
by Brian Palmer
According to the liner notes of this album, the Castlegate Empire was a secret society of Holy Crusaders in the 7th century A.D. who stood in defiance of Persia's attempts to subjugate the Byzantine peoples. They traveled throughout all of Asia, England and the Middle East, looking to help the poor, promote kindness and teach truth to all they came in contact with. Though the Persian king declared these men to be murderers, thieves and kidnappers, and though their own lives were often in danger, the group continued their mission of reaching out to a hurting world.
Cries From the Castlegate Empire has an earnest feel to it that would probably make the original members of this society smile. A lot of the content on this record has a one-person-struggling-against-the-dominant-and-destructive-paradigm vibe, what with all the negativity and banality our world is saturated with. The power of hope and courage are reflected in a number of these tracks, and the message that fighting the good fight is worthwhile comes through loud and clear.
"Silent Actors" talks about the truth that hides behind the eyes of countless people who keep people at bay by not letting them know about dark happenings in their lives, and how friends should take ownership of their friends' hurts by offering to help them out. Similarly, "The Art of Denial" comments on the possibility of restoration if we choose to accept and heal, rather than ignoring our pain and wearing a mask of contentment for the world around us.
Tracks like "Honesty" and "Dying to Save" perhaps best represent the band's mission. The first track is a plea for someone to hold onto what they believe in, to be honest when it would be easier to lie, to keep fighting when everyone else says you should give up. The second track follows a similar path, encouraging folks to be strong despite the troubles of their lives, encouraging people to bend but not break. These songs demonstrate how, one way or another, the ones who stand against the rush of the crowd will leave their mark in ways that people cannot even imagine.
Singer Taylor Redding takes the album title to heart as nearly every song on the record has at least one extended moment (and many have several of these) where his cries and howls rip through the skies and hurtle toward the uppermost reaches of the stratosphere. He has set himself up on this record to be the cheering section for the downtrodden, shouting through his microphone/megaphone, begging for the world to hear him and not give in to the pain and pressures of this world.
Musically, the album is something of a mixed bag. The electric guitars of Redding and Price Stevens do enough on this record to help you know this is a pop/rock record, and the distortions add to the effect that some of the songs are supposed to be moody or represent some darker content, but the results start to wear on the listener by the end of the album. There are some great atmopsherics here, but by the end it feels like the band is using the same trick over and over.
Cries From the Castlegate Empire has enough going for it, content-wise, to get the listener's attention, but ultimately the formulaic music–though pleasant enough–detracts too much to keep the listener's attention rapt for the duration of this hour-long journey.
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