I received a strange e-mail a short time ago, and in that e-mail was the name of a band: EMPERORS AND ELEPHANTS. Also in said e-mail was their debut album Devil In the Lake which is out now via Pavement Entertainment. I have a confession to make. I put off reviewing this one until now simply because it took me awhile to get past one thing: the name. I hate it. There, I said it. I hate it, hate it, HATE IT!! Mostly because I believe the word elephant has no business in the world of music, especially hard rock/heavy metal. But once I got past that I was able to come to grips with the fact that there is some really good music on this disc and some that’s okay. One thing’s for sure,it will definitely appeal to fans of ALICE IN CHAINS, NICKELBACK, CREED, AND SEETHER, and I have a strong feeling these guys are gonna be all over the radio before you know it. Good for them, I say.
As far as album openers go “Bring It Down” serves up sizable riffs courtesy of Jeph Stiph and Randy “The Arsonist” Cooper (formerly of TEXAS HIPPIE COALITION) which gets the record off to a good start. Next song “Who You Are” culls heavily from the SEVENDUST school of rocking and the GUNS N’ ROSES (in their heyday) school of rolling, and is arguably the best one found on here, especially the solo. Single “Your Will” follows the formula for getting airplay to a T with subdued verses and anthemic choruses. It’s textbook, but it works. The electro-rock flair of “Man of God” definitely makes it standout from other songs as well, vocalist Jesse Andrews utilizing more of his lows and roughing it up where necessary.
Another hard-hitting number comes in “Locust”, drummer Jason Meudt and bassist John “Stoppable” Vanders controlling the rhythms while chainsaw riffs and white-hot solos swirl about their heads. Clearly everyone’s all revved up on this one, to a great result. Slowing things down on “Hit of Red” the boys will surely have all the girls swooning at this point, and isn’t that why we all got into this business? Speaking of, E&E (as I’ll call them from here on out) get back to the business of rocking hard with “Deep Sleep” a song that I liked, didn’t love. Hey! I can’t love everything, you guys! I DID however, enjoy the cover of “Wicked Game”. Is it better than the one H.I.M. did nearly a decade ago? No. But it jams and has balls, making it a good driving song, so thumbs up from me.
So let’s review: I like E&E, but not enough to lie. From all the reviews I’ve seen thus far, you’d think Devil In the Lake was the greatest thing since the wheel and the 30-pack of beer. It’s not. Does it have moments of greatness that made me sit up and say “Ooooh…”? Absolutely. Is it an album that’s got some good driving music on it? You betcha, and while they’re not breaking any new ground, they certainly have the passion and the heart, which comes through loud and clear. And sometimes, that’s all you need. I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more from EMPERORS AND ELEPHANTS in future.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Who You Are”, “Man of God”, “Locust”, “Bring It Down”