The Black Ships, “Dead Empires” Album Review

BLACK SHIPSThe Black Ships are a four-piece alternative dark indie garage rock group from Saratoga, New York. The band shows-off how New York is the new breeding ground for American dark romance in regards to music.

The Black Ships are named after the American ships that landed in Japan during the 16th and 19th centuries. Their new album, Dead Empires, is the second release by the ensemble, and did not disappoint or fall into the, often occurring for alternative indie bands, sophomore slump. The album starts with an infectious beat, being an energetic track that sounds close and relevant to a 80s’ college radio station. The Black Ships use this energy throughout the rest of the album.

Unlike most dark alternative albums, the bass is one of the main components in the work. The bassist begins with a cheery and catchy hook while the synthesizers gradually step in and set a fantasy dream-like atmosphere. There is not much that sounds “modern” in a technical sense about Dead Empires, however there does not need to be when the sounds of the past translate so well into the pieces of art.

The guitar aesthetics of the music, echoes “Love Will Tear Us Apart” but with vocals more similar to Echo and the Bunnymen. On Track 4, “When the Rain Falls” the Black Ships go into full fantasy mode and almost completely bury the lyrics in synths and distorted guitar riffs, while creating a dark indie-goth atmosphere as well. Track 4 specifically reflects the early 90s’ music scene in and around London, where Stereolab, Lush, Blur, Suede, Elastica occupied the ears of dark alternative indie enthusiasts everywhere.

Though slow and dreamy tracks are heavy within this album, Dead Empires offers other sounds as well. Tracks 3 and 6, “Sea of Cortez” and “Sarin” have a fast rapid pace making the songs work to keep the sleepy listener awake, even on the latest of nights. While these tracks vastly contrast from their atmospheric counterparts, the album still feels as though it relates as an overall piece of art.

Usually artists will apply more gentle songs towards the end of an album. While there is nothing incorrect of such, Dead Empires does the opposite. John Gill’s vocals sound vastly like Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan and the guitar riffs echo Joy Division. The Black Ships are aiming right for the opaque heart of the listeners by mixing dreamy atmospheric hints and tinges to the Pretty In Pink soundtrack. Though album includes dark and light sounds, the balance used in composing this art is appealing to the indie-alternative band’s audience.

Though the album begins with a burst of energy, while gradually slowing down almost becoming fatigued, the end involves a highly intense track ready to revitalize audiences. Dead Empires is not only pieced together in a mosaic-type method, this album has an organized balance that allows the listener to consume the sound. The Black Ship’s newest album Dead Empires is definitely for the fans of music on the lightly dark end of the spectrum with some synths and heavy bass thrown in.


Tune in to every Tuesday to listen to, me DJ SoulForce on the Zen hour from 2-3pm for your alt/indie fix!


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