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On their sophomore album, Riotgod continue to combine all things 70s classic rock with all things 90s alternative/stoner. Displaying their obvious predilection for Led Zeppelin and Alice in Chains, ‘Invisible Empire’ is a worthy follow up to 2010’s eponymous debut yet it does feel as if split into two halves. From ‘Breed’ through to ‘Gas Station Roses’, the album seems uncertain of its direction, the tracks vacillating between 70s classic rock and 90s grunge, from Jimmy Page- to Jerry Cantrell-infused riffs, from Robert Plant melodies to Alice In Chains vocal harmonies. But from ‘Tomorrow’s Today’ to closer ‘Rebirth’, the album somehow finds its feet and is more coherent, the band’s identity being fully formed and driving the songs instead of struggling to shape them.

In terms of performance, the band is a tight unit – particularly the rhythm section, founders of Riotgod and long-time members of Monster Magnet Bob Pantella and Jim Baglino (drums and bass respectively) – but the album’s crowning glory is Garrett Sweeney. His guitar work is exceptional, his riffs dynamic and powerful, his leads tasty and expressive, and his sense of melody impressive, his work on ‘Tomorrow’s Today’, ‘Saving It Up’, and the down-tempo Led Zep-influenced ‘Loosely Bound’ with its air of the theatrical about it being exemplary. Mark Sunshine’s Robert Plant-styled wailing on tracks 2, 3 and 4 lets the album down, particularly when he attempts to sustain one note for anything longer than a minim. But for whatever reason, Sunshine’s performance in the second half of the album is much better, consistent even, sounding occasionally like Dio and a little like Freddie Mercury on the rocking ‘Saving It Up’.

The band’s penchant for Led Zeppelin and Alice in Chains are perhaps a little too obvious. The acoustic tracks ‘Gas Station Roses’ and closer ‘Rebirth’ are straight off of ‘Led Zeppelin III’, the former bearing Zep’s trademark reverb-drenched melodic and harmonious lines shimmering in the middle distance. And the riffs and vocal harmonies elsewhere on the album are at times lifted straight out of Jerry Cantrell’s big book of big grunge tunes. Not bad sources from which to plunder but Riotgod can do well enough without such emulation. With all-out riffing, stylish lead work, deep grooves, and an impressive vocal delivery of some very catchy melodies and choruses, it’s easy to see why they’ve been conveniently labelled as “stoner rock”. Yet in the majority of the tracks they do much more than the label suggests. ‘Invisible Empire’ is loaded with monster riffs, massive grooves, soulful guitar work and remarkable performances. A great rock ‘n roll album.
Review by Jason Guest
12th Dec 2012
1) Breed
2) Fool
3) Crossfade
4) Slow Death
5) Firebrand
6) Gas Station Roses
7) Tomorrow's Today
8) Saving It Up
9) Loosely Bound
10) Lost
11) Hollow Mirror; 12) Rebirth
"...loaded with monster riffs, massive grooves, soulful guitar work and remarkable performances."