Thursday, June 3, 2010

Album Review: Blank Page Empire - Sinners, Thieves and Beggars

Band: Blank Page Empire
Sinners, Thieves and Beggars
Release Date:
May 14th, 2010


  1. The Star Gazer
  2. The Amazing Two-Headed Man
  3. The Void I Couldn’t Shake
  4. The Vagabond
  5. The Seas’ Lonesome Drone
  6. The Blind Lead the Blind
  7. The Idol Hands
  8. The Lighthouse Keeper
  9. The Beacon
  10. The Conclusion

Blank Page Empire is a fresh new band out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. They play a brand of progressive-rock that sounds similar to As Cities Burn and Emery, although Blank Page Empire definitely has a sound of their own. Their debut Sinners, Thieves and Beggars is a sign of musical maturity for founding members Ryan and Nate who admitted that the band found the sound they wanted very quickly after forming last October.

On my first listen I was a bit wary of the album, I had never heard of Blank Page Empire and I don’t often venture out of my comfort zone when it comes to reviews. Instantly I was reminded of As Cities Burn, with their indie-rock sound and aggressive vocals. But after a few more listens through Sinners, Thieves and Beggars I was really impressed with Ryan’s singing. He is such a strong singer and his voice has a great sound.

Sinners, Thieves and Beggars was produced and released with no label support. The record was recorded by a friend of the band, Eric Winkstrom, who has also worked with Venia, For All Those Sleeping, and many other bands in the Minnesota scene. The production quality of this album is pretty impressive, especially in light of some recent releases that have fallen short of the standard in regards to sound quality. I love the way the band sounds here, the drums especially; they have a real “rock” feel, you can just hear everything without having that over-produced sound. The presence of the kit flows well through the lighter parts of each song right on through the abrasive breakdowns, bringing a big sound to fill some space in the overall sound. The drumming itself is definitely one of the high-points on the record

I think the key to having a successful progressive sound is having a good balance to each song. Tracks like “The Amazing Two-Headed Man” and “The Blind Lead The Blind” start off with an intense aggressive tone, only to be countered by a stripped-down verse that gets you tapping your feet. And just when you think it’s safe to recommend Blank Page Empire to your lady-friend they kick in the door and bring the passionate aggression that usually make the faint-of-heart run and hide. Especially on the opening track (after the intro) “The Amazing Two-Headed Man” the sound is forceful at first, and might scare a few listeners off, but less than a minute into the track you get the great indie-rock feel that really makes the album so much fun to listen to.

Sinners, Thieves and Beggars moves right along with story-telling lyrics and driving guitars all the way through to track 5: “The Seas Lonesome Drone” where singer Ryan Menghini brings the mood down to a more serious feel. The track is beautiful, the vocals are honest and powerful between the choruses of singers and Ryan’s pleas for the Father to “…pull me out before I come one with the sea.” It’s a refreshing break before the second-half of the album which seems to have much more purpose and focus.

This leads right into one of my favorite tracks, “The Blind Lead The Blind”, where the restrained feel of the last track is quickly erased by a driving guitar and screaming vocals. This song features some impressive guitar work along with great contrasting elements of aggression and indie rock. This is probably the heaviest track on Sinners, Thieves and Beggars and the change-of-pace midway through the song is welcomed, showing the creativeness of the entire band.

The finishing tracks on this album are very well structured, song transitions seems to be a lost art these days but it can really improve an album if the songs are put in a well-planned order. Blank Page Empire really builds the end of this album well, starting with track 7 “The Idol Hand” which has some amazing lyrics “lift me now up from the grave / where there’s no grace abound with love / devoid of the sound of your love.” This last line leads right into a subdued bridging track “The Light House Keeper” which is short and simple accompanied by choir-like singing, always powerful! Still in a calming introspective feel track 9 “The Beacon” shows some real honesty, switching from the “we” of track 8 to the “I” here, admitting that’s the Father’s love is great but “…how easily I forget”.

All of this leading into the last track of Sinners, Thieves and Beggars fittingly titled “The Conclusion”. This is another favorite track of mine with the background vocals really adding support to the feel of the track, a song sung directly to the Lord. This is the kind of song I eagerly anticipate seeing live, with everyone singing along “Gloria in Excelsis Deo”! so powerful and moving!

OVERALL For those fans of Ryan and Nate’s previous band, Nihilio, this will have a similar feel, although Blank Page Empire is a lot less screaming and crunching guitars and more creative and dynamic with their song writing. The songs are constructed very well, allowing each member room to be creative; and it’s Ryan’s vocals that really stand out as the piece that could be the difference maker. With a record like this I can’t see this band remaining unsigned for much longer, with a look straight out of Minnesota’s north woods and a refreshing debut album, Sinners, Thieves and Beggars is only the beginning for these guys.

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