After the news broke that Falling Up had drifted apart after their fourth album (Fangs!), fans of lead-singer Jessy Ribordy didn't have much time to grieve since a new wave of his new music was on its way. Independently, Ribordy created two side projects simultaneously which assumed different identities. The first endeavor was the band The Gloom Catcher which spawned its first album, Slow Chorale, on April 6th. The second, and far more anticipated as an epic group, was The River Empires and their debut album, Epilogue (also released on April 6th).
Fangs! was a concept album based on a screenplay written by Ribordy, which dwelt on a strange science fiction/fantasy story that was vague despite equally bizarre footnotes. However, what was known of the story was intriguing. Although this project is actually a type of conclusion, Epilogue is intended to be the first of seven soundtracks for a cinematic trilogy also named the River Empires. Epilogue is far more ambiguous and disjointed than Fangs! ever was. But, those who paid attention to press releases would know that, until all the installments are available, very little would make sense. Despite some cross references in various portions of the release of Epilogue, the themes don't jive between songs, and any spiritual themes are indecipherable for now at least.
The album's music is a folk/bluegrass/indie mixture that affirmatively distances itself from Falling Up's alterative/experimental rock. There are some cinematic elements as well, but they don't perform as dominant a role as originally advertised. Both "The River Empires Theme" (I and II) get the movie feel down with its creepy piano sound which act as some of the best parts of the album. Instrumental interludes like "From Faye To Astral" and "Lillius" add to the cinema effect, but both clock-out before three minutes.
The biggest flaw of the 29-track project is the 29 tracks. Too many places in the project sound like Ribordy's musical playground. Tracks like "The First Message," "The Woods Of Northland," and "Land Of Canoes" are all useless additions despite their romantic titles. Throughout the lengthy project, the bluegrass songs blend with each other as does some of the sparkless ballads.
But, there are portions of Epilogue which are epic. The first "River Empires Theme" leads perfectly into "Overture In Thales Summer" which is a haunting song. The next two songs ("Our Neighbor, The Earth" and "The Coventry") likewise are an experience which provides listeners with the real meat of the 29-song release. After the warm-up, it becomes harder to find songs that truly stand out. "A Dimmer Lux" has a nice duet, while "The Marching Of The Clocks" features one of the lone experimental rock influences, while "Three Tigers" has arguably the best overall sound.
Of the two albums which debuted on April 6th, The Gloom Catcher's Slow Chorale felt far more like a complete album despite only having 11 tracks. On the other hand, Epilogue is an incoherent disaster which is only saved by the staggering amount of music contained in the two discs. While you certainly get quantity for your buck here, you only get the max quality by leaving at least half the album at the door step. Although it's sad that the River Empires couldn't have crafted a more complete debut, I still found myself enjoying the return of Jessy Ribordy and eagerly anticipating the future of the band's journey.
- Review date: 5/12/10, written by Nathaniel Schexnayder of Jesusfreakhideout.com