Not sure what it is with the Lone Star State. The flag? Stetsons? The water? Or is it the Texan climate that seems to churn out musicians of a special kind. Empty Trail reaches us from Austin, TX with their 2nd EP Hollow Hearted that was released back in 2014.
Now, if I hear one-man band, EP, start-up and such, expectations are usually limited – teeth grindingly limited. Heard it all before already: Some of them are good. But often they range from cannot sing, but good sound to no sound, but great vocals, to just plain disaster. Sometimes I wonder how some of these guys can build a fan base.
But the exception is the rule. Right? Well, in this case for sure – and a welcome exception it is. Hollow Hearted displays a maturity that is seldom found in emerging rock bands. Rick Lambert‘s guitar playing prowess and soaring vocals convince straight from the start of this demo. One of the most remarkable features are the solos that repeatedly appear. Not just short, half-hearted attempts, but full-blown sanguine examples, sometimes even going experimental on me. Now get this: Rick also provided the decidedly complex drum work on this album, rendering Hollow Hearted a true one-man performance.
Hollow Hearted is a mixed bag of goodies. Empty Trail for sure draw from a large panoply of influences. Talk about grunge rock and metal, punk rock (some of that is in there..), blues rock and just plain Californian feel good stuff. Not quite their own brand, but getting there big time. Sometimes you hear Soundgarden, some Alice in Chains. And then more simple things reminiscent of Train – kind of relating to the latter’s earlier concoctions, like My Private Nation.
What really threw me is their foray into Blues Rock and early Heavy Metal influenced fields, feeding from influences from the ’70s, similar (not same, far from it…) to what other little known bands like Dirty Sound Magnet did in What Lies Behind. But it is this grungy smell in all they do that makes the race and gets the medal. And all this is by the way leaning far into the metal arena already. And yes, I know, you purists, much debate is going on, if grunge of any kind should be metal at all. In truth, much of what Hollow Hearted represents is rock. But we are getting there.
Clearly, this is all not very refined yet. And Empty Trail still seem to be looking for their very own path to glory. I would also have loved a bit more bite to the tune, kind of a more aggressive approach. Right now this is all a bit rough around the edges still. By and large, nothing to be worried about. Many of today’s big and famous bands started off by looking for their unique brand, cruising around stuff for a number or records until they had their footing. So, as Hollow Hearted goes, this is cool.
As to the songs, Above My Love kicks this off nicely, a hot rocky start to things, hooking you straight. This one contains a friggin’ solo that is up there with the best. Chasing down the Drain will get you in a grungy mood, almost too happy in tone for this kind of style. But – hey – well done. Trade Yourself is kind of in the same vein than its predecessor. Now, Down graces us with California desert rock; Train beckons you. Love it, makes me wanna go a-cruisin’ a bit along them hot highways. The bluesy Would You surprises with a style long pushed to the underground in this form, rocky and spiced with a short, but real good riff.
Hollow Hearted feels like a quest to me. A quest to a new horizon Empty Trail wants to get to – only we are not quite sure yet where this will be. Rick Lambert – the all-in-one band – produced some really stellar sounds out there. Those range from the drum work that is as remarkable as is all the rest, over guitars to vocals, riffs and solos included. This is a band (of one for this album…) to be watched and I am looking forward to the first studio edition of a hopefully unique brand. Keep going, Empty Trail, good job.
Record Rating: 8/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Official Site
Go and get it:
– Buy with Amazon!