I’ve always loved film soundtracks. In action genres especially, a killer soundtrack can make a film that much more epic. What is Terminator 2 without that tribal beat and haunting melody? Or, if you like horror, Carpenter’s synth-laden creepiness from Halloween? Not only do soundtracks complete the cinematic qualities of our favorite films, but some of these songs can be downright catchy. Galactic Empire is a band that knows this well, and they’ve taken a collection of John Williams’ greatest hits from the Star Wars franchise and made them freakin’ HEAVY!
Full disclosure: I’ve never been the world’s biggest Star Wars fan. Sorry. I love science fiction, but space operas have never been my thing in the first place. That said, there’s no denying the greatness of the original Star Wars trilogy, plus the fact that at least one of the prequels spawned a killer video game. However, you don’t need to love Star Wars to find it fun. There are few cinematic experiences more enjoyable than watching Luke and the Rebels attack the Death Star and you know it. This is why listening to Galactic Empire is awesome, regardless of how deep or shallow your Star Wars fandom runs.
John Williams’ score for the Star Wars franchise is incredible, but, as a natural cynic, I laughed when I saw that Galactic Empire was a band that did heavy metal renditions of Williams’ classic songs. Seeing the thumbnail of their music videos, I feared it was going to be a gimmick. Damn, I was wrong. Galactic Empire is no gimmick, and it should be obvious from the technicality involved in their renditions. Watching the three guitars harmonize Williams’ iconic melody lines makes it clear the band is an homage and not a parody, although the videos are fun and quirky in the best way possible. I’m also a huge fan of their costumes and rejoiced to learn, by browsing through the band’s Facebook page, that they weren’t just for the video; they perform in them also (although, surely the guitarists don’t wear gloves?!).
For the music itself, I guess I was a bit surprised at how well the songs translate to a heavy metal context. Galactic Empire’s production is extremely clean, similar to what you might find on a tech-death or progressive album where the guitarist has a serious case of the weedlies and deedlies. The drums are a bit buried in the mix, but it’s not a real problem since the guitar work, and its emulation of Williams’ orchestral strings, is the real focus. It’s clear that with a muddy production, you wouldn’t be able to hear the technical guitar harmonies and rhythmic chords. The rhythm work is especially successful at recreating the larger string section, and plays a large role in making the album feel actually orchestral. It’s not just some dudes playing Star Wars melodies with their amps cranked to eleven. The band’s arrangements are well thought out and executed with precision.
Galactic Empire’s self-titled album, created after the band raised a healthy amount of funds from a Kickstarter, is a collection of some of the best tracks from the whole Star Wars franchise, rather than a recreation of the full score of any specific film. This is especially awesome, since it allows us to hear the best from each film, although many of the best tracks come from A New Hope. You can shit on The Phantom Menace all you want, but “Duel of the Fates” is STILL an incredible song, so HA! Also, this whole album is really worth it just to hear the funky “Cantina Band,” which I’m embedding below because I don’t trust you plebs to click a link. Seriously, it has my booty shakin’ more than the original.
Follow Galactic Empire on Facebook and get their self-titled album (out now via Rise Records) wherever it is you buy/stream/download your music. You won’t regret it, even if, like me, you think Star Trek is the better franchise. Also, Han shot first. YEP!