Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Empire Down have been dormant for a minute. But fret not; the band return in the second week of May, when their split 12-inch with Houston’s Liberty & Justice, courtesy of Head 2 Wall Records, lands stateside.
The 2020’s Oi! revival’s King Midas, Primator Crew out of France, will handle the European side. The quintet have been rattling cerebellums with fierce, acerbic words paired with beefy Oi! for five years now. That nascent year, 2018, witnessed two vicious releases: split with The Complicators (Pirates Press) and Bastards for the Butcher (Oi! The Boat). Recording material is difficult between five men who are working class diehards with families. But in January 2021, Empire Down gave us four rippers on Gallows of Winter (Primator Crew).
The new split with Liberty & Justice will be pressed on 500 copies and is due to drop on May 15. Eager and snarling, the band wanted people to hear their first track of 2023, “No Shrinking Violets.” The track will hit streaming this Friday, March 10 at 12 p.m. EST. But we are premiering the song here in its abrasive but catchy glory. Heavy is the Crown.
Empire down’s sound is dark and menacing under bombastic mortars. You can find similar sonic attacks with contemporary peers such as Victory, Lost Legion, Vis Vires, The Chisel, Ultra Sect, No Time; while infusing the legendary pulse of captivating hardcore and punk classics like Agnostic Front, Kraut, Youth Brigade (CA), Blitz, Infa-Riot, 4 Skins, The GC5.
“No Shrinking Violets” boasts heavy, charging riffs with vocalist Jon Phetteplace’s condemning declarations. Fused together, they make a carrion call for punks and skins. Combining determination and disregard, in the past, Empire Down have vented regarding the exhaustion of the working class grind, the glaring flaws in the system, war, fortitude, death, and struggle. “No Shrinking Violets” reverberates a constant theme from older tracks like, “Always Down, Never Out.” Life’s reward is determination and survival among treacherous and traumatic environments.
Phetteplace explains, “This song is about living in a world that surrounds us with constant tragedy. It’s about depression and mental health. It’s hard when you end up feeling numb. Sometimes, you end up feeling hopeless over all the trauma we go through. But, when you challenge yourself to fall away from it all and take yourself out of the equation, it is a real independence.
When you stop relying on a God or government for hope, when you stop relying on a scene or a subculture for release, and start finding it inside of yourself, it’s a really good feeling. ‘No Shrinking Violets’ means we aren’t afraid to speak our truths. My truths are that I want nothing from this world. I don’t want to take part in the system they’ve created.”
Empire Down always have striking covers, utilizing battle imagery to convey the tenacity and grit of their sound and message. Here, a melodic guitar line and some rock ‘n’ roll flare engage the listener quickly. But the pounding rhythm section reminds who the heck you are listening to. Powerful and succinct, “No Shrinking Violets” conveys an urgency of introspection and exhilaration of true independence.
Bill Kurth – Drums
Buc Page – Guitar
Chris Gullickson – Bass
Pete Ayres – Guitar
Jon Phetteplace – Vocals
Support and buy vinyl and digital downloads on their Bandcamp.
Check out past releases on Spotify.
Photo courtesy of Empire Down