Album Review :
Evoka - Cries From The Castlegate Empire

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Band: Evoka
Title: Cries From The Castlegate Empire
Label: Audiolab Records
Release Date: 2008
Review By: Scott L


01. Regret
02. Silent Actors
03. Reborn
04. Dauphine
05. The Art Of Denial
06. Honesty
07. Take
08. On Your Face
09. Dying To Save
10. Almost
11. Silverline
12. White Flag
13. 1000x’s

In A.D. 610, Heraclius was named Emperor of the Byzantines for the second time. Heraclius was apparently a Crusader who fought for peace and justice. He was opposed by the Persian king, Chosroes II, who eventually took Damascus, Jerusalem and most of Egypt. During the this time of upheaval, Heraclius organized a secret society of sorts. This secret society was led by twelve powerful Crusaders that vowed to promote humanity and defend the cause of the poor. The vow was a simple one… Death before dishonor and truth above deception. These great Crusaders became known as The Castlegate Empire. Now you know.

Evoka is a 4-piece out of North Carolina that plays a tantalizing brand of alt-rock. Think of it this way… if you put Snow Patrol, Mute Math, and U2 in a blender, what would come out would be a nasty mess that you wouldn’t want to drink… or even smell. Now if you could leave them all alive, but somehow just blend certain elements of their musical styles, then what you’d get would be a really sweet sound that’s a whole lot like Evoka.

Evoka is just a captivating band. And “Cries From The Castlegate Empire” is an exceptional CD. The music has a gentle pulse that really moves you and each song just kinda catches you away with it. This CD also has a great mix and a real maturity to it. I heard that “Cries From The Castlegate Empire” was about three years in the making… and it shows. The polish and fine-tuning is obvious. Not to mention that the extra time has helped get Evoka’s music licensed to MTV Real World, MTV Road Rules, EXPN Winter Games, and even Subway. Their sound has been likened to sort of an Americanized Brit-rock, which is pretty accurate. Not to mention they site T-Rex, The Verve, and Led Zeppelin as influences. But then again, they also include Johnny Cash. It’s probably also worth mentioning that the CD was produced by Oran Thornton, who’s been kicking around the industry for a good long while.

Lyrically, Evoka’s message sticks primarily to the well-trodden path of life and love. There’s a hint of spiritual imagery but that’s about it. Consider, “Reborn” which says, “we are running for the things we can’t give up / we are headed so fast where we don’t belong / like a thief that came and stole your heart / we danced so close but now we’re worlds apart / because we are lost along the way and falling down / we are lost along the way so turn around / we’re so locked inside we can’t discern / so ungrateful for the things we don’t deserve / is it failure we fear that keeps us from / the beauty that stands in front of us”. Or “White Flag”, which says, “your love’s what I’m living for / like the rays of a street light shine / your love poured down to this heart of mine / it shown of beauty and what is yet to come / I couldn’t stand / well you reached down and you pulled me in / well that’s the beauty, yeah, that’s the beauty of your love / the more you look the more you’ll find / I’ve seen your love I can’t deny / with you there’s hope / there’s beauty in my life”. And, no… there’s no sweeping anthems about Crusaders routing the heathen’s from the holy city. Sorry. Maybe next time.

Standout tracks were “Silent Actors” which is the best song on the CD, no contest. Having said that, I also really liked “White Flag”.

Overall: Evoka is just one of those bands with such a broad appeal that it’s hard not to like them. “Cries From The Castlegate Empire” is not only a very cool conceptual title for a CD, but the CD itself has a smooth sound that’s catchy in all the right places. I encourage you to give these guys a listen.