The story of Optimus Rex started in 2001 when Nick Stergos (guitar/vocals) and Jeremy Carpenter (bass) starting jamming together. They officially formed in 2013 with Nick’s younger brother Jake Stergos (drums/piano/ bgvs/ upright bass) and in 2014 released a self-titled EP. Most recently they released a nine-song album entitled Embers.
First thing first is that Embers is a great album for a number of reasons. Their sound is hard to define in a good way. It definitely can fit under the umbrella of rock but it gets a bit shady after that. You can hear tinges of alternative rock, ‘80s rock and even a bit of jazz. I was sometimes reminded of the band Menomena because of the technically ability of the band (the drumming had a couple of jaw dropping moments). It really comes to down to well written songs with generally appealing aesthetic properties. Nick Stergos has a smooth voice that occasionally reminded me of Sting.
The album starts with an abstract, dissonant minute-long ambient piece entitled “Clawing and Choking.” I liked it and loved the way it combined orchestral strings and a juxtaposed animal in cage like noises. The transition into the exceptional “Witch Hunt” is great. “Witch Hunt” combines angelic, reverb laced guitar, inventive drumming and an engaging bass line. The vocals are also some of the best you will hear on the album especially during the break down.
I was hoping the band wasn’t going to fall off after the first two tracks and luckily they don’t. “Fate Smiles” has some of the most technically impressive drumming you will hear on the album or any album in general while “Gutless” is an atmospheric yet grandiose piece that shoots for the stars. Some of the songs like “Eyes Ahead” didn’t pan out as well but the album closes very strong with “Few and Far Between” and the reflective, melancholy yet beautiful closer “Misery.”
Embers has some minor mishaps but overall there is no reason you should miss out on this album. I’m looking forward to where the band goes from here because the band has a boatload of potential.
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