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The Empty Page: Imploding – Album Review


The Empty Page:  Imploding

(Vociferous Records)

LP | CD available here

Out now – 10th May 2024

Contrary to what their band name might imply, The Empty Page has much to say. 

The pen spills onto the page, its ink flowing in scrawls like a relentless tide, as black blots bleed into butterfly wings before becoming words. This is not emptiness; it’s far from it. This is catharsis. It’s liberation without remorse, a reckoning with a world that, on some days, weighs heavy on your shoulders. Imploding, The Empty Page’s latest album release, embraces vulnerability as a radical act of resistance. 

Somewhere adrift in the limbo between gritty guitar alt-punk and an intense one-hour therapy session is The Empty Page. The Manchester-based rock duo, consisting of Kel Page and Giz, lead the charge towards change, emerging on the battlefield in spiked and studded armour with fists raised high.

Yet, this isn’t conflict for its own sake; it’s about finally rising against those who have kicked us down for too long. It’s about confronting the men who catcall girls on the street as they walk alone. It’s an ode to the people struggling with the incessant onslaught of panic attacks, one after the other, in post-Brexit Britain. It’s for the many who toss and turn at night in sheets that cling to the backs of knees in the cost of living crisis. Imploding is the hand that reaches out, igniting with its solidarity and strength in numbers, delicately exploring mental health and political discourse right from the heart and seeping empathy from the core.

The album starts with the singles, Big Nasty Palpitations and Dry Ice. The opening track, Dry Ice, is the notable dance anthem, providing a lively slice of disco convulsion before the gritty atmosphere of the subsequent tracks takes hold. The Empty Page wear all their influences on their pin-striped sleeve, with shades of Pixies evident in Giz’s guitar and Le Tigre-inspired empowerment prowls in Kel’s lyricism. 

Big Nasty Palpitations immediately captures what The Empty Page does best, self-described in their biography as “anxious angular angst.” Underneath post-punk-driven basslines and oscillating synths, the lyrics: “Coping mechanisms failing, the blood on their hands is congealing and layering” and “We slide into dystopia, clawing at the tilting glass” brutally depict the harsh realities of life in the 21st-century on the brink of war. Vocalist and bass player Kel Page consistently approaches such topics throughout Imploding with tact and graceful sensitivity, even when the unstoppable truths pierce through the abdomen like shards of glass. 

Cock Of The Fifth Year is a stand-out favourite, and I imagine it to become a favourite for fans in the band’s live performances. It’s an abrasive acid-spew back at men and their ever-growing sense of entitlement. Kel holds nothing back, like an elastic band stretched to its limit and aimed at every bloke who dominates the pavement, the wankers in Pretty Green parkas who shout and shove at gigs, and the LinkedIn narcissists who crave their next hit of AI-fuelled praise to soothe their fragile egos.

&

This criticism isn’t a specific call-out to anyone in particular, and that’s because it doesn’t need to be. We all know a man like this. Their faces spring to mind, melding into one generic cluster-fuck of balding rage. They may even be our friends or family members or lurking in the corridors of our workplaces. But when do we draw the line? When is enough truly enough? 

The chorus bellows: “Lock up your sons” against a roaring wall of sound, whilst delicate backing vocals layer behind in the mix. “It’s just a sense of entitlement!” Kel’s voice cries out. Discussing gender dynamics, especially with a predominantly male fanbase, can be a controversial decision as a front-woman. Still, the authenticity of Kel’s world far surpasses any potential criticism or critique. Plus, to be a fan of this band is to understand that artistic integrity is vital to the music, and without any political discourse, The Empty Page wouldn’t be the band they are.

Life Is A Wave is an expansive, atmospheric track drifting through the vast open world of grief and pain. The song’s height is comparable to that of the band Editors in the production, with drawn-out reverberated tones and intermittent drop-outs, leaving only the haunting pulsing throb of a bass guitar behind. Medication Nation flourishes in witty dialogue with the self as the inner critic takes over in the war against mental health, poking at its perceived weaknesses and vulnerabilities like fingers through cellophane. In life, we can often gaslight ourselves into believing we’re self-indulgent, wallowing in misery despite grappling with personal struggles, and Medication Nation flawlessly summarises that reality.

Surrounding the track is an explosive barrage of noise that thrashes relentlessly until screeching to a harrowing halt in a down-tempo breakdown. This shift is followed by chilling vocal cries and swirling guitar effects as everything comes to a standstill, a rabbit in headlights, submerging the band into complete silence as vocals sing out against total emptiness. The band collaborated with producer Morton Kong in a full-studio setup, and the hard work stands out on this track notably, showcasing an unexpected dynamic that draws attention directly to the lyrics and enhances the listening experience. 

I’m a White Hot Blade (Witches are Wicked) plays as the album’s pinnacle, burrowed halfway through the track listing. It weeps with a stunning vocal performance, arguably among the most beautiful in the band’s entire discography. The song embodies the band members’ synergy, love, and mutual understanding. Kel and Giz musically complement each other like the two halves of a locket resting beside each other’s hearts. The Empty Page’s destiny was to write White Hot Blade (Witches are Wicked). It isn’t easy to articulate just how exquisitely perfect this song is before even exploring its meaning. While Kel often veils her voice behind a Riot grrrl snarl, stripped right back to the bone, lies a delicate, enchanting voice so unique that it has the sheer power to bring tears to the eyes. 

Kel gave her absolute all in this song as a singer and a lyricist, and it’s so evident that I had to stop and start the song again to take it in. There’s a profound beauty in the maturity of this sound for The Empty Page, displaying a deep connection to the divine feminine and the essence of womanhood. “Witches are wicked, and wizards are wise,” calls out against the patriarchy, something so heavily rooted in our history. There is an unbreakable ancestral tie to the women who came before us, condemned for their wisdom and power, a fight we continue today.

This record still has punk moments for those who cling to The Empty Page’s ‘punk sound. However, one wonders whether The Empty Page was ever an out-and-out punk rock band when the stand-out song is far from the genre the band are often associated with. It’s exciting because it means The Empty Page has reached new heights, extending their musicianship further into uncharted waters. The lyrics: “And I, I want to climb the hill where they died struck me on the first listen as Kel expresses her longing to connect with her spiritual sisterhood.

The second half sifts through, landing on Gorge (Oh Well), a break-beat moody, scuzz-layered track that clocks in at just over two minutes. Interestingly, it’s one of the oldest songs on the album, having lingered in the band’s back catalogue since 2019. It was written as a response to the Brexit referendum and the tumultuous political landscape under the Tories, capturing all the frustration and disillusionment of the pre-pandemic era.

Level Sedentary, one of the earlier singles released to promote Imploding, is a song about executive dysfunction, the days when the desire to do something paralyses into doing fuck all. It’s a nice B-side with discordant, weird, muffled lullaby chords and stabbing guitars. The Empty Page tosses up so many different inspirations, but this song leaps out as directly inspired by the odd noisy 90s alt-rock songs, rolling out on Imploding as something that could have been found on the B-Sides and Rarities of The Aeroplane Flies High by Smashing Pumpkins or The Destroyed Room by Sonic Youth. This song is a grower, it’s not an immediate call-out track until the crescendo cracks and lands a grunge-chanted outro.

Imploding draws a close with Leaf Thin and What Happens Now? as both tracks steer away from the typical 4/4 punk beat and embrace a more emotive potency. Leaf Thin unfolds with the haunting artillery of toms and distant guitar pedals while an impenetrable bassline thrums underneath like the very sound of the universe. The song maintains its atmospheric and abstract quality, with the drums never fully coming to the forefront, allowing its emotional weight to linger in the air like a coming storm.

In contrast, What Happens Now? serves as a surprising finale, its verses shining with doubled-up lyricism reminiscent of a Suede track. The upbeat and danceable drums inject a lively feel to the song, offering a refreshing twist to close out an emotionally driven album. The chorus reminds me of 1979 by Smashing Pumpkins with its nostalgic daydream-daze, and it plays out as way less explosive than other songs on the album.

Imploding, like a star shining bright but collapsing inwards, is a personal journey and exploration of wins and failures, embarrassment and shame, compulsion and disorder — all the elements deeply twisted within the human experience. Remarkably, The Empty Page manages to normalise these struggles, reassuring us that it’s okay to feel flawed and imperfect, for we are all navigating the complexities of existence together. The Empty Page is a real band, not a band caught up in trying to be something it’s not or reaching out to an audience that it shouldn’t. Those who understand will feel it. The album bears fractures, scars, and battle wounds, yet its beauty shines through undiminished. It was a long wait for Imploding, but the care poured into the cracks solidified my love for The Empty Page even more. 

 

Imploding is out now – 10th May 2024 with Vociferous Records. You can find The Empty Page on their website | Facebook | Instagram. Follow The Empty Page on their UK tour here.

Amelia Fearon is a creative music writer based in Manchester. You can see more of her work at her author profile for Louder Than War. You can visit her writing portfolio here or follow her Instagram and Twitter at @empireofamelia. 

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