ALBUM REVIEW: The Federal Empire – Road Through Hell

Release Date: March 27th 2020
Label: Sumerian Records


Los Angeles duo The Federal Empire‘s debut album, ‘Road Through Hell’, is a laid back collection of country inspired indie tunes that was originally written five years ago.

After half a decade in the making, the album couldn’t have come at a better time, with the world in desperate need of some endorphin releasing music.

‘Road Through Hell’ is an album that is certainly sure of itself. The Federal Empire perform with the confidence and sophistication one can expect from a group who have spent years perfecting their art. Some previously released tracks from last year’s ‘I Never Liked Your Friends’ EP make their way on here too, such as the tongue-in-cheek ‘American Dream’, whose tone smarts of the infamous Nickelback hit ‘Rockstar’, and works them into a wider narrative.

For the most part, the instrumentation and lyrical content is typical of an alt-country record. There’s nothing strikingly different that sets the sound apart from other artists of a similar style. The album undoubtedly has good stamina, but it runs the risk of sounding too same-y at times. A lot of the choruses are almost identical, particularly in the opening three tracks, with the same build-up and clap-along beat.

Though the songs are enjoyable and their vibes infectious, it can become tiring going so long without a change of pace. Having said that, the album is broken up further down the line with nuggets of tenderness, such as ‘Good Man’ and ‘Gasoline’, that showcase an alternative side to the duo. This somewhat redeems the issue, though the stark juxtaposition from the happy-go-lucky vibes of the surrounding tracks lessens the sincerity, making it seem as though they were wedged there to serve this purpose.

The Federal Empire are definitely more comfortable when performing more upbeat songs, and it cannot be argued that their strengths certainly lie with tracks such as ‘Bad Habits’ – an album highlight. However, moments such as the atmospheric ambiance of ‘The Way That I Do’ and the climatic instrumental break of the album’s title (and closing) track offer us a glimpse of the realms that their sound could reach. By branching out more with their sound and daring to explore these snippets of experimentation further, The Federal Empire could make something truly memorable in the future.

‘Road Through Hell’ is a vial of sunshine, bringing the summer indoors while we’re all stuck inside. It’s an infectious and uplifting journey that will undoubtedly bridge gaps, unifying fans of varying genres who are seeking a surge of positivity in such uncertain times.