Empire of the Sea: High-flying post-rock

Keith Perks

Bill Thomas, Arts & Entertainment Editor

If there’s any truth to the old adage that says still waters run deep, then it’s not surprising that the music on “Fathoms,” Empire of the Sea’s nautically-themed 2010 debut, is of a moody and meditative sort. For a follow-up, however, the group decided to shed the maritime trappings of that album, as well as the murky, monolithic ambient-metal style that accompanied it, in favor of something lighter.

Enter the upbeat post-rock of “Skywatchers,” EOTS’ new EP, released just this month.

It’s a sound that soars.

“Me and Bill actually worked together for two years and, whenever we’d go on break, we’d walk around the building and watch the birds flying around,” guitarist Mike Flaherty said.

The “Bill” he’s referring to is fellow guitarist Bill Check who, along with drummer Michael Tyahur and Flaherty’s bassist brother Patrick, comprises the Wilkes-Barre foursome.

Flaherty continued: “We got to thinking, what if there was a family of birds, each from a different species, but all living together?”

The concept allowed the band to create its own mythology on “Skywatchers,” one that in turned allowed them to explore various archetypes through its “bird family.” Each of the EP’s four tracks is named after one of their aviary inventions: “Mother Hawk,” “Father Owl,” “Sister Sparrow” and “Brother Crow.”

The change in EOTS’ musical style is also a direct result of the subject matter. Whereas “Fathoms” submerged the listener in an ocean of atmosphere and sonic textures, the trajectory of the new EP is aimed squarely skyward. The music constantly races toward bigger and brasher crescendos, which only seem to propel the music on further, the intent being to create a feeling of perpetual ascent.

“The songs themselves are not as dark as they were (on “Fathoms”),” Check said. “The best way I can describe it is as feel-good music. It’s like you’re up on some mountaintop looking down at the world.”

In a continual quest to unburden their music and hopefully enable it to rise to even greater heights, the members of EOTS have opted to eliminate vocals altogether, transforming the band into a 100 percent instrumental project from “Skywatchers” on.

The band members admit it’s a drastic change that might alienate some listeners. Nevertheless, they feel it’s the right decision, hoping it will shift audience focus more toward the songcraft of the music itself. It is there, Check said, EOTS differentiates itself most significantly from its contemporaries.

“We like to keep it very ambient but still incorporate a lot of structure within, which is different from most post-rock bands,” he said. “Most post-rock bands will just let seven minutes of guitars go on with this big build-up that ends up dying out. We’re more into using actual riffs and doing something with them.”

EOTS will perform alongside Ethereal Collapse at The Crimson Lion  in Wilkes-Barre, on Sunday, Sept. 16.

For more information, find Empire of the Sea on Facebook.