Anthony Guerra has been plugging away, making music for many years now. The native Australian has performed with a number of other great artists like Joel Stern (of the Naturestrip label, among other things), American drummer extraordinaire Matt Nidek, and the vastly underrated Matt Earle (of Muura and Breakdance the Dawn). His output has been all over the musical map, but nothing has hit as hard and left the lasting impact as his latest solo record, the devastating "Empty Kingdoms."
As Guerra said himself, this was a record he HAD to release himself. The music and the tone of these tracks is so intensely personal that to do otherwise would be a disservice. "Empty Kingdoms" is the type of album every musician wants to make. There's so much happening in each carefully chosen note, that it's hard to deny the thought and talent that went into each of these four songs.
"Empty Kingdoms" opens with the methodic "Blue Jay I." Guerra's guitar playing is superb here, clean and to the point. At times he reminds me of Loren Connors in that everything seems so understated, yet after you hear it you just can't let it go. Minimal, hushed vocals add to an already potent concoction, and the rapid, quiet drums just push it over the top. Guerra's music is the kind of stuff you internalize. It sticks to your bones.
The sequencing on "Empty Kingdoms" deserves a lot of the credit, too, for why this album is so damn brilliant. Every track builds on the previous until the final piece, "Blackest Little Eyes," is firmly entrenched in the cosmos. The most straight-forward, and also the most striking, of all these songs, Guerra's vocals guide this ship square into the ether. Slightly off-key as he harmonizes with himself singing "The blackest little eyes" on top of waves of slide guitar and melodic chord changes, there's an intense longing for something innocent, something holistic. It's absolutely magnificent; one of the best songs of the year and the perfect end to such a beautiful album.
If you haven't heard Anthony Guerra, it's about time you changed that. "Empty Kingdoms" is just about perfect in its minimal handmade packaging. Everything about this makes the sum much greater than each individual piece. Punch your ticket to this serene celebration. In the end you will feel cleansed and metamorphosed. 9/10 -- Brad Rose (27 June, 2006)