If you’ve never heard of State Line Empire, it’s probably because you have never been inside a Guitar Center.  The foursome from San Mateo, California were the winners of a contest held by the music store – the prize being a recording session of a four-track EP and a single featuring Slash (Guns N Roses, Velvet Revolver, random Sunset Strip sightings).  It was a golden opportunity for a hard rock band to gain exposure and record with a music legend.

I’m sure State Line Empire were excited to have Slash featured on their EP, but two things jumped out at me.  One, I don’t think they really got to record with Slash.  The solo sounds like it was laid on top of their single, “Drive.”  Based on the video I saw on YouTube, State Line Empire recorded the song in studio and Slash performed his solo exclusively with the producer.  That would be disheartening, were it not for the second thing I noticed – the solos by their regular guitarist, Cat (eh, whatever…), fit their songs better.  The solo by Slash on “Drive” has a little too much “Hey! Look at me!” to it and distracts the listener from the other musicians in the band.

Aside from that, State Line Empire got everything they could have hoped for with their Octane EP: a well mixed, well mastered handful of songs to showcase their talents and open the door for a full-length recording.  Someone will pick them up; they do what they do very well.  As a reformed hard-rock audiophile, I picked up on all the appropriate music cues.  All four songs are full of staccato gunshot snare hits, crunching power chords, eye-shutting guitar solos, layered vocals that will never sound as good live, lyrics about (you guessed it) the ladies, and album art that would make Ed Hardy proud.

Once could say that State Line Empire does not bring anything unique to the table – you could play their songs and most people would ask: “Did Puddle of Mudd get back together?”  But hard rock is a genre predicated on multiple songs by varying artists all sounding the same.  The fans know what they want out of their arena rock, and it’s is all in the list in the previous paragraph.  Every so often, a Korn; a Disturbed; or a Coheed and Cambria will come along and turn the genre on its head, but most artists follow a successful template that sell concert tickets and drive album purchases.

For hard-rock enthusiasts, Octane will scratch your itch.  You will have Slash back in your lives, if only for one song.  You will have another band doing their thing and filling your music library with distortion-laden guitar riffs.  While it was great for Guitar Center to give a band a break, don’t expect them to have stumbled across an inimitable recording artist.  I don’t think that was their intention.

Note: Guitar Center is running the same contest again, replacing Slash with Travis Barker (Blink-182, +44, random MTV appearances).  If you have band and are looking for a shot, why not give it a go?