What do you get when you combine Star Wars with shredding guitars? Galactic Empire, a certain galaxy far, far away’s foremost prog-metal band. The group rose to prominence in 2015 after releasing their viral music video for the Star Wars “Main Theme,” garnering them 10 million views and national press coverage. Galactic Empire is comprised of guitarists Erik Ryde, Cotter Champlin and Brett Anspach; bassist Carson Slovak and drummer Grant McFarland. When on stage, they perform in costume as various Star Wars characters. 

With two killer albums under their belt — a 2017 self-titled debut and 2018’s Episode II — Galactic Empire is poised to release their third studio album (via Pure Noise Records), Special Edition. Their creative instrumental reinterpretations of iconic Star Wars tunes from famed composer John Williams continues with verve on this latest record. 

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Special Edition 

Special Edition consists of tracks from newer Star Wars entries, such as the theme songs for The MandalorianThe Book of Boba FettStar Wars: The Bad Batch and Obi-Wan Kenobi. While the album might resonate with younger Force-sensitive fans with the inclusion of these contemporary tunes, Galactic Empire inserts a few classic Star Wars covers to pay homage to the trilogy that started it all. 

The cover art for the Star Wars-themed progressive metal band Galactic Empire's third studio album, Special Edition.

After a rousing rendition of the 20th Century Fox Fanfare, the record launches into a seven-and-a-half minute cover of “Star Wars and Revenge of the Sith” from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Here, Galactic Empire is as layered technically and musically as they’ve ever been, evoking the spirit of the original track. The transitions between each section of music in said cover are seamless, and it calls to mind the imagery from Revenge of the Sith

Next, the band tackles Michael Giacchino‘s “The Imperial Suite” from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This song feels particularly suited to Galactic Empire’s progressive metal sound. It embraces the militaristic undertones of “The Imperial March” by Williams through its staccato rhythm guitars and drumming. “Dark Side Assault,” composed by Natalie Holt for Obi-Wan Kenobi, allows the band to dig deep into the darkness of the Empire. 

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Staying on Theme

The Mandalorian theme, composed by Ludwig Göransson, is my favorite track, and not because the show itself is currently in the zeitgeist. The band’s interpretation of it perfectly captures the essence of the original tune, complete with a thumping bass line and the all-too-recognizable Mandalorian melody soaring above various guitar lines. Perhaps Disney should insert Galactic Empire’s version in Season 4 to see if anyone notices. 

The band’s take on The Book of Boba Fett theme is another example of a cover that transports you to the world it seeks to recreate. You feel like you’re about to watch an episode of Boba Fett. The drums in this one lean heavily into the band’s prog-metal roots. You can also hear their musical influences, such as Meshuggah. (Although I detect some Jinjer there, too.) Their recreations of The Bad Batch and Obi-Wan Kenobi themes are as immersive as they are stirring. 

Members of the Star Wars-themed progressive metal band, Galactic Empire, posing in costume for a promotional photo.

“Attack Position” is an uptempo affair that unleashes a fury of overlapping intricate guitar riffs. If it doesn’t get you amped up to destroy the Death Star, I don’t know what will. The final two tracks take us back to the original trilogy. “The Battle of Hoth,” from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, will plant you smack dab in the middle of the Empire’s most significant victory. It encapsulates the detail and nuance of Williams’ score. Speaking of victory, “Victory Celebration,” from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, is a joyous, upbeat cover that’ll make you want to party with Ewoks. 

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To Sum It Up 

Overall, Special Edition maintains Galactic Empire’s signature heavy sound, with a nice variety of tracks from across the galaxy. It never once loses energy. The thrashing guitar riffs, pounding bass lines and vigorous drumming inject a prog-metal twist to the Star Wars tunes we love. It’s perfect for unleashing your inner Jedi or Sith. Warning: Special Edition may or may not be conducive to headbanging (it totally is). 

Be sure to follow Galactic Empire on Instagram (@galacticempireofficial), Facebook (@GalacticEmpireOfficial) and Twitter (@GalacticEmpire8). Special Edition releases on May 5, aka Revenge of the Fifth. Check out their site for more information on tour dates, purchasing Special Edition and merchandise. 

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Melody McCune
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