LAST EMPIRE (Soon to be) gone, but not forgotten.

"IT KINDA BUMS ME OUT. It's nice having something local of my own," says Brian Allen, vocalist for Portland's Last Empire. After supplying us with fist-clenching traditional metal for more than a decade, the band has decided to play one last show, then lay down their axes.

You can't help but wonder if they got a fair shake. Did we truly appreciate them while they were here? Given the right opportunity, could their mighty metal have slain the dragon and risen out of our drizzly city to conquer the world? With Allen's sky-high range somewhere in between King Diamond and Rob Halford, and the classical gallop of guitarist Pat DeMartino driving every song, Last Empire squealed out heavy metal that no purist could turn their back on.

Thanks to distribution by Italian label Underground Symphony, Allen says Last Empire was beginning to gain an international foothold. Last year he joined Bay Area legends Vicious Rumors as their new frontman, and after 90 dates in Europe, he discovered firsthand that folks far away had caught wind of Last Empire.

"When I got into Vicious Rumors, people would look into my past and find Last Empire. I'd say an average of five people or more would come up to me at every show we did from Croatia, to Spain, to Sweden, who were Last Empire fans too. They'd even have our albums for me to sign. I wish we could've gone to Europe. I think we would've made a really big impact."

Other continents had Last Empire on their radar, but what about us? Allen says some fresh local acts have expressed their gratitude toward the band for influence and inspiration over the years. He believes that the young, up-and-coming scene is brimming with potential. "They're all trying to help each other. Nobody is trashing each other, nobody's badmouthing... all it takes is people like them to keep holding that torch and help Portland out."

We're no Norway or Germany, but Portland has definitely made its mark on the sacred pages of the heavy metal history books. Last Empire might be bringing their chapter to a close, but their name will fit nicely next to other hometown heroes like Wild Dogs, Malice, and XINR, to name a few. Metal never dies.