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After listening to the side-project of this band named Angel and finding that to be bullshit, I was admittedly hesitant to try listening to Imperia. One way or another though I've ended up listening to their album Queen of Light, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it isn't actually as bad as my impressions of them were. It may actually rival Evolvent's first album, which is a credit to the band.
First things first, Helena Iren Michaelsen has a much better voice than I was made aware of on Angel's single Don't Wanna Run. I knew she had a decent set of pipes, but nothing like what she manages on this. Her range is incredible and she manages to ride the music perfectly. Vocals are the key to this genre, and she certainly drives the band forward. Operatic when necessary (which are actually the vocals I feel she does the best), dipping to lower tones at points and switching to some form of witch's cackle occasionally. That last thing might sound a little weird (which I can't deny that it is), but it seems to fit in well enough.
Like Evolvent, the keyboards are the secondary force in the band. They're clearly heard competing with the guitars (a battle which they win for the most part), and they're played with far more originality than the side project that just recycled the same sequence of notes throughout the entire album. I'm liking what I'm hearing from this band so far.
While they may not be the most forefront instrument in the mix, the guitars do tend to have a solo in most of the songs. They're not played badly across the album, but the keyboard is heard more than they are. As for the drums, for the most part they are well-hidden behind everything else that's going on, but they're also played to a decent level when you can hear them. Norway especially is the track that you're likely to hear them on.
Speaking of Norway, it's one the best tracks on the album (although personally I believe the very best to be the title track). The reason that I dedicate a paragraph to this track rather than the one I consider to be the best is that this one is a little different from what else is being offered. It's slightly heavier than the other tracks, but the female vocals are operatic throughout (there are some growls in there too, which aren't seen elsewhere, but they're not anything great). In some ways I guess you could say it's reminiscent of Theatre of Tragedy, but the way the music comes together is different. Like I said, it isn't the best track on the album, but it is still very enjoyable.
There are other good tracks as well, and although the album is over an hour long the quality holds up surprisingly well towards the end. If I were them I'd probably cut it down a little bit, but they still do a respectable job. Many of the good songs are actually nearer the end than the start, and it's not often you can say that the second half of the album is better than the first.
This is a really good album by a band that clearly has a lot of potential to become a big thing in the world of symphonic/gothic metal. While it might just be edged out by Evolvent's album Delusion, it's certainly one of the best gothic albums I've heard. One final message to the band: please, please, please continue to produce this kind of music as apposed to the abysmal work that Angel creates.
Imperia was a band that I happened to stumble across on youtube one day. I clicked on their song "The Calling" and really enjoyed it. What stood out the most was Helena Iren Michaelson's (formally of Epica, back when they were Sahara Dust) vocals. Ranging from a powerful operatic voice to a wicked witch cackle with a dreamlike in between, it's surprising Epica didn't try a little harder to keep her on, instead opting for Simone Simons. Anyway, it was enough for me to pick up "Queen of Light" and gave it a spin.
The album kicks off with the first three songs as typical symphonic metal with pop leanings. They are pretty catchy and track three "Raped by the Devil" has Michaelson going back and forth between sounding distressed to almost gleeful, the music following along. Nothing special, but an interesting listen. The next few songs are forgettable enough to not really warrant any space writing about them.
The album really starts to pick up at the halfway point with "Norway". This song has a middle eastern sounding intro, which doesn't seem out of place considering this song is sung in Norwegian. The interplay between the choir and Michaelson's vocals are superb. Add to that the only harsh vocals (even if they aren't the best ever) on this album and this is so far the best song. Next up, "Abyssum" with an intro that sounds like it would fit in the soundtrack for The Lord of the Rings films. Perhaps the whole song would. The songs "Queen of Light" and "Fata Morgana" are both standouts as well. The former displaying Michaelson's sheer operatic power in the chorus and the latter being one of my favorite tracks with a middle eastern sound again, but this song sounds darker than "Norway". The drums provide a tribal feel and an underlying intensity.
The best track is still the first one I ever heard from Imperia. Back to "The Calling". Michaelson goes all out on this one, singing in three different styles to perfection. She sounds amazing yet chaotic, and the music binds it all together tightly. If you only check out one song from this band, this is the one that showcases their potential the most.
Even though the vocals are the standout on this album, the choirs and orchestra are done very well. They are not too overbearing...they aren't trying to out do every other symphonic metal band and I think that should be greatly appreciated. The guitars have their moments however brief, but for the most part, they work with and around the orchestra very well. They do more than just chug along in the background to add heaviness, yet they are kept fairly simple. This actually seems to work well for Imperia, allowing the listener to focus mainly on the vocals, but still have more than competent guitar and orchestration as more than just background noise.
If you are a fan of symphonic metal this is definitely worth a listen, especially if you make it to the second half of the album. As far as operatic vocals go, when she uses them, Michaelson is up there with the likes of Tarja Turunen, so fans of her and others like her might enjoy this album as well.