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In lieu of my utmost respect and admiration towards Nightly Gale, I was quite surprised "Imprint" was lying on my shelf without me being able to find the appropriate words to describe and scrabble a sufficient review of, yet an outcry that was made on two consequent M-A Review Challenges has finally made me go for it. And while I couldn't come up with it in time, a word is a word, and I hope whoever requested the review would be pleased with it as is.
With the unnecessary trivia driven out of the system, let the disclaimers/filtering begin: If you prefer "...and Jesus Wept" over "Illusion of Evil" - there's not much for you to seek on this one, sadly, since "Imprint" is a direct continuation of the trend "Illusion..." has consolidated - a highly melodic landscape that consists of sheer synth layers that accompany the listener throughout the entire composition, all punctuated by heavy and thick guitar riffs as a counter - think Corrupted circa "Se Hace por los Suenos Assesinos" (the similarity between the two albums goes down to the verge of recurring riffs) clashing head on with some weird Shape of Despair/Aborym hybrid - sorry if the passage seems repeated from my own "Illusion..." review, their sound didn't change much in between. That being said - if you've liked "Illusion...", it's still not granted you'll like this one as well, and let me explain why.
Remember the god awesome screeches from their previous releases? Gone in the abyss, meaning you're left with the one dimensional and electronically manipulated singing of the main vocalist and his wails about cheating girlfriends. As gay, in a sense, as it might sound (the whole album is dedicated to that matter), it's hardly the issue on this album - in fact one even might even appreciate the band's preference of the cheesy over the cliché, and by refusing to be the ten-thousand-and-first doom metal band to repeat the overdone "death/sorrow/mourning" tirades and instead brings the fight to the listener, and by keeping the eye-leveled, personal touch of the lyrics, an amplified experience and connection to the brooding moods of the music is more likely to occur. As a counterweight to the main vocalist and as a substitute to the long lost screecher we witness the debut of their now-permanent female vocalist, whose powerful, jazzy freestyle lines are beyond impressive yet sadly too rare, and anyway - dude, where all the edge went all of a sudden?
Now, to the more prominent part of the album - the music. Being one of my all time favorite bands, the fact that they didn't change their sound and approach from "Illusion..." comes as a compliment - I personally can't think of a single aspect that could be changed without getting a deficient outcome. Moreover, they've seemingly made their lessons out of their mistakes on their previous album, so you now get seven tracks to try and err with instead of four, and none of them could be considered as a bad one, too - in theory, that is, but more on that later. To those who like their music progressive and fluid - "Imprint" is a great example of how things should be done. The effect of "Imprint" upon your soul is similar to how quicksand works - it does its job slowly but surely, sucking you into a journey one thing is certain about - the way you've entered it wouldn't be the way you exit. There's a multitude of shifting musical themes on every given song on the album - especially the longer ones - arranged outside of anything that could be described in a form or a pattern of some sort. Usually, every theme would repeat itself at a certain point of a song, but it would take it so much time to do so you might even mistake it for a new one, and still would never guess how the rest turns out to be and what oddity would be thrown at your face next - Nightly Gale are quite keen on being the odd fish, so there are no saxophone solos to be found this time only because the trumpet solos take their spots, a thing that's cool and refreshing even though I'd rather have the saxophones back, deeming this instrument as more expressive than the trumpet, but that's still isn't much of an issue.
My biggest quarrel with this album like in its failure at maintaining momentum - it's evident that the band came with their best intentions and inspiration, but sadly - it's also apparent that they've expired at some point. The album starts incredibly strong and impressive from the very first guitar strike of "Ignorance is Bliss!", and takes off from then up until "When I'm in You" - and then loses it all of a sudden as if the band has gassed out of excitement, so while the first three tracks are truly grand, the rest sound only as reworks of something they've already tried earlier, either on the previous tracks or on "Illusions...", and the contrast between the mighty start, the slightly weaker ending and the muffled in-between reeks of inconsistency. This feeling is caused mainly because of the concentration of the best tracks of this album in the beginning, so better sequencing of the tracks (despite being marketed as a concept album, "Imprint" doesn't follow any storyline, so that shouldn't have posed a problem) could have solved it, but only that much - introducing the blunt side of the very same blade; on "Illusions..." there were three great tracks opposed to one bad, while on this one there are still three great tracks but facing four inferior ones (not the same thing as bad, mind you) - the percentage isn't in your favor, buddy.
Overall: Despite the last lines, "Imprint" grandeur stands in its place; Nightly Gale's albums, just as all good things, don't occur very often, and while "Imprint" isn't the best they have to offer - so far the honors go to "Illusion of Evil" - it's still a release not to be taken lightly, and unless you're totally not into the genre - it's more likely to impress you to your core if you'd spare some time to check it out.
[Favorite Bits: Ignorance is Bliss, When I'm in You]