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Queen of Light - 80%

rcr12013, August 9th, 2012

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.