Review: Imperia “The Last Horizon” [Massacre Records]

Review: Imperia “The Last Horizon” [Massacre Records]

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One of the symphonic metal masters Imperia this March has released another full-length album “The Last Horizon” via Massacre Records. And that’s their fifth work in a successful collaboration with this German independent label.

Almost 18 years the music of Imperia enriches European symphonic scene, and though they weren’t the first ones to shape this genre, their singer Helena Iren Michaelsen was famous as the soprano singer of Norwegian sympho gothic/black metal band Trail of Tears. So that was a big advantage for her to start her own band. Her path was intersected even with pre-Epica, but after that she has decided to move on independently, offering her own musical visions. With Imperia Helena chose not to follow these modern symphonic power subgenres, or rather stay true to gothic/black spirit, deciding to concentrate on classical heavy metal with jazz influence. And her not so sweet voice was a perfect match for the chosen area.

“The Last Horizon” is split in two CDs for convenience, but there aren’t audible differences between them, it’s the same classical Imperia material on both of them. The songs are well structured and classically built, maybe sometimes these overall compositional patterns induce boredom, due to lack of hit material, but there are some tiny surprises during this album, making it more diverse and original. Like the emphasized use of growls to highlight a beasty nature of this record or some operatic passionate parts from soprano of Helena. Yes, she’s the diva on this album, making it real and palpable, shrouding it with her reserved and strong-willed energy. But sometimes it feels like that she’s holding something back, her voice abilities and theatrical performance are deliberately muted due to even and calm mood of the record. Like it’s too polished and restrained to give way to emotional outbursts or dodgy signs of reasonable craziness. And the same goes for the symphonic elements, the music lacks the epic solemnity, so the symphonic aura is mostly placed in the background.

The modern vibes (“Flower And The Sea” or “Only a Dream”) swing this record even to pop music, especially with the choruses, familiar to all pop structures (but not too catchy), though the classical music’s influence is also presented. The folky tunes have become more and more quintessential for Imperia, but still symphonic and heavy metal base is too dominating to consider them as folk metal band. So the songs like “Starlight”, “To Valhalla I Ride” or “Dancing” lift the spirits in their own simplicity and a little bit dancy manner. And the sound of violin from the guest musician Henrik Perelló adds some touch of vivid beauty to artificial orchestrations. It’s obvious, that Helena enjoys pouring her heart and soul into the nerdy ballads, beautiful and romantic compositions with optimistic sadness. The positive and modern “While I Am Still Here” induces some melancholic longing for sincere prime years of heavy metal; “My Other Half” is so sweet in its romantic mood, that sounds almost like Disney-style soundtrack; and soothing pop ballad “I Send You My Love” surprises with some ambient background.

“The Last Horizon” for Imperia isn’t some sort of revelation or experimental work, but it seems like that their reserved soundness blocks symphonic thundering too much, but their jazzy/pop sound is too hard to percept due to traditional hard rock background or lack of catchy songs. But still high quality, elaborated planning and perfect performance are still on their side, confidently upholding their positions on the symphonic metal scene.

Release date: March 26, 2021

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About the author

I am into metal music from the school times, started from traditional genres, and now exploring the experimental scene. I'm also interested in modern architecture and contemporary art.

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