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Imperia - The Last Horizon (2021) - Review

Band: Imperia
Album title: The Last Horizon
Release date: 26 March 2021
Label: Massacre Records
Genre: Symphonic Metal

Tracklist:
Disc I
01. Dream Away
02. Starlight
03. To Valhalla I Ride
04. Flower And The Sea
05. Blindfolded
06. While I Am Still Here

Disc II
01. Only A Dream
02. Where Are You Now
03. I Still Remember
04. Dancing
05. My Other Half
06. One Day
07. I Send You My Love
08. Let Down [piano version]

The Last Horizon is a perfect example that sometimes originality is overrated. Over the course of the last two decades, when symphonic metal became one of the most prominent genres in the melodic metal department, we have witnessed an explosion of bands trying to reinvent the formula, but there is only so much space to do so. And while many have fallen into the clichés over the fondness in using (female) operatic vocals alongside a rich orchestration work, Imperia’s sixth full-length album falls far from that – simply not because it would bring something extremely original or new to the sound, but because what they deliver is a strong sound, with cohesive layers and a lot of dynamics within it.  With their latest release, Imperia decided not to play the safe card, and they delivered an enthralling voyage, which lasts for over 72 minutes divided into two discs.

While the line between the discs is thin, it is still very notable, as the first half is focused more on epic, bombastic sounds, whilst the second disc is a bit more experimental and atmospheric. But the common thread through both discs is powerful storytelling, which does not slow down from the beginning to the end. Like on previous Imperia releases, Helena Iren’s impeccable and tremendous vocal work is the stellar feature of the album; her voice is so multi-dimensional and expressive. With her versatility and her astounding control over her powers, she can sound like a lovelorn siren, a wretched witch or a fierce Valkyrie and she transits from one persona to another in seconds, with no flaws, no falling-downs, but the opposite of that – this is what makes the atmosphere of the album so strong. That being put alongside multiple layered and extremely luscious sound, with a steady rhythm section, straightforward guitar melodies and royal orchestrations, which all fall into their place are what makes the essence of this album. The metal and the symphonic parts are perfectly counterpoised and what Imperia displays on The Last Horizon is a result of its assurance of their compositional and instrumental skills, alongside strong production, mixing and mastering.

The opening "Dream Away" is a captivating, strong track, with impressive rhythmic intro, building and holding its tension from beginning to the end, and it flows right into another very danceable tune, "Starlight", a song with genuinely nice folk undertones, which are scattered, yet nicely equilibrated within the soundscapes throughout the album. The Leaves Eyes vibe may come to mind while listening to the album, as Imperia is paying homage to their homeland predecessors in epic "To Valhalla I Ride". To break down the epicenes, there stands an astonishing "While I Am Still Here", a sorrowful power ballad, which slows down the tempo of the album and portrays a wide palette of mournful and hollow-hearted emotions. Disc II musically follows in the vein of disc I, but its main feature is an extraordinarily strong atmosphere and a lot more frailty and woeful romanticism, especially towards the end of the album with "I Send You My Love" and piano version of "Let Down" from their 2011 release Secret Passion. There are still some tracks that may not sound as captivating and have that profound soul-piercing potential as others, especially in the second third of the second disc and could be left out of the album, but drawing the line, they are not bothering the harmonic flow of the album.

Between the album’s strengths and expected clichés, nests an artistic consistency and unblemished musicianship. Blending themes of fantasy and mythology with a more lyrical and personal approach, The Last Horizon is an album Imperia fans will embrace with arms wide open and is a nice addition to their discography. Imperia sure deserves their place in the realms of symphonic metal, as their sound from their debut to their last release has gained consistency, versatility and soulfulness, and their composing is nothing other than worth complimenting.

The review was written by Ines
Rating: 7,5/10

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