IMPERIUM – Beyond The Stars

Take a look at the cover and the name of the band and guess what kind of music this lot plays. “Another Power Metal outfit”, was my first thought when I got the link to this album. Imperium is the brain child of Finish drummer Mika Brushane and was founded back in 2012 when he had just completed the work of his band Strike’s then new record We’re Back. The reason for a side project was because he just couldn’t stop writing songs and needed an outlet for them so he started Imperium, who released their debut album Dreamhunter in 2016. But to call it a band would be to exaggerate things somewhat. This is a project where Mika handles all song writing, production, drums, bass, keyboards and much of the backing vocals. For guitar and lead vocal duties, hired guns are being brought in. And oh yes, Imperium are not a Power Metal project, what we’re given here are AOR and Melodic Rock.

Now, Finland has brought us some really good bands in this genre lately, like One Desire and The Nights so I was hoping for yet another Finish hook-fest with this project. That said, almost all of the guesting musicians are totally unknown to me so I had no clue of what to expect of them. The opening title track features the only known name to me, Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69) on vocals together with guitarist Erkka Korhonen. It’s an uptempo yet pretty soft, pink n fluffy pop-rocker that screams 1986. My first impression was that it’s a bit light-weight but still a very catchy and good AOR tune that sticks right off the bat. “Crash And Burn” follows in its predecessor’s footprints and even though the tune is catchy I don’t find it as strong. The tune features Markku Kuikka on lead vocals and Samuli Federley on guitar. “Learning How To Fly” (Antti Railio on vocals, Korhonen on guitar) is again in the same vein, catchy AOR with lots of hooks and a sugary sound. This one is the best tune so far – a clear single!

“Spread Your Wings” (Kuikka and Federley) – not a Queen cover – starts out as a ballad but it speeds up pretty fast. The tune is another AOR/Pop song like its predecessors albeit in a more mid-tempo way. With memorable melodies, a great arrangement, shitloads of hooks and a chorus that’s intoxicating, this tune is easily the best one so far – brilliant! “Back In ’85” (Kuikka with Toni Huovinen on guitars) is a Melodic Rock stomper, pretty straight forward in a faster pace that would probably go down well if it was ever played live. However, lyrically it’s too cheesy for comfort, at times it even makes me cringe. It’s an ok song but it doesn’t stay with me. “King Of The World” (Ward and Huovinen) stays on the same path as the last tune, uptempo AOR-rock with a hit-laden refrain but what it also has in common is that it doesn’t stick with me. “All Alone” (Kuikka and Federley) is slower in pace and more laid-back, like a faster paced ballad that holds a mid 80’s AOR sound. It’s a decent tune but way too syrupy for me.

With “World On Fire” (Rob Lundgren on vocals and Huovinen), Imperium breaks out of the box for the first time, if only just a little. It’s still AOR all the way through but this tune’s a bit heavier with the guitars more upfront which feels like a breath of fresh air here. That said, the tune isn’t all that great even though it’s not bad. “Just A Dream” (Railio and Korhonen) is a ballad in an upbeat pace but very soft and a bit cheesy. It makes me think of a more saccharine “Is This Love” (Whitesnake). Ok tune, though. They close the album with “Higher” (Kuikka and Federley), a tune that takes their AOR into a more Hard Rock territory, something I applaud although it could have been a bit rougher yet. Quality wise it’s an ok tune but I just won’t stick when it’s done, something that applies to the album as a whole, I’m afraid.

This is a pure AOR album, if you haven’t guess that by now, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. The problem I have with this album is that I find it pretty bland and that I really can’t find much that sticks out or grabs me, most songs are just forgettable. Also, too many songs are too samey with very little diversity between many of them. Add to the fact that the production is way too light-weight and tame and when I get Ron Nevison vibes – which I do here –  something’s clearly wrong. I want this to rock more, I want it a bit heavier and more in-your-face. The musicians’ performances leaves nothing more to ask for, really, as they’re all top-notch but with guitarists like this, why not give them more space because what we’re given here are mostly keyboards and vocals. But that said, I don’t think this is a crappy album – it sure has its moments – but to my taste, I think it could have been so much better than it is.

4/10

Tracklist:

1. Beyond The Stars
2. Crash And Burn
3. Learning How To Fly
4. Spread Your Wings
5. Back in ’85
6. King Of The World
7. All Alone
8. World On Fire
9. Just A Dream
10. Higher

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