IMPERA – Empire Of Sin

Impera - Empire of SinI recently wrote a review of a Swedish AOR-band called Last Autumn’s Dream and in that review I wrote that they held the record on this site for most reviewed albums. So far, I have reviewed four Last Autumn’s Dream albums, but there is one band that is breathing down their necks when it comes to releasing records in a really fast pace, another Swedish act called Impera. This Swedish all-star four-piece is on their third release since their debut album Legacy Of Life came out in 2012. Consisting of band leader and band name giver J.K. Impera (drums), lead singer Matti Alfonzetti (Red White & Blues, Skintrade), guitarist Tommy Denander (who has done session work with Toto, Robin Beck, House Of Lords among others) and bass player Mats Vassfjord (Laney’s Legion, Grand Design, Scaar), they have too been releasing records faster than you can say release date. Their second album Pieces Of Eden came out only a year later and was a damn impressing piece of music considering the fact that all the members are all busy guys. Had this album been released just one month earlier, this would have been the band’s third album in as many years which is an impressing speed in a day and age when bands usually takes years and years in between albums. Just like L.A.D., Impera hasn’t exactly been touring their asses off since their debut, only two gigs (correct me if I’m wrong here…) has been played and Impera must be seen as a project more than a band for now. However, their brand of groovy melodic hard rock is perfect for the stage and the gig I witnessed (Väsby Rock, 2013) sure made me wish that they would consider this band their main priority. After two albums, Impera sure beats all the other bands the members are in, except maybe for Vassfjord’s Laney’s Legion. For more info on the band, check out my earlier reviews in this section. 2012 and 2013. But what always worries me when bands releases albums under such a tight time frame is that the quality of the music will suffer and after two brilliant albums, it wouldn’t be strange if the quality falters a bit. I mean, it has happened before that bands rushes albums out just to have a product out.

It only took me one listen to this album to calm my worries in that department because everything sounded just fine and even though the first listen wasn’t a hard one, I could easily hear that the quality still was there. The second listen, through my earphones, confirmed that, big time. Opener “The Beast Is Dead” is brilliant, a catchy and heavy tune of melodic hard rock that borders to metal at times. It’s somewhat a continuation of last album’s “Beast Within”, musically. Maybe it’s that beast that now is dead? “Evil (Becomes A Believer)” is a great rocker with some metal undertones and the almost tribal influenced drums in the verses makes the song stand out a bit more. “Don’t Stop” has some major hit potential with its catchy pop melodies over the Kiss Lick It Up era influenced guitar riffs – this is some awesome work. On “Hole In The Sky” they get darker with a Tony Iommi influence (oh yes, there is a Black Sabbath song called “Hole In The Sky” as well…). But they don’t get down to plagiarism at all, with some almost sleazy grooves and killer hooks they make the song their own baby. “End Of The World” is a big ballad, but not as in cheesy power ballad, no this one has a big bluesy feel to it and the melody is just to die for. I’m thinking the heavier side to the Joe Lynn Turner-fronted Rainbow here. “Thunder In Your Heart” is a classic hard rock song with some heavy riffing and a refrain that sticks like glue. The dark Black Sabbath influenced keyboards gives a cool touch to it as well. The song also contains a guest appearance from Europe bass player John Leven who makes his first performance as a lead guitar player on the tune. He also has a song writing credit on it. “Lights In The Sky” is just amazing. It sounds like a more hard rockier version of Tony Martin-era Sabbath. The chorus is distinct and in your face! “Darling” is a mold-breaking ballad with its R&B (as in rhythm & blues, not the modern crap with the same name) and soul influence. That song would sit perfectly on a Richie Kotzen album. “Lost Boy” is the only song that doesn’t get my pulse up. It’s not bad at all, it’s a good song, but this uptempo pop rocker doesn’t really stick with me. Closing track “Fly Away” is a heavy hard rocker that sounds like the late 80’s, only in a more rough mood and some crunching guitars – hard rock at its best.

Once again, Impera impresses with a brilliant album, full of high quality songs, a killer sound that has Lars Chriss’ (Lion’s Share) name all over it (he’s the mixing engineer and co-producer). Now, by their third album, it’s pretty clear to hear that Impera not only has released their third killer record in a row, they also has created a sound of their own, something that is not that easy – or common – in melodic rock and AOR circles. I don’t mind bands that doesn’t sport their own sound as long as they have some identity and great songs, but I must confess that it’s a great feeling to listen to a new band and realise that you can tell which band it is by the opening chords. Impera consists of four musicians that has been around for ages and are known by most fans of melodic rock – expect maybe the band leader himself – but none of them has reached big star status on their own, despite all of them being brilliant musicians. It’s time to change all that now. If you’re into great songs, killer hooks, addictive choruses, world-class musicians and melodic hard rock in general, it’s more or less your duty to check this band out. In a not too distant future, the arena rock bands such as Kiss, Whitesnake, Iron Maiden, Mötley Crüe etc. will be gone and we desperately need new ones. There are lots of them that could fill that gap from Sweden and Scandinavia and it would be only fair to see Impera headline the big festivals and arenas. This might be a hard rockers utopian dream, but it’s time Impera came out of the shadows for real. Take my word for it, give it a chance and you’ll be hooked.

Jon Wilmenius (9/10)

Tracklist:

1.  The Beast Is Dead
2.  Evil (Become A Believer)
3.  Don’t Stop
4.  Hole In The Sky
5.  End Of The World
6.  Thunder In Your Heart
7.  Lights In The Sky
8.  Darling
9.  Lost Boy
10. Fly Away

 

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