I’m on a bit of a roll this month reviewing bands for the site that have never reviewed here before. This time it is Imperia from the Netherlands. If you know your history of Dutch Prog/Gothic/Symphonic Metal (After Forever, Delain, Epica, Mayan, Revamp, Within Temptation etc) you will recognize how incestuous that whole scene is and Imperia is no exception with some early but unrealized ties with Sahara Dust/Epica. Incestuous is probably the wrong term but the community seems very close-knit and established with members coming and going from the various bands.
SECRET PASSION is the bands third shot at the golden ring and it’s a really great batch of songs that can stand along side any of the aforementioned bands. I missed the bands small label debut in 2004 but after they got picked up by Massacre Records in 2007 I grabbed the sophomore effort, QUEEN OF LIGHT. In a straight comparison this album is slightly better. There is a bit more dynamics in the song-writing and arrangements and perhaps not quite as fast.
The album is ably produced by Oliver Philipps who is really moving forward as a world-class producer in the Symphonic/Gothic metal world having worked with Delain, Serenity and now Imperia. The sound great, crystal clear, with a nice mix highlighting the operatic vocals of Helena. Her performance is understated in the sense that she doesn’t just belt it out all the time but lets a range of emotion and style flow from her vocal presentation.
This album is a bit more ‘ballad intensive’; than the last one and personally I probably could have done without the final cut, ‘My Sleeping Angel’. It is a really maudlin ballad about watching a baby sleep. I’m a Dad and have kids and have felt those emotions of happiness watching my kid sleep as well but to cram a song about it onto a Metal album just doesn’t fit. It is admittedly a tender acoustic ballad with male and female vocals and piano. SECRET PASSION ends on a bit of a weaker note with the aforementioned baby-ballad and then a bonus track called ‘Mistress’ with is some sort of Euro-disco-techno-dance thing, which is pretty horrible. SECRET PASSION is an album of highs and lows, aside from the last couple of cuts we get tunes like ‘Greed’, ‘Suicide’ and ‘Violence’ exploring darker topics, so it is certainly not a weak album by any means. There are enough guitars and symphonic elements to keep everyone happy. The title track soars majestically as do all of the fast cuts. The songs have depth and character and are very easy to listen to with a fine sense of melody.
Given that there are dozens of these types of bands operating world-wide at any given moment, you could pick your four or five favorites and be quite satisfied. There is no reason why Imperia should not be in your Top 5 list, as they are in my opinion among the leaders of the whole operatic, gothic, symphonic Metal scene. SECRET PASSION will solidify their position at the top of their class.
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