Imperial Age - The Legacy Of Atlantis - (9/10)
Published on June 15, 2019
Originally conceived as a one-man solo project with a sizable ensemble of guest performers by former relevance keyboardist and vocalist Alexander Osipov (aka “Aor”), Imperial Age quickly turned into something much more significant in a relatively short amount of time, no doubt owing to the strong songwriting and highly original character of its debut LP Turn The Sun Off!. Though it would take some time for a stable lineup to emerge, by 2016 this outfit had already gained the interest of Therion founder Christofer Johnsson and secured the support of his independent label Adulruna for a revamped version of their 2014 EP Warrior Race, which enjoyed several prominent guest musicians and vocalists and paved the way for loftier horizons. Two years to the day, one of those horizons has been met with the unleashing of their sophomore LP The Legacy Of Atlantis. As if the astoundingly beautiful album art that graces the cover were not indication enough, the resulting sound of this conceptual story of historical fiction is a colossal one, drawing from the same familiar sources as those that shaped the debut, but presented in a more orderly and potent fashion.
As with any symphonic affair, the atmosphere established here is of a highly theatrical/cinematic character, but in this particular case the execution is far more nuanced and measured than the high-impact affair that one might expect from a typical Rhapsody (Of Fire) offering. To be clear, Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli’s signature collaborative sound has a strong influence on the bombastic, driving metallic feel that often adorns these songs, but there is just as much of an influence from the more restrained speed and orchestra-dominated demeanor of Nightwish and early Epica, if not more so when considering the less frenetic anthems that populate the lion’s share of the album. Similarly, the technical level of the guitar and drum work fits in more with the typical Kamelot album, with guitar solos being an infrequent occurrence that usually manifests as an extension of the melodic content, whereas the rhythm section is tight and precise, with the bass work of guest bassist of Therion-fame Nalle Påhlsson being a bit more active than usual for the style and carries a raunchy, distorted character similar to Marco Hietala’s work with Nightwish. The true point of uniqueness is the dramatic tenor (bordering on baritone) operatic performance of Aor, owing most likely to his dark metal past informing his performance, which gives things a somewhat less metallic and more Neo-classical flavor.
In contrast to the debut album, which was a consistent effort song for song but had some pacing issues due to the opening song being the longest and most ambitious one of the collective whole, this opus presents a collection of nine mid-length anthems of roughly equal ambitiousness. The pacing here has more of a gradual crescendo effect, as one song is a bit more involved than the next, and the tempo tends to rest in slower territory until the last three songs. Of particular interest on the early end of this album’s duration is a highly enthralling title song in “The Legacy Of Atlantis” that has all the hooks and familiar melodic motives to rope in any power metal fan, but mostly coasts at a slow gallop comparable to a number of heavy metal anthems drawing influence from Black Sabbath’s “Heaven And Hell” or Dio’s “Holy Diver”. The back and forth between serene orchestral breaks with a crooning angelic soprano and a more driving fanfare chorus with guitars blazing of “The Monastery”, alongside the dramatic, military-like march of “Domini Canes” with an equally infectious melodic scheme are other high points of this album’s long stroll through mid-tempo land. It isn’t until the entry of “The Escape” that things truly pick up speed like a gradual move from a slow march to a full on battle charge, and then onto a full fledged Rhapsody-like chaotic romp at the album’s conclusion in “And I Shall Find My Home”, which closes things with an explosion and falls just short of being mistaken for an Ancient Bards song.
On the one hand, it’s understandable why this band doesn’t officially qualify as a symphonic power metal band, as the overall vibe of this album is possessed of a strong Gothic character due to Aor’s vocal style and the generally mellow character of the majority of the album, putting it far closer to Therion territory than that of Fairyland or Rhapsody. Then again, the minute the tempo gets kicked into overdrive, those are the bands that would most quickly pop into anyone’s head who might hear any of the three closing songs found on here. It’s sort of an intricate balancing act between full on impact-based metallic thunder and a more atmospheric, measured take on things that is more often associated with an increasing number of female fronted symphonic outfits of late. But the stylistic mechanics of this album aside, it’s pretty well established that Imperial Age is the sort of band that is primed for the stage, to the point of being able to hold their own among an admittedly crowded field. It should also sit well with those captivated by the ongoing craze with ensemble projects after the Avantasia model such as Aldaria, Marius Danielsen’s Legend Of Valley Doom and Ancestral Dawn. Those who like their metal to be massive, yet also melodic and pristine, will find very little to complain about after 48 minutes with this symphonic audio tale.