IMPERA — Spirit of Alchemy (review)

IMPERA — Spirit of Alchemy album cover Album · 2021 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
This one caught my attention for the incredible line-up of musicians involved. Johan Kihlberg, the mastermind behind the project, has worked in the music business for over thirty years and collaborated with members of Kiss, Thin Lizzy, Europe, Rainbow and Mötley Crüe. The other musicians have equally illustrious careers. The rhythm section is comprised of bassist John Levén (Europe) and drummer Snowy Shaw (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Therion and countless others). Lars Chriss from Lion’s Share is the man behind the guitar fireworks, while Jonny Lindkvist (Nocturnal Rites) takes care of the vocals.

Given the band’s pedigree it will not be a total surprise to hear that Spirit of Alchemy, Impera’s sixth album, inhabits a musical territory somewhere between the proto-power metal of Rainbow and Dio, and the hard rock of bands like Whitesnake. Muscles and melodies go hand in hand from start to finish on this album. And while it’s nothing really ground-breaking, it’s a trick that never fails to amuse.

The other undeniable strength of the album are the outstanding performances of all musicians involved. Jonny Lindkvist’s voice is still in great shape. His delivery is gritty but soaring and full of melody. The best tracks of the album are driven by his excellent vocal lines, like “Nothing Will Last” and “All About You”. Lars Chriss’s solos are sharp as a knife and fast like a thunderbolt, and complement well Kihlberg's solid riffing. What’s more, Chriss always tries to give the solos a modern twist, instead of relying on more traditional classicisms. This makes his playing sound fresh and original, definitely one of the highlights of the record. The tight rhythm section also deserves praise, especially Snowy Shaw’s fast and explosive drumming. And check out that groovy bass lick on “In Heaven”!

On the less positive side, the album falls a bit flat in the songwriting department. Don’t get me wrong, there are some excellent tracks that are both catchy and headbangable (“Nothing Will Last”, “All About You”, “No”). But there are also a lot of moments where the album feels a bit humdrum (the tracks in the middle of the record, between “When Souls Collide” and “Lost You Life to Rock ’n’ Roll”). The lack of variation in the songs’ tempo and structure does not help either. There are a couple of instances where Kihlberg brings to life his love for bombastic soundtrack music (“Nothing Will Last”, “Battle”), which injects a much needed dose of originality into the music. However, these episodes are few and far in between. My ears crave for more moments like these, where Kihlberg plays it a little bit less safe and tries to bring something new to the table.

Spirit of Alchemy is nevertheless a solid album that is fuelled by excellent performances by musicians from the elite of the international hard rock / AOR / melodic metal scenes. Its nine songs are pleasant rockers that may not break any new ground, but are rich in hooks and momentum and should definitely appeal to those readers who are on the more melodic side of metal.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]
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