Dark Paradise

Dark Paradise is the seventh full-length studio album from superb international symphonic metal band IMPERIA, who in my opinion are one of the very best bands from what is probably the natural home of this beautiful genre of music. IMPERIA always deliver with precision, passion and guile in everything they do, but with vocalist Helena Iren Michaelsen at the helm they also have that added sprinkle of stardust quality to make them stand out from the crowd.

Helena Iren Michaelsen’s vocals not only have depth, strength and power but also at times show a much rarer element of fragility and sorrow that can move the listener to tears (believe me I know, as I have shed a few over the years listening to this superb band). For me this is what makes IMPERIA a truly special band with a longlasting and endearing place in my heart.

I would break Dark Paradise down into four distinct threads or themes with each component being composed of two or three individual songs along with a standalone finale.

Starting with the up to date and more modern metal sound there are high tempo tracks like Better Place and Reflection where electronic sounds, rip roaring guitar playing and powerhouse vocals are very much the order of the day. This echoes a slight change in direction for IMPERIA but is very much on point with the current trend in metal music and their contemporaries.

Polar opposite there are more traditional symphonic metal styles at work in songs like The Family Chain, The Tree Of Life and Void Of Emptiness where the detailed storytelling, arrangements and compositions are of more epic proportions. I absolutely love the witchy style vocals inVoid Of Emptiness which is just one of several outstanding moments in this superb album for me.

Reach My Tears and Soldiers Of Hell are much darker and heavier songs where a more traditional and folk influence are at play. Both western and middle eastern styles are at work here to create an authentic rural, rustic and tribal sound. The big bonus is that Helena Iren Michaelsen also provides some additional brutal vocals into the mix to give these songs a bit more credence and bite as well as to fully demonstrate her extensive range of scope and versatility.

Thought-provoking tunes like Hope Of Joy and Lost Souls will also surely pull on your heart strings as they did mine. These tearjerkers are delivered at a much softer and gentler pace with emotionally supercharged vocals bringing the moisture streaming to your eyes. A stirring guitar solo in the former and a sorrowful Spanish guitar opening to the latter further enhance the mood of the opposing forces of light and darkness. I hope you will agree that these are two of the very best roller coaster moments on the album!

Dark Paradise then closes out in true cinematic style with The Demons’ Fireplace where contrasting deeper and higher operatic style vocals give the impression of a big stage musical production and bring the curtains down with a very fitting finale! I’m up for an encore, how about you?

Peeling back the layers of Dark Paradise was not only a real treat for my ears but it was also cleansing for my soul too. I’m sure you will feel the same way too after checking out one of the must have symphonic metal albums of the year so far! IMPERIA are simply on fire at the moment and with Dark Paradise they have certainly cemented their place at the very pinnacle of the symphonic metal tree. Very highly recommended.

Mark Waight