Johan Kihlberg’s Impera – Spirit of Alchemy (Metalville)Thursday, 22nd April 2021
The brainchild of drummer Johan Kihlberg, his version of Impera on this record Spirit of Alchemy contains some veteran professionals well-established for their abilities in the melodic hard rock and metal scene. Hailing from Sweden with thirty plus years of experience, he felt the need to create a heavier record and grab players from acts like Lion’s Share, Nocturnal Rites, Europe, and King Diamond to fill out his songwriting and performance needs. You can expect a great mix of European-oriented songs that straddle the lines of melodic hard rock and heavy metal – nine tracks that make toes tap, hands clap, and encourage easy audience engagement.
Embracing a focused sound that keeps commercialized musical and vocal hooks at the helm to branch out into fiery solos and solid fill mechanics, you can feel everything from 80’s-era Ozzy to Fifth Angel, as well as German textures from the 90’s like Glenmore or Letter X when you navigate from track to track. Bassist Pontus Egberg (King Diamond) adds his flair for bottom end progression in a UFO-like “Lights Out” manner for “In Heaven”, while cinematic keyboards set the stage for opener “Nothing Will Last” – a solid double bass melodic metal outing where you can appreciate the glorious range of Jonny Lindkvist (Nocturnal Rites) along with the versatile bluesy/power chops of guitarist Lars Chriss (Lion’s Share). Hitting the heart of the earworms early and building off them in a classic, driving metal template gives “What Will Be Will Be” and “Read It and Weep” spotlight angles, incorporating aspects of classic Judas Priest and Accept with strong melodic hard rock components that put an act like Dokken in the major leagues during the 1980’s. Closing effort “Battle” delves a bit into Johan’s passion for atmospheric movie soundtracks, featuring a number of piano/keyboard layers that are broad in scope while containing progressive and classical textures.
Probably appeasing more of the overseas crowd versus the North American sector that tends to skew in an older demographic for this style, Johan Kihlberg’s Impera will find its fair share of appeal – because the songs are catchy, and the musicians pour their passion into this material to come out strong in the long run. Spirit of Alchemy could be that hidden gem in the first part of 2021.