OK, to be honest, I’m a bit confused here. The band Impera issued three great melodic rock albums, 2012’s Legacy of Life, 2013’s Pieces of Eden and 2015’s Empire of Sin. Now we see drummer Johan Kihlberg‘s name attached above the Impera font for the forthcoming Age of Discovery. Due out February 23, 2018, thanks to AOR Heaven, this is not just a rebranding of Impera. The press release bills it as Johan Kihlberg‘s debut solo effort. So, basically, it’s an Impera album by the cover. If it was to be solo should it not be Johan Kihlberg‘s Age of Discovery and drop his Impera band name?
In any case, Age of Discovery stems out of a writing collaboration with guitarist/producer/mixer Lars Chriss from Lion’s Share. Alongside Kihlberg and Chriss the album sees 220Volt/Impera bassist Mats Vassfjord providing the basslines. Keys are handled by Kay Backlund (Lion’s Share) and Anders Rybank (Coastland Ride). Vocally, we see several different and known names lending their talents to Age of Discovery. The likes of Michael Sadler (Saga), Goran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen), Mick Devine (Seven), Nigel Bailey (Nigel Bailey), Nils Patrik Johansson (Lion’s Share), and Michael J. Scott. On one track, Mattias Eklundh (Freak Kitchen) serves up the guitar solo as well.
JOHAN KIHLBERG’S IMPERA – Age of Discovery (Album Review)
The album opens with a 34-second intro titled “Prelude”. Personally, I’m not a fan of those album intros at all, thankfully this one is shorter than many. We begin properly with “That’s the Way That Life Goes” for which the press release indicates the vocalist as Nils Patrik Johansson. This is a mid-paced rocker of a track easily fitting in with anything I’ve heard from Impera in the past. Fantastic track! The longest inclusion at over six minutes is “Fear”, also released in video format as seen below. The track showcases a more keyboard oriented flavor and finds Mick Devine and Johansson both delivering the voices. Again a mid-paced affair, evoking a Saga or Alan Parsons Project feeling until the bite of the chorus. The pace really switches up in the middle, assisting in creating the epic feel of “Fear”.
Michael J. Scott lends his voice to “Falling” with it’s lighter guitar verses and identifiable chorus. Pounding off the starting line, “The End of the Road” features Mick Devine taking over mic duties once again. An upbeat thumper with some wicked guitar work throughout. Taking his turn, we find Goran Edman showcased on “Just a Conversation” which has me thinking 80s pop with its keyboard beginnings. We find “The Right Stuff” with Nigel Bailey on vocals for the more uptempo rocker. One of Kihlberg‘s all-time favorite singers, Saga‘s Michael Sadler appears on “Why Does She Care”.
Mick Devine turns in his third performance on “I Am I” which also features Freak Kitchen‘s Mattias Eklundh supplying an engaging guitar solo. We close out the adventure with “It’s a Revolution” witnessing Nigel Bailey‘s return.
Final Words on JOHAN KIHLBERG’S IMPERA – Age of Discovery
The first run through or two, I wasn’t quite getting Age of Discovery at all. Listen after listen, however, it kept drawing me back. Now, it’s got its hooks in deep! It’s definitely a wider range of musical style than we’ve seen from Impera. Which is again confusing having that moniker prominently on the cover. Sometimes a project using so many different vocalists can seem disjointed and hard to identify with. Not here, as once I “got it” everything flows perfectly. Tons of masterful guitar work supplied by Lars Chriss is stamped all over the record as well.
All that said, Johan Kihlberg’s Impera – Age of Discovery is an awesome Melodic Hard Rock album.