Ignea – Dreams of Lands Unseen

I first heard Ignea with 2020’s The Realms of Fire and Death, and so much has changed for this Ukrainian band since that time.  I think that goes without saying.  Through all of that, the band has managed to produce a new album, Dreams of Lands Unseen, and I think it is their best one yet.  The album releases today, April 28th, through Napalm Records.

There’s just something about this band that feels right.  Their energy and their character are prominent and undeniable.  The current lineup includes Helle Bohdanova on vocals, Yevhenii Zhytniuk on keys, Dmytro Vinnichenko on guitar, Oleksandr Kamyshyn on bass, and Ivan Kholmohorov on drums.

The band plays music at the crossroads of progressive, symphonic, and death metal.  You can clearly hear all three subgenres in their work.  So, that means the music is complex and full of transitions and interesting song structures, but also injected with orchestrations, blackened riffs, and a mix of harsh and clean vox.  Yet, the band really seems to know melody and harmony.

But I’ll tell you why this album is different than their past work.  First, the balance of Helle’s vocals tips towards clean this time, which I appreciate.  I like that because her voice is really good, and, hoping this doesn’t come across as not “metal” enough, her voice often reminds me of Karen Carpenter with that filmic, golden timbre.  I’m not saying she sounds like Karen, just that she shares that golden magic, especially in how she holds notes. I’m glad she can display that more on this record.

The album is also deeply distinct in the various instruments it uses.  Some back story is necessary here.  This is a concept album about Ukrainian photographer Sofia Yablonska; she travelled the world documenting tribes and native peoples.  Because of this, the album visits various folk sounds from Asia, from the Middle East to China.  You’ll hear plenty of interesting instruments in the stringed and woodwind variety; I can’t name them all, though I recognize the Chinese pipa on some later tracks.

It’s more than that, though.  You can’t just throw novelty instruments into an album and call it a day.  The band has obviously worked tirelessly to frame the entire album in a pleasing and exciting way.  Yes, there are absolutely monster riffs and grooves that are fantastic.  But there are also deeply entrenched melodies and even oddities that give the music flavor and spice.  Yevhenii’s keys are a big part of this, from sweeping and epic ideas to delicate touches that really make a song come alive.  Helle sings in these world melodies, too, creating a contrast with her harsh vox that is invigorating and downright cool.

Dreams of Lands Unseen has ten tracks, and I think both halves are equally good.  The first half has some terrific tracks, like the single “Dunes” and its epic intro “Téoura”: I love the mournful tone and the direct metallic assault and how those two ideas mix.  You will be forgiven for thinking of Myrath here.  But then comes “Camera Obscura”, another groovy-as-hell offering with gritty electronica and a dark fire to it.  “Далекі Обрії” comes next, being sung in the band’s native tongue, and yet being intensely catchy for me still.  “To No One I Owe” ends the first half with one of my favorites; Helle’s vocals on this track are reflective and full of personality and color.  Even though it is something of a slower track, it really delivers.

The second half keeps up the pace.  I have to say that I love how “To No One I Owe” ends with such dark fervor, but “Incurable Disease” opens with such an innocent and bright tone.  The contrast is so satisfying.  The song, too, being named after disease, is strangely gleaming and pure, and has some of the best melodies and keys on the album.  I love it.  “Nomad’s Luck” comes next with a thick Asian melody at its core, but plenty of power and riff in its blood, too. That one is easy to sing along to, no matter where I am.

The final three tracks are so good.  “The Golden Shell” might be my favorite overall.  I love how Chinese and upbeat it is, and it delivers on being a catchy, rhythmic piece that is so memorable.  It feels rich and storied.  “Opiumist” features Tuomas Saukkonen on harsh vox, and thus it is a darker, heavier piece, mostly in the second part. It gives us the last dose of darkness.  The closer “Zénith” is also sung in the band’s language, but it is also one of my favorites.  It has a lumbering sort of gait that instantly grabs me, and the subtle keyboard touches enliven and elevate it so much. It is such a pleasant and sugary ending.

Ignea are stronger than ever.  Dreams of Lands Unseen has luxurious storytelling, global character, and a haunting metal foundation that all work together seamlessly.  Helle’s lays down some of the best vocals of the year, and each musician does their part to make this something special.  This is definitely one of my favorite albums so far in 2023.


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