Review Summary: An imposing concept album, flawed but still glorious in many places.
Ambition is an intriguing element of many artists’ approach to music. Attempts to create a grand masterpiece, something that has never been done before, have resulted in some of the finest musical creations, as well as bloated albums that are virtually impossible to sit through. German band Imperious is evidently no stranger to musical ambition, given that their second album is an attempt to recreate Homer’s ancient epic The Odyssey in an extreme metal format. Everything about the release reveals the enormous scope of the band’s vision: the grandiose album title (Tales Of Woe- The Journey Of Odysseus- Part I: From Ilion To Hades, which was too long for the Sputnik database), the equally lengthy and grandiose song titles, not to mention the lyrics entirely retelling one of the most legendary stories in Western civilization. While Imperious falls prey here to some of the common pitfalls of overly-ambitious concept albums, this release nonetheless has some truly fantastic moments, and is likely worth a listen for any metal fan who enjoys the incorporation of majestic ideas into music.
Imperious are a band with a clear interest in ancient themes, given their first album, Varus, was an exploration of Roman imperial history. With their second release, however, the band has evidently decided to raise the bar even higher. As the immense album title suggests, here the band covers the initial stages of The Odyssey, with a future release presumed to cover the second half of the epic tale.
This concept album is comprised of a variety of tracks, ranging from numerous short interludes to very lengthy extreme metal songs. The opener, “At The Shores Of Ilion”, is a synth-heavy track with spoken word vocals, detailing the beginning of The Odyssey. There is no denying the overwhelming cheesiness of this, and many may well argue that the album should have begun in a different manner. Nonetheless, a certain level of pomposity must be expected with this sort of release, and Imperious soon leads listeners to more exciting territory. Second track “To Abjure Temptation” abruptly releases pummeling black metal, and stands as one of the best songs present. It also reveals the predominant musical style of the album: black metal with symphonic elements, combined some death metal influence and very progressive themes. Most of the tracks are quite strong, although some do not particularly stand out on their own. The high point of the album is undoubtedly “Insidious Winds”, which clocks in at nearly fifteen minutes in length. The song is an absolute tour-de-force of metallic grandiosity, with a forbidding intro progressing into heavy black/death metal, including progressive segments incorporating female backing vocals. As a borderline brilliant track, “Insidious Winds” both showcases the periodic greatness of this album, and offers hope that Imperious will create a true masterpiece release in the future. This is not to completely diminish the strength of some other songs here, however. “The Sharpened Pale”, which mixes shrieks and growls with clean vocals, is excellent and tells the story of Odysseus’ conflict with, and ultimate blinding of, the Cyclops. In addition, the sprawling closing track, “Where Cimmerian Darkness Dwells”, ends the album on a fittingly epic note.
There is no doubt that Imperious’ sophomore album has substantial flaws. Foremost among these are an occasional excess of cheesiness, and songs that on occasion drag on too long without much variation. These complaints are probably not surprising, given that they are common issues which arise when an artist attempts to craft an expansive concept album. Even with these notable weaknesses, though, Tales Of Woe… remains an intriguing and generally enjoyable listen. This release is worth checking out simply for its gigantically-ambitious concept, and beyond that, metal fans will probably find things to like here.