Since this site’s formation a bit over a year ago, we’ve only put out a few album reviews, so with that precedent, it takes a significantly impactful release for us to consider adding to that meager handful. With that being said, it’s implied that Ignea is certainly a band with enough musical merit to deserve a thoughtful write-up.
A couple years ago, I was truly mesmerized upon discovering them through their single “Queen Dies.” With an oriental folk metal fusion approach alike Orphaned Land presented in a more modern progressive metalcore-like production and songwriting framework, I was instantly hooked. As the years went by, I impatiently awaited for more material and was very pleased with the announcement of The Realms of Fire and Death. The LP is a concept record divided into three chapters, each containing three songs that unveil an epic tale.
Starting off the album’s story is the aforementioned “Queen Dies,” which now holds re-recorded guitars and was remastered for the album compared to the original single version. Diving more in depth with the song, eastern instrumentation and melodies allow for the composition to stand out, yet once the duality of Helle Bogdanova’s vocals surface, it’s impossible not to have this track on repeat. I can only imagine plenty of comparisons will be made to Jinjer, who are also a Ukraine-based progressive act with a female singer. While I can understand connecting dots from those similarities, I’d argue that Ignea‘s musical range expands a bit farther down different paths. The last notable element regarding this piece is apparently it is heavily influenced by Behemoth‘s The Satanist, which you can absolutely hear the parallels to “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” in the verse riff.
“Чорне Полум’я” (pronounced ‘chorne polumia’) continues the first chapter with a more straight forward proggy, folk metal style topped with Ukranian vocals. However, if you’re more keen on following the story, you may skip to the bonus track “Black Flame” for an English translation. The whirring synths glimmering in the background of the chorus are a nice touch, but the breakdown is where shit really pops off. If you’re craving a juicy djent stomper, look no further than the three and a half minute mark. Fists and shoes are going to go flying in the pit once that drops live. Up next is “Out of My Head” where we see djent and nu metal colliding as if Disturbed‘s David Draiman and Meshugaah‘s Jens Kidman bonked their bald heads together to create a cohesive and delightfully heavy track.
To begin the second chapter, we see the band covering singer-songwriter Eivør‘s “Í Tokuni” in Faroese as well as the inclusion of some throat singing. Although it’s not my favorite track on the release, the band’s ability to transform a folk pop song with a different language into a bombastic metal banger is undeniably commendable. On the other hand, “Too Late to Be Born” was up my alley with a surprisingly successful blackened death metal execution. If you too were moved by this track, I’d suggest Vintersea, who are stylistically similar to what was displayed on this piece. I’m a big supporter of dynamic contrasts, so when the album transitioned from the most extreme composition to an acoustic track, I was pulled further into a state of admiration. “What For” showcases Ignea‘s softer side as the Spanish flamenco guitar and light percussion perfectly conclude the second chapter.
“Gods of Fire” commences our final chapter of the album with some melodic and groove-laden death metal. It’s not exactly the most gripping track on here, but the keyboard ditty halfway through makes up for that. The pace picks up more on “Jinnslammer,” a dynamic headbang-inducing track that again properly exhibits the duality of Helle’s lush, clean vocals and growls as well as another keyboard solo followed by a guitar solo. The closer “Disenchantment” is on par quality-wise to the opening track “Queen Dies” in regards to soaring orchestration that perfectly accentuates the balance of heaviness and melody.
While divided into three chapters, the album still is able to excel through both variety and consistency across all nine tracks. Some songs may suffer from repetitiveness, but Ignea‘s innovative inclusion of many subgenres guarantees never a dull moment. The band’s stylistic foundation holds most closely to prog and folk metal, however there are elements of black metal, djent, symphonic metal, electronic and industrial music, death metal, and various ethnic influences. Atop the diversity and powerful songwriting sits perhaps the most compelling aspect of the record, the soaring melodies and shockingly impressive duality of the vocals, which not only accents the music, but proves to stand out as a force to be reckoned with. All in all, The Realms of Fire and Death is absolutely deserving of praise and will definitely be on our mind when it comes to our favorite releases of the year.