Ignea – Dreams of Lands Unseen
Release Date: 28/04/23
Running Time: 45:00
Review by Rory Bentley
Ukrainian Symphonic Death Metal crew Ignea have just dropped one of the nicest surprises of the year with “Dreams of Lands Unseen”. I initially picked this one up in the quieter period of releases before everything went absolutely crazy and I have to say I really appreciated the extra time I got with this before I filled my inbox with a shitload of Extreme filth. Despite being Captain Hardcore I know my way around a bit of the old Symphonic Metal so I picked this one up hoping for a solid bit of overblown fun before Nightwish or Epica release something. What I got was a really well-crafted, distinctive and creatively fulfilling listen.
Rather than some fantastical guff about mermaids or pharos or whatever, the album focuses on the inspiring and fascinating real life story of Ukrainian photographer and documentarian Sofia Yoblanska, who travelled solo to the furthest corners of the earth to study native tribes and cultures during the early part of the twentieth century, fearlessly facing the great unknown and a restrictive patriarchal society in the name of discovery. Aside from singer Helle Bohdanova’s evocative lyrics, which really place the listener into the mind of the protagonist, the album incorporates a multitude of exotic instruments and musical styles as Sofia journeys from country to country. This is how you do a concept album, Veonity!
A Symphonic band really does live and die by the quality of its lead singer and in Helle Ignea have an incredibly powerful asset. Not only is she capable of producing throat shredding growls and shrieks, such as the muscular opener ‘Dunes’, but the has a crystalline clarity to her clean vocals that is perfect for storytelling, capable of putting emotion into the story without the overblown theatrics of many singers in this lane. ‘To No One I Owe’ is a particularly pleasing performance, spanning light, playful vocals and defiant swagger to express Sofia’s free-spirited attitude to life, as she flits between English and Ukrainian bolstered by some thick nasty riffage and Moroccan folk flourishes.
The real life danger Sofia faced is explored incredibly effectively in ‘Nomad’s Luck’ where nimble eastern rhythms collide with muscular riffs and savage vocals before segueing seamlessly into a lilting chorus that’s asks “How many moonlights will I last pushing Nomad’s Luck, Embracing thousand lives, Dancing on delicate ice?”. The song wraps up with savage blast beats as our hero decides that the risk is worth the reward. It really is magnificent storytelling.
Another highlight is the oriental-sounding ‘The Golden Shell’ as the story takes us to China. The defiance of previous tracks is replaced by a moving philosophical take on the fleeting nature of life and the importance of taking in and cherishing new experiences. I honestly get a little choked up listening to this one as it really hits home that all we have is now and after a rough couple of years it’s an ethos that I’ve really embraced and I feel so much better for it. The sound of crashing waves and seagulls at the end also hits me right in the feels for some reason!
The album finishes strongly on ‘The Opiumist’ and the Ukrainian sung ‘Zénith’ which end things on a triumphant note and maintain admirable intensity with some of the record’s most satisfyingly meaty riffage. 45 minutes absolutely fly by every time I put this thing on, with the only major area for improvement maybe being a higher production budget next time. If the band had Epica levels of money to throw at these songs they have the potential to sound absolutely massive, but as it stands they do an admirable job with what they have to work with.
“Dream of Lands Unseen” is a really strong effort from Ignea and they show a level of compositional and storytelling mastery that much bigger bands than them could learn a thing or two from. Like Sofia Yoblanska I can’t wait to see where their next adventure takes them.
‘Incurable Disease’ Official Video
03. Camera Obscura
04. Далекі Обрії
05. To No One I Owe
06. Incurable Disease
07. Nomad’s Luck
08. The Golden Shell
Helle Bohdanova – vocals
Yevhenii Zhytniuk – keys
Dmytro Vinnichenko – guitars
Oleksandr Kamyshyn – bass guitars
Ivan Kholmohorov – drums
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rory Bentley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.