Ukranian metallians Ignea have issued a mightily impressive debut album. After living with the record for a while I’m tempted to label them the finished article, though it’s doubtful any band is really ever that. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, with The Sign of Faith, Ignea have emerged into the marketplace fully-formed and ready to throw it down to the established symphonic/power metal giants.
Although that marketplace is a crowded one, this band has everything in place to make an assault at the very summit of modern metal; a charismatic frontlady (Helle Bogdanova) who also happens to possess the sort of voice that beguiles and intrigues the listener in equal parts, a muscular musical unit who have all the chops, and, most important, a point of difference.
That point of difference is Ignea’s ‘oriental metal’ sound. Sure, they do sound a bit – a lot – like Orphaned Land at times (Yossi Sassi even adds a Bouzouki solo to the excellent Petrichor), but that’s no bad thing in my book, with the key being that Ignea do what they do so well. Tracks like Alga simply have it all – melody, muscle, and that intriguing Middle Eastern whiff that sets them apart from the largely neoclassical pack. And the band’s transformation of a Euro pop hit – Ultra Sheriff’s Leviathan – into a crushing, power metal, um, Leviathan is a real revelation.
Bogdanova is the ace in the pack though; she’s a pocket powerhouse of absolutely top-drawer potential, at times sounding like a metallized Ofra Haza against the oriental backdrop of the music. She may be Ukrainian, but there’s a definite tang of the Holy Land about her vocals, which cut through the sometimes very heavy accompaniment with real class.
If I could think of a single negative, it would be that How I Hate the Night is more straightforward; It’s got a cinematic, epic feel heavily redolent of Tarja-era Nightwish or Dark Sarah, and thus, despite the fact that it’s actually quite spine-tingling, sits awkwardly with the rest of the material. However it’s also my fave track on the record, so maybe it’s inclusion was a masterstroke beyond the mental grasp of mere mortals like me and you should ignore my nit picking…
Whatever, and I’ve said this before recently in reviews of albums of this type, it’s getting increasingly difficult for bands trying their hand at this genre to get the recognition they might deserve, such is the sheer volume of white noise in the area; That Ignea effortlessly cut through that with power, passion and precision is a massive tribute to them. You’ll not hear better in this sphere in 2017, I guarantee it, which makes The Sign of Faith an essential purchase.
The Sign of Faith is out now.