Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: Arrayan Path - Ira Imperium (2011)

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Ira Imperium

Arrayan Path - Ira Imperium
Cyprus outfit Arrayan Path (formerly Arryan Path) emerged onto the European power metal scene in 1999 after mainman Nicholas Leptos (Diptheria, Prodigal Earth) returned to his home country having finished his studies in America. Since then, Leptos' band has delivered two demos and two-full length albums of Iron Maiden-inspired heavy metal that have all met with predominantly positive reviews. Arrayan Path's third long player, Ira Imperium, comes only a year after the release of their sophomore effort and is a quality album that fans of crunchy power metal ala U.D.O. and Jag Panzer will want to investigate.

Though I've not had a lot of first-hand experience with Arrayan Path, I did have an opportunity to review To Wait For Fire, the debut album from Leptos' primary band Diptheria. The traditional metal riffage heard on that album also dominates Ira Imperium, with guitarists Alexis Kleidaras and Socrates Leptos (Nicholas' brother) looping together some finely crafted melodies and noteworthy solos to go along with the touches of symphonic orchestration that keyboardist George Kallis injects into the Arrayan Path sound. Although the synth elements are never far from the surface, they do take a back seat to the six-string mechanizations, making Ira Imperium an album for those who find the typical European power metal flair a bit too saccharine. Instead, the riffs (together with the strong beats of drummer Stefan Dittrich) propel the tracks along at a decent clip without losing a bit of weight. "Gnosis of Prometheus" provides a good illustration of the Arrayan Path style, with a basic chugging riff augmented by some swirling leads and a noodling solo. Here, as on just about every Ira Imperium track, there is plenty of well-coordinated variation to the riff patterns that keeps each song from stagnating.

Arrayan Path
In true Iron Maiden style, the lyrical content of Ira Imperium focuses mostly on historical and mythological subjects. From ancient Greek battles to medieval European monarchs, the subject matter is enhanced through the use of appropriate melodies and mood. "Kiss of Kali", for example, delivers some strong sub-continent melodies through the use of synthesized sitars and relevant twin-guitar leads. The menacing riffs and dark leads heard on "Katherine of Aragon" underscore the fateful story of Henry VIII's first wife, while Middle Eastern melodies highlight the story of Algerian Emir 'Abd al-Qādir's struggle against French colonialism on "Emir of the Faithful". For metalheads who like a bit of historical context to go along with galloping riffs and gang choruses, Ira Imperium has much to offer.

Another gritty element of the Arrayan Path sound is Nicholas Leptos' vocal style. Though he can, and does, nail the high notes from time to time, he spends the majority of his performance in the middle part of his range with frequent drops into lower octaves. This gives Ira Imperium added weight, and his use of a more typical power metal cadence on "Gnosis of Prometheus", the complimentary female vocals on "Katherine of Aragon" (courtesy of Natalie Kyprianou), and Middle Eastern harmonies on "Hollow eyes of Nefertiti" all work together to make the album an engaging listen from end to end. Lending a bit of old-school street cred to Ira Imperium is former Black Sabbath frontman Tony Martin, who lends his pipes to Arrayan Path on the album's title track.

With keyboards being an integral component of the European power metal formula, they are omnipresent on Ira Imperium but in a mostly subdued fashion. The majestic early moments of the album's lead track benefit from a lush symphonic orchestration, and "The Fall of Mardonius" is an album highlight due in part to Kallis' epic arrangements, but for the most part his keyboard activities are restricted to providing appropriate accents and catchy undertones. Fans of Rhapsody may be left unsatisfied by the lack of bombast, but those of us who want their power metal to punch rather than ruffle will find Ira Imperium to have just the right amount of keyboard presence.

Arrayan Path's third album is definitely a strong contribution to the power metal sub-genre and will appeal to a wide array of metal fans. It's solid, well-executed, intelligently written and skillfully arranged. Despite all that it is, Ira Imperium is not groundbreaking...but it doesn't need to be. If you like powerful power metal, you will like Ira Imperium.

Track Listing
1Dies Irae4:47
2Gnosis of Prometheus4:01
3Ira Imperium (The Damned)4:25
4Kiss of Kali4:14
5Katherine of Aragon6:36
677 Days til Doomsday4:31
7Emir of the Faithful5:45
8Hollow Eyes of Nefertiti6:05
10Lost Ithaca5:43
11I Sail Across the Seven Seas5:06
12The Fall of Mardonius6:40
13The Poet Aftermath4:24
Total Runtime1:05:59

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