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Imperium: Beyond The Stars

No other genre of music is more awash with ‘the project’ than AOR. Countless collaborations, studio bands and label-mate partnerships flooding the melodic rock market every year. With a name like AOR Heaven, you know this label have had their fair share of these releases in the past and they will again. If they’re all as good as Beyond The Stars by Imperium, then keep ‘em coming!

Formed round Strike drummer Mika Brushane, the sticksman (who also provides bass and keyboards), realised that he was writing more songs than his main band could ever need, and back in 2012 released the Dreamhunter album under the ‘band’ name Imperium. It may have taken a further six years for the stockpile of songs to grow once more, but now, with Beyond The Stars, Imperium are back with album number two. With a gaggle of guitarists (Erkka Korhonen, Samuli Federley and Toni Huovinen) in tow, Brushane is headed for the late 70s and early 80s once more with some AOR that’s unashamed to hang its hat on a classic sound from years gone by. Bright, bold and with a cheesy grin plastered on its face, Beyond The Stars is a slick slice of surging keys and biting guitars.

Four different vocalists turn up to make these AOR dreams a reality, Dennis Ward, who’s probably better known as a producer and bassist, the powerful lungs behind the storming title track and soaring “King Of The World”. Possessing a strong and thoroughly believable voice, the Pink Cream 69 man makes you wonder why we haven’t heard much more from him behind the mic. Antti Railio then turns up for the mid-paced heart tug of “Just A Dream”, his refined vocal approach also perfect for the uplifting “Learning How To Fly”, where the keyboard melodies spark expertly against a subtly grinding guitar.

The crowning glory of the album is “World On Fire”, making it unfortunate that it’s vocalist Rob Lundgren’s only appearance, his slightly grittier tone the ideal vehicle for this more metallic and progressive take on the melodic rock heard across the rest of this album. Almost as catchy as a baseball mitt, this song has lived with me long after Beyond The Stars has stopped spinning (or whatever the digital equivalent is). Leaving the remaining five cuts to be fronted by Markku Kuikka, who does an admirable job with the brooding “All Alone” and hook laden pop of “Spread Your Wings”. Although he’s also lumbered with the album’s only real slip in class, “Back In ‘85” a slightly cringe inducing reminisce about all the things Brushane dreamed he was going to achieve with his music back in the day. With the sentiment ladled on a bit thick (even by AOR standards) and a melody line that you see coming a mile off, it’s still a decent enough five minutes of bouncing beats, but with the standard so high elsewhere, it was always going to come off second best.

Doubtless many will tell you that Beyond The Stars is by numbers, run of the mill melodic rock that’s been done countless times before and yes, if you like this sort of stuff then there’s a good chance your collection is bursting at the seams with releases like this one. However, a good song is a good song and when you gather together a collection of them they make a good album. Imperium won’t change your world, but they’ll sure as hell make it a brighter, happier place.

Track Listing
1. Beyond The Stars
2. Crash And Burn
3. Learning How To Fly
4. Spread Your Wings
5. Back In '85
6. King Of The World
7. All Alone
8. World On Fire
9. Just A Dream
10. Higher

Added: July 24th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Beyond The Stars @ AOR Heaven
Hits: 1055
Language: english

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