Ignea — The Realms of Fire and Death (2020)

The history of this unconventional Ukrainian ensemble began back in 2011 with the forming of Parallax. 2013 saw the band renaming to Ignea and releasing their "Sputnik" EP. 2017 became the year when the "The Sign of Faith" was out, and this year the Kyiv quintet led by Helle Bogdanova finally presents us with their conceptual longplay with a solid instrumental base and oriental-sounding melodies, as well as lyrical and sometimes brutal vocals organically woven into this groundwork.

To begin with, this release is a conceptual and to some extent a mythology based one, which I will later explain why. As far as the concept is concerned, the band even picked a 1865-year-old book font, so the visual side is all thought-out. The release is to be accompanied by a book of lyrics explaining the LP concept and its metaphors. As far as the melodic part is concerned, it is diversified with synths and many different electronic effects, marking a shift away from the symphonism we could hear on the band`s previous releases (one could remember "Alga", recorded with a symphonic orchestra).

The release has three parts, three songs each. The first trilogy is: "Queen Dies", "Чорне Полум’я" ("Chorne Polumia") and "Out of My Head". There is, as the story goes, some kingdom, whose Queen hears a sorcerer`s prophecy that she is to be killed by a twin. She starts a massacre to protect herself from an unpleasant surprise which death is. The Queen spirit in her dies ("Queen Dies"), all the fake an illusionary burns away in the black flame. The end of the trilogy sees the battle between the Queen and the Demon: they both die, and the Queen`s spirit becomes the protector of the land, sending pure rain as salvation, if suddenly there starts a fire on these lands.

As far as the musical part is concerned, it all begins with the powerful yet melodic track "Queen Dies", to which there is a previously released video. The track sets the tone for the album, with it slowly picking up speed. "Chorne Polumia" is a track with the lyrics in Ukrainian, and here is where all the frenzy begins, combined with melodiousness and all the synth "zests", though. The frenzy goes on in the "Out of My Head" still. It is a powerful and a catchy track, catchy in a way that despite the title it`s not meant to easily get out of your head once you hear it. The catchiness is understood right away from the start with those frantically pulsating bass and drums. The verse begins with Helle's melodic vocal line, with her then aptly jumping over to the brutal grooves in the chorus, causing a sweetly pulsating electricity under the skin. Not to say about the magically modulating synths. But this short melodic synth break is not for long, as later we return into the realm of distorted riffs and a crushing rhythm section.

Next trilogy is: "I Tokuni", with the lyrics written in Faroese (!), "Too Late to Be Born" and "What For". The atmospheric "I Tokuni" (a cover version to a song by Eivør Pálsdóttir`s) is something between a spell or a broken soul`s confession, a soul lost between the two worlds. Indeed, if we look into the booklet of short stories accompanying the record, it will become clear that "I Tokuni" is a song sung by the soul of the dead Queen lost between the world of the living and the world of the dead. "Too Late to Be Born” is the heaviest song on the album. Here is the story of a man who became struck by the death of his wife (the Queen) and lost his mind, entangled in his own personalities and eventually burned away in the flames that were eating him up from the inside. "What For” is an acoustic folk ballad, a short and melodic break from blast beats and overloaded instruments. It is the story told by the sister of the deceased King, who cannot understand why her brother had made such sacrifices and left his own kingdom, choosing not quite the right time for it.

IGNEA promo photo

The third part of the epic ("Gods of Fire" + "Jinnslammer" + "Disenchantment") begins with the history of fire creation. We are presented with the story the times of darkness and cold embracing the world, and the humanity being yet ignorant about the fire. Later, receiving it through stubborn prayers, humans disgraced the flame`s sacred power, turning everything into a farce and suffering from own vices, the greatest of which are stupidity and greed.

Ancient people`s prayers to the gods to give them fire were heard, but having received the fire people began fighting like dumb sheep, making a rebellion, while a stoolie ("Jinnslammer") pitting them against each other, thus checking the human tribe. Pleasant as it is, the rebellion certainly made human race succumb to their own fury and the ghostly hopes of victory over the gods, destroying each other. The gods of fire leave the earth in frustration and disenchantment ("Disenchantment"). The final track is like a "filmic" summary of the entire album, not only because of the previously released video briefly outlining the whole album concept (the myth of the origin and then, loss of fire), but also because of it being – in a good way – epic. "Disenchantment" could easily become a soundtrack to some fantasy or even historical film. By the way, the animation to "Disenchantment" was brilliantly created by a talented artist and the band`s long-time director Maria Goruleva.

One might call the longplay a mythology- and to some extent archetype-based one, as it can be fully considered an evolution and, alas, degradation history (but the decline seems inevitable as it undeniably follows the flourishing). The history of humans who, having found the divine gift (fire), can only disgrace it and rest satisfied with a surrogate (artificial lighting instead of pure fire), completely ignoring the fact of degrading and going the downward path. It may as well be an allusion to the modern world, in which we, while evolving in a technical field and learning how to make artificial substitutes for anything, have at the same time stopped noticing that even our emotions have grown disguised and artificial, and virtual life has become a surrogate of the real life, substituting face time. The fire went out and people lost their deep connection with nature, stopped being a part of it. From the Realms of Fire we have unfortunately got into the Realms of Death, slowly and insensibly, but quite naturally.

Rejecting all the gloomy metaphysics, "The Realms of Fire and Death" is a good choice for getting familiar with the genre of symphonic metal (while the band still tends to symphonism), and – if you are already in the know – for simply falling out of time and space and plunging into the epic narrative, at least as far as these ten songs are concerned. It is a powerful product that will confidently hit its stride and get on the shelves of many of the genre`s fansу.

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1. Queen Dies
2. Чорне Полум’я (Chorne Polumia)
3. Out of My Head
4. Í Tokuni (Eivør Cover)
5. Too Late to Be Born
6. What For
7. Gods of Fire
8. Jinnslammer
9. Disenchantment
10. Black Flame (Bonus)