Salamandra – Imperatus
Reviewed By Kevin Hathaway
I hardly ever delete music from my computer, but this year has seen me do it three times already. The first was for Edguy’s Space Police – Defenders Of The Crown, which I couldn’t even get four tracks into before wanting to projectile vomit, the second for Pentakill’s Smite & Ignite, which somehow made me feel ripped-off for something that was offered for free, and now I’m deleting Salamandra’s Imperatus since I am done reviewing it and never want to hear it or be reminded of its existence for as long as I live. Just for the record, I still have several albums on my computer that I think of as poor.
Where do I begin with this? First of all, I had never even heard of Salamandra before Dan plopped it onto my virtual desk and said “Have a go at it!” I thought I had, but I think I was confusing them with a Spanish band. So I looked more into them and apparently, Salamandra has somehow been at this for over 15 years and has 5 other albums under its belt. 15 years! No way in hell was I going to listen to all that just to get an idea of what I was getting into, so I just heard a few random songs on Youtube. All the ones I picked were plodding bores with abysmal keyboard fanfares and horrendous vocals, the kind of vocals that give power metal naysayers a legitimate reason to hate the genre. I gulped, hard enough that everyone around my virtual cubicle looked at me funny before going back to play solitaire (or go to ProgPower, those lucky ducks). I was nervous now. What had I gotten into? Did those chance selections really represent the whole of the band’s discography? Was it possible that Salamandra had remedied past issues for their sixth album, Imperatus? Based on the first paragraph, I think you all know what the answer is.
After the pointless two minute intro (because really, what is a power metal album without one?) the title track kicks things off: a six-and-a-half minute plodding bore with abysmal keyboard fanfares and horrendous vocals. “This is NOT how you start off an album!” I cried to a thankfully empty virtual office. “This is so lifeless and dull and doesn’t get me enthusiastic about the rest of the album at all! Why would they pick this song to open with?! Even the choir sounds bored to be here!” The next track rolled along as the virtual janitor walked by. “Geez, when did Freedom Call start sucking again?” he inquired, and went back to doing virtual janitorial stuff. I was about to inform him that this was not Freedom Call and to never speak such blasphemy again, but I stopped and listened. This track, “Ancient Echoes,” did sound a lot like Freedom Call. That wasn’t?… No! It was! Salamandra somehow convinced Chris Bay to do a guest spot on this uninspired tripe that wouldn’t have even made it as a Dimensions B-side!
I’m trying to find positive points so I don’t sound like a complete negative Nancy. I try to do that with even the most banal of albums. But there literally nothing nice I can think of to say about this album. Not one aspect, not one song grabbed my interest and made me say “Well, this album still sucks, but at least that was kinda cool.” The singer, Jan Bernatek, sounds like what Nils K. Rue would sound like if he suddenly couldn’t hold a stable note to save his life, and the melodies aren’t the least bit original or memorable. I usually wouldn’t harp on a band for not being original if the music was still at least somewhat interesting. For example, yeah, Kronoceptor is a complete DragonForce rip-off, but they do it so well (and it sure doesn’t hurt that the music is name-your-price on Bandcamp; check them out!). But Salamandra’s music has no element to differentiate itself from thousands of other bands out there playing this same schlock that wants to be epic and anthemic like old-school Rhapsody and Freedom Call but fails on all counts. There’s no emotional attachment between the band and the music it is playing. “What do they sing about in power metal? How metal they are? The devil? Battles? Yeah okay, let’s sing about that stuff!” Salamandra can’t possibly be on its sixth album, because this stuff is too infantile for a band that has been at it this long. I can’t even say anything nice about the guitar solos, which all sound tacked-on and have no style or finesse and more often than not sound like a bunch of warm-up exercises sloppily stapled together. Anybody, hell, I could have slapped these songs together. I could have found some woman on the street and paid her $20 to do that operatic warbling on the three minute vocal-and-piano piece (of sh–) “The Sphinx.” I could have written the lazy, singsong-y, and so-saccharine-that-it-gave-me-diabetes choruses found on “Defence” or the title track in my sleep.
I really hope I’m not making Imperatus sound worse than it actually is on the off chance that I’m just not feeling it or I’m having a bad day, but there is no reason for this to exist. There is not a shred of originality or excitement to be had throughout Imperatus’ hour-long running length. It’s not even a good example of how not to make power metal because it shamelessly (and talentlessly) lifts elements from so many infinitely better bands while sapping away all the heartfelt energy those bands had, ending up as worst kind of “Me too!” band. How Salamandra has avoided all the hate that Skylark gets is beyond me. Listening to Imperatus has elicited more cringes and faces of disgust than any other listening experience I have had this year. Avoid at all costs. If someone is paying YOU to take this album off THEIR hands, deny their dirty money. This doesn’t even make a good virtual coaster. I could go on and on and nitpick about everything I hate about this album (was “The Devil’s Apprentice” really the best take Jan Bernatek did? Those upper register notes sound downright dreadful), but I would be here all day. Just trust me when I say this sucks and nobody else should have to suffer through it like I did.
1.0 // 5