Throwback rockers Imperial Jade return from the studio with their sophomore effort, On The Rise. Drawing from both influences and inspiration, the band expands their breadth while staying within reach of the ‘70s ethos that drives their songs. The quintet hails from Barcelona, but their style and vintage sound belies their Spanish origins. In fact, it would be difficult to place them solely through listening. The album’s songs are nicely varied and employ a wide range of sonic textures and structures.
Most of the tracks do share a few features in common: they are guitar-lead and often riff-heavy, the instrumentation and recording technique results in a warm, analog sound, and the group creates a sense of space, employing near/far dynamics, often within the same song. Their vocals also command a lot of attention. At times the focus is on the lead Arnau Ventura, and at other times it shifts toward harmonies or backing vocalists, but they remain high in the mix throughout most of the album.
“You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” delivers most of the aforementioned attributes by means of thick, colorful guitars underpinned by a full low-end, with the bass, drums and guitar occasionally coming together to thump out the rhythm. Lead guitar licks are fiery, plentiful and never needlessly prolonged, which helps in constructing “Sad For No Reason,” one of the best tunes on the set. The band opts for a multipart song instead of a basic structure centered around a lengthy guitar solo. Beginning with a distant-sounding, echoed voice and slide tandem, the other members add their organic voicings throughout the multiple segments. “Lullaby In Blue” is another album highlight, but sounds vastly different. Perhaps the bluesiest track, it is notable for its subdued guitar passage that bookends the piece and the excellent playing made more apparent with a cleaner guitar tone. Like “Sad For No Reason,” the song takes multiple turns; this time to harder-edged guitars and vocals, leading into a triumphant progression and finally returning to the original guitar “lullaby.”
“Keep Me Singing” shines a spotlight on Ricard Turró’s grooving bass that makes room for keys and acoustic guitar on a sunny and somewhat psychedelic number. “Heatwave” returns with a heavy organ and a great sing-along chorus. The last two songs find Imperial Jade veering into harder, ‘70s prog rock territory. “Rough Seas” is appropriately titled, centered around a muddy and distorted guitar riffing, with a generous helping of the wah-wah pedal. Similarly heavy is “Struck By Lighting” with its grinding slide and ominous vocals that sound as if they are coming from all directions.
On The Rise is not the expected second album from a band categorized as hard rock. Imperial Jade excels when they turn up the volume and aggression, but they do just as well with songs that are closer to traditional blues and mellower pieces. Those lucky enough to pick up a copy containing two bonus tracks will be treated to even more facets of the band—and it is an album worth picking up. With a sophomore slump handily avoided, hopefully a third effort will be forthcoming.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Sad For No Reason
– Lullaby In Blue
– Rough Seas
– Struck By Lightning
The Big Hit
– Sad For No Reason
Review by Willie Witten