Impulsia is a new studio project from Sweden, built around the core of ex-Candlemass vocalist Johan Langquist and guitarists Marcus Jidell (Royal Hunt, Pain) and lesser known Uno Sjöström who has a long career playing covers under his belt. Added to this bunch Impulsia brings together a rather unlikely combination of guest musicians ranging from drummer Tomas Broman (Michael Schenker, Glenn Hughes), Stevie Wonder band pianist Victoria Theodore, Hammerfall guitarist Pontus Norgren and late Marcel Jacob from Talisman… and on to singers James Christian (House of Lords), Robin Beck and most surprisingly swedish popstar Pandora. The guests perform expectedly well, although the somewhat incoherent description letter at the promo package leaves it rather hazy to figure out who is playing where.
As for the style, Impulsia is strongly tilted to the melodic AOR direction and offers an album full of emotional, bluesy and for the most time very relaxed hard rock. The basic elements are all tightly under control and like the list of participants suggests, the playing is both professional and of the very high quality. Songwriting is done by Sjöström, Langquist and Beck, who also takes a more prominent role on the album than the other guests. Most known from her eighties hit ‘First Time’ Beck is far from a household name in the hard rock field but on ‘Expressions’ she proves to be an excellent pick for the album as her singing becomes one of the cornerstone elements on the record.
When ‘Expressions’ is at it’s best moments it is all really good. ‘Fly Away’ is an excellent ballad offering a beautiful melody embraced by emotionally wailing guitars, atmospheric cello additions and well-written song structure. Above all Robin Beck’s voice commands the proceedings with clarity and strength that is sheer excellence. Johan Langquist takes the mic next and does a fine job delivering spunky-tempoed semi-ballad ‘Rosa Lee’ and a nicely rocking version of Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’ that follows next. Langquist’s voice travels in pleasant dark shades and senses of emotion, comparisons to Jorn Lande and David Coverdale would hit very close. The problem with Langquist’s performance on Expressions seems to be that his vocals tread the same path throughout the record – they fit the ballady/bluesy delivery spot-on but in a bigger picture the vocal range is quite restricted to a similar mood. As opposed to Robin Beck, whose singing varies from soft subtle moments to heartfeltly soaring parts. As good as both of the vocalists are, the pendulum swings clearly to Beck’s favour and as so, the three songs she appears on: ‘Fly Away’, ‘Seas To Cross’ and ‘Alone’ – a sad, sad picture of a lonely man at the end of his life – rank amongst the album’s best moments.
Another attention-grabbing track is cut number five, ‘Oceans of Love’ – a light but nice-tempoed hard rock piece that rolls onwards with nicely crunching guitars and a good-mood performance by Langquist and Pandora, whose voice lacks the finer aspects of that of Robin Beck but fits this kinda song well. After this, however, the going on ‘Expressions’ gets toned down and the rest of the album consists completely of ballads, blues rock and overall very slow tempo material. There are good moments amongst the final seven tracks, but stacked upon each other the moody tunes start to escape the listener’s attention. ‘Slow Down’, ‘Move On’ and the acoustic version of ‘Rosa Lee’ are teflon-like AOR blues from what you just can’t get much of a lasting hold. Playing is lingering and Johan Langquist’s vocals are stretched and sleepy sounding – which of course fits this sort of songs, but in the long run becomes tiresome. ‘Too Many Heartaches’ fares a bit better and has echoes of Whitesnake’s ‘Restless Heart’ album – which is a close comparison point to ‘Expressions’ overall. Compared to the more diverse first half, the tail end of ‘Expressions’ is – to be frank – rather boring, not necessarily because of the songs but rather due to the lack of changes between them.
As the final verdict – I can warmly recommend ‘Expressions’ to connoisseurs of well-done, moody and (not too hard) rock. Especially those who like a dosage of blues in their platter should find Impulsia an interesting newcomer. And even if the latter half of the record falls pretty much too deep into it’s own candlelight moodiness, the highlights of the album are well worth checking out.
1. Fly Away
2. Rosa Lee
5. Oceans of Love
6. Slow Down
7. Too Many Heartaches
8. Move On
9. Seas To Cross
10. Dream On
11. Rosa Lee (acoustic)
12. River of Tears