I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of the metal scene in Slovenia is extremely limited. But if Hei’An is a good representation of what’s happening in the country at the moment then Slovenian metal looks guaranteed to have a very healthy future. Hei’An was originally conceived as a solo project by Matic Blagonic but evolved into a full band featuring guitarist Matevž Pocic, bassist Peter Smrdel and drummer Gaj Bostic. And evolution in one sense is the theme of their debut album’s concept. ‘Imago’ apparently refers to the final stage of a larva’s development, hence the cover image of the butterfly having emerged from its chrysalis, and is a metaphor for the struggle of the story’s character to conquer inner demons and life’s traumas and arise from them – just as a butterfly spreads its wings. And the reason why the butterfly’s wings are damaged is because you never really rid yourself of those demons or trauma. As you can see, these guys have thought this through.


As to the music, it’s safe to say that ‘Imago’ is an extremely impressive body of work. The band describe themselves as post-progressive metal and the biography comes up with Alcest and Leprous as points of reference. It’s certainly a thoroughbred from the progressive metal stable, and skilfully blends a range of progressive elements and emotions to create what is unquestionably one of this year’s greatest releases. Both light and dark, confrontational and comforting, ‘Imago’ is a finely-honed and extremely clever album, although the musicianship ensures that the album teeters on the edge of brilliance while never revelling self-indulgently in its ingenuity. Songs like ‘Escape’ and ‘Dreamer’ (which features Joe Buras from Born Of Osiris, one of a handful of guests who make an appearance) have a majestic and almost ethereal quality with harsh and melodic vocal interplay backed by an expansive, evocative and beautifully delivered soundscape. At 86 minutes split over two discs ‘Imago’ appears a bit of a marathon but time passes quickly in good company and the fifteen tracks zip by. The other point worth mentioning is that although it is a concept album – certainly as the second disc reveal its secrets this becomes quite apparent – the storyline is never allowed to disrupt the album’s flow.

To misquote Shakespeare, some albums are born great, some albums achieve greatness and some albums have greatness thrust upon them. ‘Imago’ falls into the first category. It is a truly remarkable release – exceptionally well-written and strikingly executed by four focussed and gifted musicians – and justly deserves every accolade that comes its way.

Video clips:

‘Dreamer’ -
‘Noises’ -
‘Can’t Get Out Of My Skin’ -

© John Tucker November 2022