To-Mera - Transcendental review
|Release date:||September 2006|
03. Dreadful Angel
05. Born Of Ashes
07. Obscure Oblivion
08. Realm Of Dreams
I found out about To-Mera at the end of January when To-Mera's singer Julie Kiss gave me their 2005 demo after the Stream of Passion gig in London. Before taking it I asked jokingly if it was any good, and having got a smile and a positive reply I stuffed it into my pocket. I have actually been waiting for the debut album quite eagerly since having listened to the demo soon after that.
Imagine Symphony X on "Odyssey" album, take some Dream Theater, add dark and aggressive riffing and wrap it all up in a bit of something from After Forever. It by no means describes how the band sounds to the point, but you should more or less get the picture I am aiming at. To put it bluntly, To-Mera is a female fronted Progressive Metal band with a modern and very Metal approach to the genre. While you think it might not be something for you, you might want to reconsider. Just bear with me to find out what there is to this debut that makes it fascinating.
The general feeling of "Transcendental" is dark and aggressive and even melancholic at times and may not exactly be what I personally expect to find in a Progressive Metal album. However, talented musicianship and complex songwriting has an advantage of serving unexpected twists and turns. There is hardly any chance you will find yourself guessing it right at where the music is heading. The band can easily go from a fast pace to a quiet piano spot or even a jazzy interlude, only to plunge into a heavy instrumentation that borders Death Metal with its instrumental intensity.
The aggression is built around a Symphony X guitar style but with heavier riffs by Tom MacLean, which are accompanied by the thick and sometimes even rolling bass by Lee Barrett and intense drumming by Paul Westwood. That might not have worked well at all if it was not for quite radical changes in patterns, great keyboards by Hugo Sheppard that fill the atmosphere, and beautiful operatic singing by Julie Kiss. Although there are moments that I find a bit tedious or hard to accept, I must say there are quite a few changes that simply make my day. Fine examples are the keyboard spot followed by a jazzy interlude in the middle of "Dreadful Angels," the growing of "Parfum" and especially the drum solo towards the end of the song, the middle section of "Obscure Oblivion" with a near brilliant twist to riffing and drums with - if I am not mistaken - a cow bell, just right after the jazzy interlude and a weird sounding piece of keyboards.
However, probably the most unnerving thing about the whole album is the fact that Julie's operatic singing flows over the changes to the underlying instrumental, at times following its own path. Being accustomed to voice usually more or less following the changes and song structure, this sole fact makes "Transcendental" a bit hard to digest and to concentrate on both aspects of the music. Moreover, at times it feels as if it's being pulled in the same direction but at different angles. Take "Phantoms" as an example to what I am thinking about. However, that does not lessen the listening experience of Julie's great voice. On the contrary, it makes it more like a challenge.
All in all, "Transcendental" is a very strong debut album and a very distinguished effort for a start. It is probably more complex than one would expect from a young band. As I already mentioned, it is hard to grasp at once but it does grow on you over time. However, being complex, with many almost contradicting influences, with lots of unexpected twists and turns, the music is not yet completely seamless. Even after many listens there is still this little something tugging at my mind, something that I cannot put my finger on. And since I decided to give whole grades, I am forced to round the grade a bit down. However, this album will be definitely one of the picks of the year for me.
Written on 01.10.2006 by
I shoot people.
Sometimes, I also write about it.
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