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Hemina - Venus CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.90 | 97 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars Here comes Hemina once again, who began life as a fully fledged prog metal group with "Synthetic" followed by "Nebulae", both masterful in their own rights. Following up on these, is yet another album with a one word title "Venus". It may be their best album to date.

The album cover is a work of art like other Hemina albums, this time depicting an isolated girl longing for freedom encased in some kind of abandoned room. The window beckons her freedom, as her golden hair waves in the breeze, but this girl is a victim of abuse at the hands of a trusted loved one. Her partner is over protective of her out of distrust so locks her away from the world or from the gaze of other men. Her past is one of turmoil and suffering but there are rays of light that signify her redemption is nearing. She is later shown free and happy in the booklet. Herein lies a clue to the content of the album. It is a concept album with very complex ideas that may only become apparent after studying the lyrics in the booklet. An online discussion with vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist, founder of the group Douglas Skene certainly sheds some light on these ideas. Skene stated that the album is centred around trust and infidelity, and a certain sense of one cannot come back from this, and knowing when enough is enough in a relationship. When trust is betrayed, things rarely work, and furthermore a good person can be transformed by the negative experience into abusive behaviour brought on by the extreme stress of abuse. The album paints a picture of the cheater in a relationship later becoming the victim; a vicious cycle that occurs in abusive relationships.

This idea is encompassed in the opening track "Fantasy", where we are introduced to the protagonists in this love nest. The music is an urgent jagged guitar riff, that speeds along at a brisk pace. The guitar is accompanied by sweeping synth lines and the multilayered vocals enter soon harmonised with the endearing melody. The instrumental break is a duel between keys and axe, and both back each other up superbly.

The lovers get married at the end of the song, opening the doorway to the next phase in their relationship; the honeymoon in "Expect the Unexpected". The music transitions to a soft ballad, with deeper vocals and a reflective lyric. A sax solo by Jimmy Garden enhances the soundscape with a melancholy breezy air. There is beauty in the accompanying vocals of Jessica Martin, who is also wonderful on bass throughout this album.

"High Kite Ride" is a killer track with crunching metal riffs, and a broken time sig augmented by chaotic drums by Nathan McMahon. The lyrics speak of a bleak existence like "death alive" as the woman is now buried in her guilt, locked away, after a confrontation that turns her loving man into a psychopath. The track clocks over 9 minutes and has twists and turns signifying the turbulent relationship unfolding. The twin guitar break is mesmirising, Mitch Coull and Skene are masterful guitarists. The shunting rhythms break several times into some complex time signatures that start and stop, generating a disconcerting atmosphere. To top it off there are multiple lead guitar breaks that scream and howl, and even a raspy death vocal adding to the anger of the lyrics. This cut is one of the highlights of the album.

"Moonlight Bride" blusters along with more saxophone, almost a jazz metal feel, and then some high falsetto vocals that speak of the plight of the protagonists. The woman has become a sex object giving into her abuser. The track features some glorious lead breaks that soar beautifully and the romantic sax is always a welcome touch.

The 11 minute "Venus" follows opening with acoustic vibrations, and Skene's soft vocals singing of "shifting the blame to learn and to love". Metal guitar machine gun attacks penetrate the sound as the confusion of unrequited love sinks deeper in. Jessica offers some melancholy tones acting like a conversation between the lovers. One may be reminded of the powerful works of Ayreon. Later we are treated with the sweet tones of Sarah Henderson's flute, such a beautiful moment on the album; acting like the calm before the storm. Skene states that "Venus" depicts the fantasy of an ideal romantic world; a world that does not exist for these lovers. It is a strong, feminine world. The girl is damaged goods now and stares at the sky at Venus; the symbol of escape and innate beauty. The male is now the one who is cheated on, so the question is posed who exactly is the victim; a blurred line of infidelity and distrust. I have to state that "Venus" is one of my favourite tracks on the album due to its complexity and juxtaposition of furious metal guitar fighting against the calm piano and flute.

"The Collective Unconscious" has a chunky distorted guitar crunch as synth lines meander beneath. The lovers have dived into "a dream state of mind, locked in stasis together". Coull and Skene take turns to light up the dark sound with blistering guitar solos. The track is short at 3:30 but it makes its impact, and then gets out of there to make way for the next segment.

"Secrets Safe" has a catchy melodious guitar riff, and very strong vocals by Skene. There are sharp attacks of distortion that crackle with energy, and the synth pads are a constant companion. Lead guitar breaks sweep beautifully and build into heavier rhythms. The story has become more complicated; "Love's out the window, consider yourself a widow".

"Starbreeze" is a very airy diversion with a cool keyboard hook and cosmic soundscape. There are still metal nuances with bouncy chords, and this one has a more science fiction vibe. The lyrics are well written such as "Starry night O night so bright, behold our pixeled cosmic sight, past the solar wind lies a starbreeze, the cooling flame, the lion's gaze, the golden bars on heaven's gates, beyond the glow of Venus , a star is born." It is captivating stuff, and the track is only 3 and a half minutes, showing that less is more at times; certainly in this case.

"I" is over 10 minutes of prog excess and has some of the best vocals with an engaging choral synth providing a Gothic atmosphere. I adored the lead break that is so emotional with its elongated notes whammy barred to perfection, and soaring higher into squeals of anguish. When Jessica sings after this with some multilayered harmonies, it sent chills down my spine. The lead guitar is incredible on this track and then it swings into a new direction with blasts of speed picking twin guitars, and followed by an acoustic river of sound. Another highlight of the album is the result.

"Dream State of Mind" begins with chimes clanging as a haunting choral layer breathes. The lead guitar flourishes ebb and flow as Skene's vocals enter. An odd time sig is well executed with drum and bass fractured rhythms. There are some bizarre raps and manic laughter that have an unnerving edge. The protagonist has now lapsed into an hallucinatory state; punched home by a lyrical poem that may be influenced by the movie "Liquid Sky" that blurs the line between the fantasy and the real.

"Down Will Come Baby" ends the concept with a final statement that the protagonist is stuck in a limbo, the experience having spiralled them into a loss of sanity, a prison they will never escape. The music is frenetic but tinged with a sense that things are drawing to a conclusion. An upbeat melody is joined by blistering lead breaks and speed drumming. The track clocks some 12 minutes of a prog masterclass. Yet again the track delivers a powerhouse of instrumentation and terrific vocals. As icing on the cake there is a ghost track worth a listen and nice to ponder over called "You", in contrast to "I" it would seem. It's fast and bulges with the thundering hoofs of a metal stampede, that gallop along to conclude the sensory journey.

Overall the album is an 80 minute triumph of metal, jazz, retro synths, and prog time sigs wrapped around a deep, meaningful concept. On the first listen I was convinced the album was worthy of at least 4 stars, but on subsequent listens it just grew on me, finally entwining my subconscious with its complexity and glorious instrumentation. It is one of the discoveries of 2016 and worthy of 5 stars as there is not a dull moment and every track builds powerfully upon the next. The music is passionate and captivating in every sense, and the moments with sax, flute, trumpet and other instruments augments it to being far beyond your average metal album. The complexity of instrumentation is mirrored by the complex concept. In this sense, it delivers exactly what I look for in a prog album and that is a sheer delight to encounter.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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