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To-Mera - Transcendental CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.82 | 63 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars As even the most devout fans of the more traditional Progressive Metal (i.e., not the Tech/Extreme or Experimental/Post Metal kind) will attest, by 2006 the genre was beginning to get rather stale with its endless hordes of Dream Theater clones seemingly disappearing over the horizon. But this UK band right from the start have set out to make a difference, and stand out from the tightly packed crowd primarily by fusing that standard form of Prog Metal with jazz and the more extreme side of the spectrum.

Musically this band stands out as being something of a melting pot for a whole host of different styles, and though that tends to be a rather over used statement, I'll certainly stand by it here. In the structure of the music its quite clear that Dream Theater have an influence, but the way they incorporate jazzy sections into the music and the sudden switches between smooth and heavy and jarring passages, without sounding forced in incoherent, already moves the band a step beyond. In terms of the bands playing its quite clear that guitarist Tom MacLean, more well known as Hakens bass player, takes a lot of influence from the more extreme ends of things, with echoes of Meshuggah and Cynic coming through his playing. I'd have to say, though, that as good as he is on bass, he's absolutely amazing as a guitarist and I cant help but rate him as one of the genres best.

In bands of this style its not uncommon for the keyboard players to get rather lost, only really coming out for the occasional short solo but with Hugo Sheppard, thats never a problem. He seems to spend his time alternating between playing big atmospheric chords that noticeably fill out the back ground of the music and strong synth or piano leads over the heavy riffing of MacLean and bassist Lee Barrett, sometimes even sharing lead duty with MacLean. Right from the start of the atmospheric opener Traces, its clear that Sheppard has slotted himself into the band as an integral part of its sound, and to be honest the same could be said for all of them, with one instrument missing the album wouldnt be half as good.

The rhythm section is probably the one part that I feel could be better. Akos Pirisi is a good drummer and like others have noted, he displays a a much greater level of self control than other many other drummers in this genre and that might be part of his problem, he probably shows just a bit too much self control and doesnt let loose as much a he probably could. Still, he does a good job and works well with the bands bassist. Barrett is probably best described as a competent bassist but a little unimaginitive, who's mostly working to support the lead pair of MacLean and Sheppard rather than joining in and using the bass as an instrument that that can stradle the roles of rhythm and lead. There are, of course, exceptions to this, most notably the jazzier parts of Dreadful Angel and Born of Ashes (its also notable that these two are the first songs the band wrote, so maybe he adapted the more supportive style later).And then there's the vocals. Its fair to say that Julie Kiss is a bit of love-or-hate singer. She has a very rich quality to her singing, which she seems to naturally give more power to than many other female singers. Personally, I really love the sound of her voice.

Its not all brilliant though. The production of this album has one glaring problem that annoys me every time and thats the sibilance on Kiss's vocals (for those that dont know, sibilance is a hissing sound found primarily at the end of S and cymbal sounds). Its there on every song and quite badly pronounced, I can only assume the engineer, Bret Caldas-Lima fell asleep after he pressed record to have missed it so badly. Kiss's talent at writing lyrics was also still developing as well since there are a few lines that come across as being, well, a bit clunky, particularly on the second track, Blood. Then there's the final track, Realm of Dreams. I get the feeling that Sheppard intended for this epic to ebb and build over the length of the track until it reaches a climax, yet it never seems to get anywhere and finally fades out into static, which I really dont like. My final gripe is with the bass, which has a really dirty sound to it. Normally, I wouldnt mind this, in fact I'd probably love it, but it tends to get lost in the mix a bit and serves more to mask the technical ability of Lee Barret.

Transcendental proves to be a good debut album and even now, having had the album for several years, the songs Dreadful Angel, Phantoms, Born of Ashes, Parfum and Obscure Oblivion are still amongst my favourites. More importantly it proves to be a very unique starting point for To-Mera, one that pointed to a very strong future. The faults I've pointed out with this album can be annoying but the underlying strengths of the bands compositions and the proficiancy with which they pull them off leaves me coming back time and again.

sleeper | 4/5 |


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