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TO-MERA

Progressive Metal • United Kingdom


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To-Mera biography
To-Mera began life as a project between Julie Kiss (ex-Without Face) and Lee Barrett (ex-Extreme Noise Terror, Disgust, Mussolini Headkick). After a series of fluid lineups, the current stable incarnation of To-Mera began in early 2005, after Tom MacLean (a fan of Without Face) met Julie at a Dillinger Escape Plan gig and offered his services as a guitarist. Julie then enlisted the help of her hometown friend Akos as drummer for the band, and work commenced on writing material for a demo.

The intention was to fuse the musical interests of each of the members within a dark and atmostpheric framework. As a result, To-Mera's style can be described as a mixture between the assorted metal sub-genres, classical and jazz music.

The demo, comprising the tracks "Dreadful Angel" and "Born of Ashes", was recorded in July 2005 at The Peel in Kingston, on the laptop of of up-coming French producer Brett Caldas-Lima.

After a surprisingly positive reception on the internet and in various magazines (including being awarded "demo of the month" in both Zero Tolerance and Organ magazine), the demo was finally picked up by UK label Candlelight, and the band were offered a deal.

Once a permanent keyboardist was found in the form of Hugo Sheppard, the band spent the winter months of 2005/ early '06 writing material for their debut album.


This biography was taken from the band's official homepage (http://www.to-mera.com).



Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
The band was cleared for addition by the prog metal team.

See also:

- Without Face
- Haken



Discography:
Transcendental (2006)

To-Mera official website

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DelusionsDelusions
Candlelight 2008
Audio CD$6.95
$2.99 (used)
TranscendentalTranscendental
Candlelight 2006
Audio CD$52.89
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TO-MERA discography


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TO-MERA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.82 | 60 ratings
Transcendental
2006
4.14 | 89 ratings
Delusions
2008
3.97 | 118 ratings
Exile
2012

TO-MERA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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TO-MERA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 2 ratings
Blood
2006
3.53 | 16 ratings
Earthbound
2009

TO-MERA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Delusions by TO-MERA album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.14 | 89 ratings

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Delusions
To-Mera Progressive Metal

Review by Progrussia

4 stars To-Mera is a rare example of female-fronted prog metal - not the familiar symphonic/gothic type, but of the Dream Theater-esque eclectic variety. Although it must be said that Julie Kiss's pleasant voice, except for the lighter jazzy sections which seems to be her forte, most of the time sounds out of place with music. Members of this project have background in both extreme metal and Gentle Giant-loving prog metal (sister British band Haken), so you can expect some subterranean riffs and bouts of complexity for complexity's sake. The long songs are full of sudden shifts in melody, running from the full gamut of metal stuff to jazzy breathers. So this is pretty complex, at times even weird, stuff, not your standard European prog metal-lite (intro-verse-chorus-bunch of solos-breather-big finish) approach, but, in line with the forebearers of the genre, Dream Theater, they, thankfully, don't let their creativity overrun the listenability.

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 Transcendental by TO-MERA album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.82 | 60 ratings

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Transcendental
To-Mera Progressive Metal

Review by Star_Song_Age_Less

4 stars To-Mera's "Transcendental" is, in a word, sublime. From the first instant with Julie Kiss' rich voice through the refreshingly un-dissapointing ending, each song is artfully composed and skillfully performed. Falling on the dark side of the mood scale, with a strong dose of emotional power, this album avoids one of the major pitfalls of moody music (which is to be tiresomely one-note). This music twists into unexpected places. There's a strong jazz influence that brings a "free" quality, and surprisingly well-placed bursts of thrash. All that said, it isn't perfect - all throughout, it's tough to tell what Kiss' lyrics are saying. She's low enough in the mix that her consonants are somewhat masked - and her enunciation itself could be clearer in places.

"Traces" begins with simple beauty, eastern influences, melodic guitar, and a gentle ending that functions as a subtle introduction to "Then Blood." Here, the metal part of prog-metal becomes immediately apparent, but tastefully done. Some unusual chord changes here and there make this solid tune more interesting, and suddenly - bam - you're listening to a ELP-esque key section - then right back to the metal, with no awkwardness of transition. In the last few seconds, the theme in the first track's ending reappears and serves as an intro to track 3, "Dreadful Angel." [In order, 4/5, 4/5].

When I first heard this album, I began to get nervous at this point, because the first 40 seconds or so of "Dreadful Angel" are similar to the previous track - and then it takes a very different turn. Ascending chords and angelic vocal interludes alter its path. A third of the way through the song, there are already five distinct themes. Then around 3:14, a further surprise: jazz! The gentleness of it provides great contrast, and the rest of the song follows that general pattern: heavy and gentle alternating, but each section unique - no repeats. This is masterfully done, with an emotional power that I don't often find in post-2000 prog. 4/5

"Phantoms" continues to build the pattern of alternating themes. The thrash element comes in here, and unlike most thrash I've heard it's powerful rather than irritating. I think the ever-changing themes help with this - it's not 7 minutes of relentless one-two-one-two-one-two timing. Applied in short bursts, it instead provides an interesting change. This track doesn't quite flow seamlessly, but is still excellent. 4/5

"Born of Ashes" is a good song, but many of its themes oddly remind me of music from the Castlevania and Diablo video games. While I enjoy a lot of that music, I feel it's a bit cliche' at this point. This could easily be part of a vampire movie soundtrack. I hope for a bit more than that in my music when it's not attached to visuals. 3/5

"Parfum" brings the level back up again, and brings it way up high. The quiet versatility of the vocals, desperately screaming guitars, moments of astonishing beauty, and a total avoidance of all things expected make this an emotional roller-coaster of a song. 5/5

"Obscure Oblivion" gives the listener a bit of a break at the start with a prolonged mellow intro, then delves back into the realm of quickly-changing themes. There's more jazz here, and several sections with interesting timing nuances. Well-composed, but not as powerful as the previous track. I attribute this in part to a few areas with similar structure to pieces of previous songs. 4/5.

By the time the final track, "Realm of Dreams," comes around, there's an obvious pattern that has emerged: quiet-loud-quiet-loud, etc. Heavy themes don't seem to be leading into more heavy themes, and soft ones into soft ones - and that's fine, but a bit repetitive even if the themes themselves are not. It would be disappointing if a band with so much compositional ability turned out to be a one-trick-pony. "Realm of Dreams" dispels that worry. There are several unbroken chains of loveliness that sustain or build rather than transitioning immediately into something totally different, and a passage at about 5:00 of surprising sensitivity. The ending that starts around 7:30 is at once dark and uplifting, with a key lead reminiscent to Moraz on Yes' Relayer. And while most bands might have simply faded out on that, not To-Mera. It cross-fades into ever more in-your-face static: a refreshing choice. 5/5

So, not every song is a masterpiece, but To-Mera displays astounding potential. Not every prog fan will love this - it's very dark - but it's a fantastic fusion of different styles. I recommend this highly.

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 Exile by TO-MERA album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 118 ratings

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Exile
To-Mera Progressive Metal

Review by Progrussia

4 stars To-mera is a sister band of the better known British band, Haken, sharing several members. There are differences between bands - Haken has more classic rock influences, To-mera is heavier and darker, but they are not totally different, both based on loud, heavy progressive rock with melodic sensibilities.

To-mera distinguishes itself from other prog metal bands by having a female vocalist who is not an operatic wailer, but rather has a jazzier voice. So, perhaps appropriately, the band's sound can be described as a mix of various underground metal sub genres - progressive, gothic, djent, even extreme pieces popping up here and there, with a kind of lounge-jazzy breaks. If you compare their three albums, Exile is perhaps a bit more accessible. It also stretches the song lenghts by a couple of minutes on several occasions. But I think their strength lies in the previous 8-minute format, because epics, while good, may seem like various melodic fragments glued together.

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 Earthbound by TO-MERA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2009
3.53 | 16 ratings

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Earthbound
To-Mera Progressive Metal

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars To-Mera's Earthbound is a four track bugger that lasts for almost a half hour of showcasing the band essentially revamping their aims, with founding member Lee Barrett gone, leaving only the singer, Julie Kiss (I can't imagine fellow kids ever making light of her name back when she was 10 or so) as the original member left in the band. They had also parted ways with their record label, so this was a self-released affair, the kind that's mixed in a living room while mom shows up with fresh crispy biscuits and lemonade...and to remark about poor clothing, hygiene and career options.

Djent. That's one of the first characteristics that stood out in describing the band's sound. The polyrhythmic drumming and a healthy dosage of Meshuggah-style chugs and low-note riff patterns. Luckily, though, there's a lot more going on, such as some nice keyboardwork, a good bass presence, a quick but snazzy guitar or keyboard solo popping up once in a while, and a nice array of jazzy dynamics and flowing arrangements in that the songs aren't saddled with jarring tonal shifts; it's all pretty smooth.

Much has been said about Julie, and she certainly deserves credit as probably the main source of melody concerning these four tracks. Singing over djent-ish chord progressions in a melodic display deserves accolades from the start. Her voice, while pretty enough, has slight 'poppish' inflections but not too much character otherwise. It's nice, but not striking.

It's a bit of a different animal from their earlier releases, which I found were a bit more frenetic and wild (sorta more my beat). As a four track EP, it's pretty good stuff, with the keyboards especially adding an interesting atmosphere to this release, but if stretched out to a full length, the style imposed here, particularly regarding the overusage of that djent influence, would probably wear out its welcome after a couple more similar numbers.

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 Exile by TO-MERA album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 118 ratings

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Exile
To-Mera Progressive Metal

Review by Andy Webb
Forum & Site Admin Group Site and Forum Admin

4 stars To-Mera are no strangers in the world of progressive metal. The band's debut, Transcendental, was released in 2006 to great critical appeal for their innovative sound, impressive musical talent, and quality of sound. Led by the powerful female singer Julie Kiss, the band's style is massive and dynamic, mixing genres like jazz fusion, technical progressive metal, and death metal riffing to create an epic amalgamation of textures, emotions, and sounds. The band's second album, Delusions,, was an opus of grand proportions, bringing all of their already impressive sounds to fruition yet again. When the band was dropped by Candlelight Records, however, the band lost some of its steam and, with the release of their 2009 EP Earthbound, they dropped off the scene for a few years. In 2012, however, the band announced their return with their third studio album, Exile,.

With a definitively Egyptian overtone, likely due to Kiss' affection for Egypt, Exile is a powerhouse of explosive riffs, infectious melodies, and an overall killer musical experience. Dynamics run amuck between the crushing power of Tom MacLean's guitars, the gentler nature of Kiss' vocal lines, and the musical delicacies created by the band's progressive metal roots and their appreciation for jazz and other styles. The texture created between the sweeping riffs and the undertones of organ and piano lines are sublime, simply adding to a fantastic atmosphere that dominates the hour-long album.

In a technical aspect, the band outdoes themselves, just as I expected they would. The album is engorged with virtuoso soloing, rhythmically complex passages, and a communication between instrumentalists that is essential in order for any piece of music to succeed. The amount of emotion put into playing the delicately composed pieces, as well, equals if not exceeds the technical prowess it took to play it, which simply adds to the overall experience of the album. While an album may be musically comprehensive, any composition simply cannot be 'good' if a degree of passion is not given to the work, and passion can definitely be found among these songs.

In the end, Exile presents a truly excellent return to fashion from the band's 3-year silence. Comprehensive and epic, the album explores a large number of styles and musical paths, sating the listener's palate and leading them to beg for more. With an enriching concept about an woman who has gone insane, the album allows the listener to explore the music in a myriad of ways, and allows for a truly engrossing musical experience. After this album, I dearly hope To-Mera is back on their feet and starts producing this quality of music regularly again. 4+ stars.

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 Exile by TO-MERA album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 118 ratings

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Exile
To-Mera Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Exile' - To-Mera (8/10)

Coming from a listener now long bored by the traditional progressive metal style, To-Mera are a go-to source for prog metal the way it should be; musically rich, dynamic, and even original. First hearing them via their member-sharing with the contemporary genre legend Haken, I've only recently discovered that their drummer, Paul Westwood, also offers rhythms for the black metal band Fen, who themselves released one of my favourite records last year. In short, it seems talented folks tend to stick together, and taking into account the other great bands these musicians have been in, To-Mera looks like a meeting place for some of the best of their genre. This latest record "Exile" is no slouch in a line of great albums either. Pairing up dynamic, aggressive and atmospheric metal with a poignant concept, newcomers will be surprised by how well To-Mera are able to digest their influences into something convincing and fresh. Of course, existing fans of the band already knew to expect this!

My first experience with To-Mera was a couple of years ago, with their then-recent EP "Earthbound". Four songs may have not been alot to go by, but it was enough to give a strong look at the band's skill and style. Opeth and the contemporary djent sound were both factors there, but they were overlaid with a strong female voice that one wouldn't normally associate with such technically accomplished music. "Exile" is cut from the same cloth as "Earthbound" and what has come before for To-Mera, but the production and delivery is decidedly improved. Although the band has always had an impressive sense of knowing how to bring out the best in their compositions, "Exile" gives the impression that To-Mera have found a perfect sweet spot between rich production, aggression and atmosphere.

Fans of guitarist and band mastermind Tom McLean's other band Haken will find a similar consistency and fire burning under To-Mera. There is a familiar progressive metal foundation here, the likes of which listeners will have no doubt seen in countless bands by now. Moderate experimentation with time signatures, a fusion of synth textures and guitars, and longform song formats are descriptors that could easily define a large portion of prog metal. They are not separate from some of the more generic qualities (and cliches) of the style, but they ultimately set themselves apart with their atmosphere. Whether its the Egyptian motifs that open up the album on "Inviting the Storm", the playful prog metal freakouts on "The Descent" or the symphonic bombast of "All I Am", "Exile" is doused with a thick layer of dark atmosphere. The vocals of Julie Kiss are a great compliment to the constantly shifting sound. Although her higher register delivery is typical of many female metal singers, the staying power of her voice gives her a great presence. Unlike many progressive metal vocalists- who tend to get swallowed by the instrumental wizardry- Julie brings a sort of proggy weirdness to her voice of its own. While her voice itself is never challenging to the ear, many of her vocal melodies are a little strange in the way they're placed up against the music. It can be difficult to first get into, but it gives her performance a lasting effect that persists far beyond the initial listen.

Even before listening to "Exile", I was struck by the album's concept and lyrical themes. While not a narrative concept like Dream Theater's "Scenes From A Memory" or Queensryche's "Operation Mindcrime", "Exile" does tell a story of sorts. Instead of events or actions however, "Exile" unfolds as a journey through the mind. Paraphrasing from the press kit; the protagonist finds herself conflicted, and seeks to ostracize herself from the world in order to protect herself from harm. With that alone, the psychological allegory fits well with the methodical, atmospheric musical approach they take. In actual practice, the lyrics are decent, but don't quite reach the potential that the concept had, either in its wordcraft or the places To-Mera goes with the idea. Although they bring plenty of musical and stylistic twists to the table throughout the album, To-Mera are not as good with emotional dynamics. Unlike Haken's "Aquarius", in which listeners were taken to almost every conceivable feeling and mood, To-Mera's emotional range feels a little limited, a surprise considering their success on virtually every other front.

Musically, To-Mera sound at the top of their game. If they weren't already, they are at the frontlines of contemporary progressive metal. Especially considering that their style has been tread and explored many times before, "Exile" is a surprisingly challenging and meaty project. Listeners should expect to invest several listens before they unlock all of the rewards here, although it would have been nice to have a shred more of the emotional warmth that Haken excels with. Really, it's a great record overall, and prog metallers will find many nights' worth of enjoyment here. I won't be surprised to see this on many 'best of the year', come the end of 2012.

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 Exile by TO-MERA album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 118 ratings

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Exile
To-Mera Progressive Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Here's a puzzler for you: is To-Mera's Exile a progressive rock album with prog metal moments or a progressive metal piece with progressive rock interludes? It's a tough one because the album hangs right on the borderline of the two approaches, with extended passages where metallic riffing is nowhere in sight and an intriguing sort of jazz-influenced new prog with a hint of Magenta and mid-period Thieves' Kitchen is being performed. With various world music influences also added to the mixture, the album showcases some impressive compositional skills and broad tastes on the part of the band. This is the crew's first album since the departure of co-founder Lee Barrett, leaving Julie Kiss as the sole remaining founder member of the project, and she's clearly done well in setting the band's current course. Fascinating from the first one, this one has grown on me a lot already during out brief acquaintance and I'll certainly be chasing up the group's back catalogue, as well as Julie's old work in Without Face.

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 Exile by TO-MERA album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 118 ratings

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Exile
To-Mera Progressive Metal

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Exceptional symphonic metal with beautiful vocals create an absorbing journey.

To-Mera's "Exile" is a very heavy and at times beautiful concept album with some excellent tracks that overall blend together to form one seamless album of supreme metal. Julie Kiss on vocals is a comparable singer, in the same way that other female fronted metal groups sound, not unlike the vixens of Epica, Nightwish, After Forever or Within Temptation. She pours a lot of emotion into the vocals with crystalline operatic power. Her voice balances out the gritty distortion in the guitars that are given a manic workout by Tom MacLean, and there are some very effective symphonic keyboards by Haken's maestro Richard Henshall. The rhythm machine of Mark Harrington on bass, and Paul Westwood on drums is excellent; at times the drums move into a double kick hyperspeed metal seizure such as on 'End Game' where speed metal takes over.

The music is everchanging and carries a sense of grandeur and sweeping majesty as well as maintaining strong metal hooks with some dynamic time changes and riffing. The album begins with an instrumental to get things in motion, with atmospheric drones and then an Egyptian melody on guitar and violins to set the scene which is portrayed on the beautiful album cover art. The booklet features imagery of Ancient Egypt with hieroglyphics embedded in the logo, and birds swooping through the sunlight rays, with some striking sunset scenery, backed by quotes of Nietzche and other famous authors.

After the ambient beauty of 'Inviting the Storm' the first metal chord crashes through the tranquillity and then a faster riff locks in. 'The Illusionist' is blasted out with a furious relentless riff and then we are graced by the golden tones of Julie's vocals; "Inside this deranged theatre we must dream with open eyes, dreamers of the day the future's ours". The keyboards come in with a repetitive phrase as the guitars break away and a cool time sig chugs along till more metal bursts flow through. The lead break is soaring and at times Julie serenades like a cherub, while at other times provides the forced delivery of a vampiress. The funkadelic bass cranks along well and then it moves to swathes of fragrant keyboards. The musical mood swings are well executed, maintaining creative ideas. It twists and turns like a winding road and settles into a valley where lead guitar howls over. The lyrics are compelling "it could be that sometimes you have to break your beloved chains, and leave with nothing but a heartache, in a cage you cannot live." This song is a terrific start to the album, with enough variation to provide five songs but it is all wrapped up in a 7 minute journey.

The piano tinkles a sweet melody as an aggressive muscular metal guitar tries to dominate then gives up on 'The Descent'. The piano continues as Julie's voice soars over sounding like Nightwish's Tarja Turunen or Epica's Simone Simons, "broken inside, but hands soaked in blood". There is a darker atmosphere on this with some ethereal whispers and streams of keyboard pads simmering beneath giving a dramatic quality. The lyrics portray the regrets of a murderess with some Gothic ideas thrown in, and the music takes on a quiet tranquil feel. The musical box keys have a childlike quality. The sound becomes intense with MacLeans's staccato guitar hammering and Harrington's bass, and a sporadic percussion rhythm by Westwood. Over a speed metal riff Henshall's Hammond organ sounds delightfully odd, but it is backed by male screaming growling vocals of Stephan Forte, "there's nowhere else to run". The demon voice resounds in the woman's ears and she is trapped by her own evil. It ends with gentle melancholy acoustics as she cries "forgive the past." A detonation of speed metal explodes, and then the music relaxes again into dreamy violin and piano; a masterful track.

'Deep Inside' has a measured cadence and then builds to a compacted rhythm. Julie's acrobatic vocals are exquisite and she remains strong even when she is more bellicose during the time sig changes. The melancholia is enhanced by uplifting surges of keyboard and minimalism of piano. The murderess is on the run but can't hide from herself, her emotional psychological journey continues; "forget all that's been, and all I've seen, how life has changed, and my world's been turned to dust time after time". Piano and violins generate a haunting soundscape that drifts into a peaceful beauty.

'Broken' is a killer 10 minute track with crunching riffs that shift tempo often and the vocals are processed with an android effect, sucking out the beauty of Julie's timbre. Indeed, this is a darker track with downbeat guitar chords and a scape of layered keyboards. After an outburst of penetrating riffing, the sound settles into a gentle ambience and gorgeous vocals, "creeping behind are wasted years, memories of a cold embrace, that send the Ancient sea pour down her broken face." The chorus builds with a theatrical atmosphere and a grand melody, "the world now rests in emotional darkness, and there's nothing left but the memory of the pain." The protagonist is feeling helpless and her world is sinking beneath her literally as she descends deeper into madness and guilt-ridden pain, the price of her culpability and dark desires that have now consumed her. The metal becomes incredibly dense as thrash guitar licks and blastbeats of drums pound relentlessly. The tuba provides a nice balance played by Diego Tejeida. An Egyptian melody is heard then a maelstrom of sound engulfs it with metal, driving nails into the rhythms. The lead break has sustained feedback and some wonderful string bends with soaring elegance. It gets heavier at the end until the portentous vocals, "there must be a way tell me, how can we abandon all we've got that matters so much, I know it'll never be the same and all the future holds is emptiness", capping off a masterful track.

'End Game' begins with frenetic speed metal and then a traditional metal riff locks in. Julie sings about the regrets of the murderess, "it's over, you know it's all over, just let the tide sweep over us now, I'm ready to go, to go under, oh take me under." With these suicidal tendencies set in stone the music takes on a melancholy sadness with waves of keyboards flooding under a tirade of distorted riffs. The song switches to an urgent pace and the protagonist says "I'm ready to quit this fight." The manic soundwave dies and some piano sparkles over until a new tempo machetes through. It builds with looming menace with keyboard swirls, leading to a fast hypnotic motif, with breakneck speed percussion, and then some low resounding piano runs. Soon more angelic vocals continue the story to a sudden ending.

'Surrender' is a lengthy song clocking 11 minutes, beginning with serene classical acoustic picking. The clean electric guitar comes in that is very effective building a brooding atmosphere. It breaks into a loud distorted axe attack that moves to a delightful off sync beat with piano. As Julie begins to sing softly, a cathedral organ is heard giving the sound a majestic feel. The melody on this is more accessible and has a pulsing vibrant bassline, and there are odd breaks with piano and tribal bongo rhythms. This jazz outbreak is an effective device and it leads to another fractured riff and then a snarling guitar blasts over with some organ flourishes. MacLean's guitar is interminably locked into a D minor pentatonic scale, and the piano playing feels very dark and downbeat. This is a complicated prog metal blaster, with chunky riffs and a plethora of time sig changes. The lyrics become more positive, "the answers aren't hard to find, just dare to live, cause every heartbeat is a universe of possibilities", a quote from G.D.Roberts. A very nice vocal is soon heard, to enhance the ominous atmosphere. It builds eventually to an excellent time sig change that moves the track into a new direction. The polyrhythmic riffs are mesmirising and inspiring, and the bassline is incredible. It culminates with cathedral church organ providing a religious setting as the murderess begins to put her life back together. An intense paroxysm of metal fury ends the track. This is a wonderful prog metal song that is certainly one of the best on "Exile".

The album tracks are linked well making the whole culminate in one long metal suite. 'All I Am' opens with a pretty piano melody, and the cadence is slow and patient, augmented by soft vocals. I like To-Mera when they are in their melancholic mood and they are always ready for a blast of distortion to keep things interesting. The air is intense with whispered rage. The bass emanates nicely and there are lovely vocals, one of the quietest moments on the album, but threatens to break out any moment. The metal comes in the form of an angular guitar riff as the mood darkens and a very odd time sig dominates. The cathedral pipe organ returns and some Wurlitzer style organ enters competing with the metal onslaught of machine gun riffing. Interwoven throughout are Julie's beautiful vocals, understated and melodic, as she sings the thoughts of the protagonist who has come to terms with her pain, "and if I am to fall, and if I am to fail, I know you'll be there." The Gothic atmosphere is generated by mesmerising violin and piano. The music feels melancholy and sombre and the vocals remind me of Annie Haslam or Sonja Kristina as she uses an operatic tone that rises and falls in pitch with crystal clear clarity. The lengthy piano passage is a stunning piece of musicianship and the staccato percussion threatens to pour down a storm. The sound intensifies with distorted chords and a relentless lead guitar lick. It feels as though we are nearing the conclusion, as the murderess sings, "it's all worth it, I know deep inside, I've always known it's all I am."

"Exile" is an extraordinary piece of musicianship that has vast soundscapes of ambience and piano passages along with some colossal metal riffs, and a fair degree of tempo changes throughout. The concept is heavy handed but the music becomes a soundtrack to the life of a woman whose life has become a living hell due to her murderous deeds. It could also be an allegory for escaping madness, the whole thing might be all in her head, but it is left to interpretation. The vocals are one of the best things about the album, along with the intricate technical changes in mood with dynamic metal riffs at one end of the scale, and piano illuminations at the other. Classical and metal can be at polar opposites but bands like To-Mera know how to employ just the right balance to appease both target audiences. This album will appeal to those who like a symphonic element infused within a metal framework. There is enough metal here to please the metalhead and in fact in places there is extreme speed metal blastbeats. It has a short burst of vocal growls but overall is permeated by the angelic voice of Julie. "Exile" is an excellent quality production with a lot to say, and To- Mera allows the musical landscape to speak as this dark tale unravels emanating an absorbing listening experience.

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 Exile by TO-MERA album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 118 ratings

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Exile
To-Mera Progressive Metal

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

4 stars Lone remainder of the founding group, Julie Kiss, continues to beguile me with her extraordinary voice, and overall I think this album the most accessible of the band's output, but I'm not sure this is a good thing. Gone are the rough edges, the sharp and sudden turns, everything has been smoothed out. I'm not sure if it's the keyboard work, but this album has far less of the abrasive, unpredictableness of either Transcendental or Traces. Instead I feel as if I am listening more to NIGHTWISH or EPICA or WITHIN TEMPTATION. Sometimes the 'new' To-Mera is a positive (I often found some of the radical within-song shifts from previous albums disconcerting or distancing?though never so much as within, say, a UNEXPECT song), but I am also saddened at the loss of quirky surprise. Even the songs I find closest to the 'old' To-Mera are still surprisingly smooth, melodic, and "pretty."

So, herein lies the difficulty of the decision to rate this album: I miss the sudden, drastic mid-song changes in mood, tempo, and/or instrumentation, but I do find myself enjoying the more melodic, smoothness of the new music--especially as added by the keyboard player, who, apparently is from HAKEN. And I do not begrudge the group it's movement away from Heavy Metal. But I do know this: I love the voice of Julie Kiss, I love the bass playing of Mark Harrington, I love the incorporations of Near Eastern instruments and sounds. I do not like the way the drums sound and often find myself questioning the choice of keyboard sounds Often quite cheezy, almost more like PAUL HARDCASTLE).

1. "Inviting the Storm" (3:02) (8/10) 2. "The Illusionist" (7:21) (8/10) 3. "The Descent" (7:54) (7/10) 4. "Deep Inside" (6:46) (8/10) 5. "Broken" (10:04) (8/10) 6. "End Game" (6:13) (9/10) 7. "Surrender" (11:05) (9/10) 8. "All I Am" (12:46) (9/10)

3.5 stars rated up for consistency and continued high level creativity.

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 Exile by TO-MERA album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 118 ratings

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Exile
To-Mera Progressive Metal

Review by VanVanVan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The only thing I knew about this band before they kindly sent me a demo to review was that they had some member overlap with Haken. Naively, I assumed that this would translate into a very similar sound, and going into my first listen I rather expected that this album would follow in the hyper-melodic, extremely accessible mode of that other band.

Well, after many more listens I need to set something straight for anyone who may be new to this band and is thinking along similar lines. This certainly isn't Haken. To-mera seems to draw influence from a far greater pool, and as a result this album is far harder to categorize than the (still excellent) Haken. There are nods to extreme metal (however brief) and even some reminiscence in places to hyper-frenetic bands like Unexpect. There's also, however, multitudes of gorgeous piano and violin, and the sublime female vocals give the music a very fresh sound.

'Inviting the Storm' begins the album with a faintly eastern sounding motif, backed up by some eclectic percussion and a great combination of piano and guitar. It isn't until midway through that the heaviness picks up, and even then it's only briefly there before a more serene motif returns. 'Inviting the Storm' definitely functions as an introductory track more than anything else, but it does well in that capacity and sets the scene well for the rest of the album.

'The Illusionist' kicks the album into high-gear with a crushing guitar part coupled with a very Discipline-esque violin part. After a bit of introductory instrumental playing, the guitar launches into a more straightforward riff assisted by some excellent keyboards and the vocals make their first appearance. The track develops a very eclectic sound as it moves into its middle section, with a variety of synth textures creating a variety of styles, from frenetic licks to more atmospheric soundscapes. The guitar is nigh-omnipresent throughout the track as well, and whether it's adding understated riffs or turning in stunning solos it's always a welcome presence. The track finally goes into a more relaxed mode toward the end, and the female vocals really shine during this passage. The track concludes with some more chugging riffs before transitioning into the next song.

'The Descent' opens with a rather haunting solo piano before introducing some pounding guitar that only appears briefly before vocals appear over the piano. For a brief period the two interact alone in space, but then the heavy guitar comes back to support the truly excellent vocal melody that develops. I can actually hear a bit of similarity to Unexpect's latest album, with constantly changing, somewhat unconventional riffing, though To-mera is certainly more melodic. The track relaxes a bit in its middle third, delving into an almost jazzy motif before returning to the juxtaposition of heavy riffing and gorgeous vocals. I think some Dream Theater influence can be heard here as well, but just when you think you know where the track is going the freneticism kicks up a notch and there's some brief growling that takes the track into completely new territory. The track closes out the same way it began, with the same haunting piano and a very nice return of the violin.

'Deep Inside' begins with a highly cinematic, climactic fanfare of guitar and synth, with some really excellent playing from the bassist and percussionist as well. The group continues their use of slightly off-kilter rhythms and tonalities coupled with gorgeous vocals to create a highly distinctive sound, but for all its idiosyncrasies this music is still highly melodic. A beautiful piano and violin part at the end of the track highlights this quite nicely, as does the very emotional vocal melody that ends the track.

'Broken,' the first of the album's 10-minute-plus tracks, starts with an instrumental section that builds from solo guitar into a fast-riffing, full-on metal crush-fest. Slightly distorted vocals add to the ominous, heavy feel, as does a very gothic-sounding organ part that appears behind the most dramatic portions of the track. There's an excellent part as well from what sounds to me like an oboe or English horn (though I suppose it could just as easily be a synth of some sort), and there's a very good guitar solo as well. Overall, though I think 'Broken' is one of the slower-to-develop tracks on the album, it's a very satisfying and varied piece of progressive metal.

'Endgame' kicks off immediately with a thrashy, almost math-rock-ish riff that is wonderfully augmented by atmospheric synths and of course the same great vocals that have been all over the album. A wonderful, pseudo-classical piano solo makes a brief appearance as well before the track moves into a new theme, this one extremely dramatic and soaring. Overall, 'Endgame' is probably one of the heavier tracks on the album, even reminding at times of Metallica, but it also has some of the most dramatic vocal lines on the album, and that's really saying something given the excellence of the vocals throughout.

'Surrender' is the first of two long tracks that close out the album, and it begins with a solo guitar part that uses hints of atonality to create a very unique atmosphere. Within the first three minutes of the song, the band manages to pull out a huge variety of instrumentations and themes that nonetheless fit together very well in a wonderful combination of beautiful, soaring melodies and jagged, crunching heaviness. This trend continues for the full duration of the track's 11 minute run, creating a piece of progressive metal music that, if not the most cohesive song I've ever heard, is certainly a compelling listen.

The climactically titled 'All I Am' begins, like a few of the other tracks, with a simply beautiful piano solo. Some minimalist percussion is the next element to appear, and when vocals make their appearance they're more subdued than they have been elsewhere, which certainly suits the music. The heaviness in the music grows into prominence more smoothly than elsewhere as well; as a result, the track comes off as much more cohesive (and, to my ears, better) than the previous one. The piano also plays a larger role here, and as a result the track plays for much of its duration in a much more subdued, melodic mode than many of the heavier tracks on the album. Personally, I feel that the band really shines in this style, and if I had to pick a favorite track on the album it would be this one. The track does pick up into a more energetic mode toward the end of its hefty 12-minute runtime, but even then, for the most part, it focuses on melody and drama over heaviness. 'All I Am' is a stunning, dramatic, closer and a really excellent song overall.

If I have to voice one criticism with the album, it's that the extremely eclectic composition leaves some of the tracks with a somewhat jagged feel. While the songs are technically masterful and the individual parts of each track are quite good, the songs and the album as a whole haven't really clicked with me even after many, many listens. Nonetheless, there is plenty to like here and most prog-metal heads should find this a very enjoyable listen.

3/5

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