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To-Mera - Transcendental CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.82 | 67 ratings

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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.

Star_Song_Age_Less | 4/5 |


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