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To-Mera - Exile CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.94 | 145 ratings

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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.


VanVanVan | 3/5 |


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