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The more I read up about this band, the more I discover that people dislike the vocal portrayal. Am I the only one who has fallen in love with it? I hope not. In some ways, this Yorkshire based band remind me of another British band, who’re also defunct now -- Warning. Both bands have received some, or a lot, of negative attention when it comes to the clean style of the vocals. Tefra, a Yorkshire based conception were formed in 1996 and took a long time to release their debut full-length record (ten years, to be precise), but the worth has been worth it given the intriguing mixture of genres that has led this band to slowly, but steadily move up the rankings of my favourite bands list. They’re nowhere near definitive favourites, but for this style of so-called epic power doom metal, they’re one of the best I’ve heard. Granted that my knowledge of this unique hybrid is not extensive in the slightest, but what little I have heard hasn’t offered anything anywhere near as interesting, or delightful as Britain’s Tefra. Comparisons to Warning don’t seem to be widespread as of yet, but I’m thinking I might not be the only person on the planet to have made this sort of connection. If I am, well, at least my review documents this triumphant moment for me as I’ve finally become original in some small way.
Tefra’s aptly titled record, ‘The Last Dance’ truly is the beginning and the unfortunate end of their full-length career. It is a crying shame that the band took so long in assembling a full-length, but as I’ve learned more about the process, I’ve accepted the fact that its not as easy as it seems in my mind, to begin with. A friend of mine recently released his first full-length record and it took him and his fellow band mates several years to finally put the material to disc. Granted, they had numerous problems, some severe, but ten years truly is a long time to wait for a band to release a full-length, instead of the numerous demos and such that the band were releasing (none of which I have heard). As the lyrics for ‘Five For…’ suggests, “you’ve got to lay a strong foundation” and this is precisely what Tefra do by keeping the bass low lying enough to cement the soundscapes into the realms of the infamous. To an extent, I don’t understand the bands genre description. Aside from the vocals and usually the vocals alone, I do not hear any “epic” vibes in this release. A fair amount of the instrumentation, particularly in the slow-mid paced guitars and the often mid-paced percussion, the band rely heavily on the vocals to make them sound unique and versatile. Having said that, it certainly does work and is pleasing.
If the band had used growled vocals which typify sections of the doom metal scene, the band wouldn’t have even half the appeal that they do have at this moment in time. Tefra’s style does seem a bit too reliant on the vocals to carry the music, but there is nothing wrong with that. Take sports teams for example. The most talented players of your sport of choice are always given the most recognition for their aptitude and accomplished style within the game. The best players earn the most and the best players play for the best teams (within certain sports). There is a reason why the most talented aspects of bands are shunted into the foreground, like they are on Tefra’s stage -- because the most talented aspects, which come in the form of the lambent and luminous vocalist who lights up the soundscapes with a touch of class, are the most worthy of being center stage. In my reviewing career, I’ve not covered power metal extensively, or at all as it would seem, so bear with me because this isn’t my niche market of metal. There doesn’t appear to be many power metal soundscapes present here and more doom laden atmospherics that you can count. The band remind me of Warning and their brave style a bit, but not overly. Songs like ’Unstable Fairytale’, even in the title, remind me of the depressing ways of Warning, who also utilised clean vocals and excessive bass leads that drove the emotion forwards. I'd also like to point out the amazing cover art. Its very beautiful and I love the imagery of the sad and lonesome tree, standing alone.
Certainly no symphonic keyboards here, which is something I have come to expect with a lot of power metal that I have heard. There is some technical play in the form of the guitarist who’s imperative layered styling make the record more accessible to the technical freaks who love experimentation. Songs like ‘Relic of Time’ seem to contribute to the power metal tag, exploring several glorious solos which, again, are mid-paced. The material doesn’t usually reach fast tempos and this is an important aspect of the instrumentation because the hollow, echoing atmospherics require as little fast paced tempos as possible because the bass does not function as well when the tempos are faster and the other elements, including the entrancing percussion section which uses the ever present hi-hat and snare segments with control and precision. Not only do these sections require as little fast paced material as possible, but the emotive vocals wouldn’t function as well with fast tempos either. So, these might not be your typical power metal vocals, but they’re inspiring nevertheless in the current form. Given the fact that this band went on to do a split with well recognised German doom metal band Mirror of Deception, I personally feel that the bands career was just about to take off given the fact that Mirror of Deception, alongside Dawn of Winter, are one of Germany’s longest running doom bands, so their fan base were surely about to tap into the eccentricity that is Tefra. A crying shame.