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When I recount the various mind trips I’ve gone on with the speakers maxed out, the one that sticks out more so than most is that of To-Mera. Several years ago while being subjected to their very unique take on progressive metal, I found myself questioning the longevity of such an original, dangerous and forward-looking album in “Transcendental”. The album lived up to the very name every single second, breaking down the barriers that separate such distant styles as death/black metal and lounge jazz music, and avoiding the usual cliché of putting all the emphasis on the angelic lead vocalist (aka Julie Kiss). But surprisingly enough, not only was the band able to recapture that same frenzied mixture of musical genres on the sophomore album “Delusions”, but have restated the same specific conception without outright repeating themselves.
As before, all the usual element are thrown in, just short of the kitchen sink. A vocal sound fit for Lacuna Coil or Epica trades blows with an instrumental backdrop that channels elements of Dream Theater, Opeth, Emperor and a host of other distantly related artists, some of which are not within the metal spectrum. Sometimes things just blaze away at full blast in a matter normally associated with Behemoth, at others things are so quiet and serene that one might be possessed to put away the battle axe and pick up a latte while reciting improvised poetry. But no matter what extremity of the known musical borders this album reaches for, there is this continuous sense of being centered, almost to the point of being catchy in spite of all the technical mayhem and switches in feel.
But the ultimate test of any great band is how blatantly polarizing the music is, and even amid the onslaught of extreme experiments that have gone on in various metal sub-genres, To-Mera is a prime example of how the “you either love them or hate them” saying literally becomes flesh before the eyes. When considering the vast litany of emotions fighting each other, from outright passion to a restrained sense of regret, one can’t help but feel as if an all night binge drinking fest followed by a severe hangover just flashed by like the speed of light. But even within the schizophrenic musical ramblings that are fit together and somehow make sense, time is made for a sense of order and symmetry. On the previous album this manifested itself in “Blood”, which also had its own music video, here the song in question is “Inside The Hourglass”, which carries a similar sense of moderated repetition, though the feel is a bit less gothic and more in line with the Dream Theater model of odd beats in the midst of a catchy melody out of Julie.
To all inquiring ears who may wish to sample this quirky little journey into wonderland, prepare to set aside any and all premises about what defines female fronted metal. This is not another catchy power metal band with heavy orchestral backdrops (not that there is anything wrong with that) or the cliché beauty and the beast duet variation on gothic or melodic black metal. This is a band that tends to go long and does so by cramming just about every idea under the sun, but they make it work better than some of their contemporaries flying under the banner of progressive metal. And in similar fashion, this is aggressive music that provides an extreme alternative to the meanderings of early Opeth. In other words, this is a risky album, but with all things, the greater the risk, the greater the reward.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on July 30, 2011.
Music has always had hidden messages about limitations; basically, a band should never let the mindset of a potential obstacle conquer their objective, but we see it happen way too many times, whether it’s from generic attributes or effortless slumps. However, To-Mera’s crisp ideology on “Delusions” provides one of the boldest attempts at constructing new paths away from such disaster, and what we get in return is perfected progressive metal, and that’s straight from the heart. Many groups openly waltz with boredom’s ever-flowing curse like it was a divine calling, but an album like “Delusions” proudly kicks negativity right where it hurts and redefines everything great about individualistic metal, just like a golden nugget should.
Honestly, To-Mera’s sophomore effort is what we in the media field call “bat-shit crazy” due to the constant instrumental clatter, but there is still not a single moment of incoherent cacophony that drives you away; instead, this record’s utter craziness attracts like a magnet. The corky magic essentially bases itself in tiny, stable patterns juicing every drop of goodness before altering upon a simple command; once that happens, something new takes over, and the whole snippet-based cycle continues on with amazement in its grasp. But how could taking a nibble from a hundred sandwiches – each possessing its own specific flavor – make your stomach full? Try jamming nearly every kind of music imaginable into this disc while doing so.
Sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it? Not surprisingly, To-Mera does lurch into these unknown caverns without fear, even when facing possible consequences ranging from boredom to the listener throwing this disc away. However, they do very well ditching any problems, and here’s how: To-Mera’s vivid influences not only demonstrate intelligent potency, but firmly bind their metallic edge into areas nobody would ever consider connecting in a million years, yet they somehow end up fantastically crafted. Intervals occurring quite frequently will give your virgin ears a taste of mismatched jigsaws entwining on perfected status, like those jazz-laden interludes coexisting alongside hearty black metal pieces on “The Lie.” Now picture that together with technical riffs, blastbeats, lounge music, female vocals, artistic keyboards, ripping solos, hard rock sections, musically-alternating choruses, and percussion fills ranging from insane to inhuman. Welcome to the tip of the iceberg, baby!
As we dive into this realm of demented poetics, there is all but one truth: To-Mera is flawless on every musical spectrum, even when reaching into the obscure. For one, Yngwie Malmsteen and the remaining chairmen of the Divine Guitar Council have warmly welcomed Tom MacLean into their special quarters, as they’ve clearly seen his talent evolve and improve since his first stab at technical shredding. Hell, I seriously had my jaw drop whenever MacLean briefly pitched those mathematical riffs and literally destroyed his instrument with a solo unlike anything of this planet; he really is that good. Julie Kiss’ vocals have a special relationship with this shredding opus that only can be compared to that of Garfield and Jon Arbuckle: very different, but they work extremely well when sealed together. Same concept can easily be applied to Paul Westwood’s beating of skin and Mark Harrington’s my-face-just-got-sanded thumping, courtesy of his destructive bass. Honestly, there resides not a single letdown, musically or poetically. Just expect greatness becoming one with the unconventional.
Every time “Delusions” penetrates my hearing orifices, I’m brought to a new world in which stellar forms of music’s many backgrounds can bend, twist, tangle, and flow within each other and to the beyond; a masterful display at capturing progressive metal’s finest elements while discovering uniqueness unlike any other band imaginable. Case in point, To-Mera literally has its shit all over the place, yet I’m not trying to sling mud at their effort on “Delusions,” because it really is revolutionary when stacked against bands that sound progressive just because the neighbor’s are asking them to do so. What we have here primly describes progressive metal justice like it should be, so just relax and let it take you to a place only pure originality can create. An outstanding release overall.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com