Saturday, September 28, 2013

To-Mera - Transcendental (2006)

There is a funny story relating to this album, which I have already told in this blog - essentially I purchased it in some time between 2007-2011 and clearly never took it out of the case, because when I went to listen to it, for what was obviously the first time, I found the box empty. Anyhow, you will be happy to know that not only have I now acquired a copy of the entire album, I did so both legally and without it costing me any further money. All it took was Freegal and three weeks.

Freegal, for those of you who have not heard of it, is a Sony-backed musical provider that acts through local libraries allowing the patrons to download up to three tracks a week forever. Through it I have tracked down songs by Dragonforce, Slough Feg, Judas Priest and Helloween. And, of course, To-Mera.

To-Mera hail from the United Kingdom and wikipedia describes them as:
The band plays a technical style of metal characterized by long songs, multiple time changes and jazz interludes.
We have Julie Kiss on vocals, which will, of course, mean that I will likely be drawing comparisons to other female-lead bands of the era. Julie Kiss is of Hungarian origin, and sometimes you can hear the slight hint of an accent to her vocals.

This edition is a slipcase, unfortunately now with a damaged sleeve, thanks to the blasted stickers applied by the music store I purchased it through (now defunct). Inside, a CD case slides out, with the cover being a rather artistic, somewhat gloomy, multi-shaded panel of a lone orange flower in a feathery plain, with pyrmaidic mountains and a denuded tree in the background, all in various shades of orange/red/brown. The same cover is repeated in a booklet format inside the plastic case. On the pages within are the lyrics and the band photo, all printed over more of these moody, forboding, lonesome images. It looks almost post-apocalyptic, like a land lost to the reds and browns of true and overwhelming gloom.

The album opens with "Traces" begins with a haunting, tribal feel - chanting voices, fluttering guitar - then in crashes the bass like a great, slow dirge of ominous loominosity and haunting melancholia. Like the soundtrack to a feeling of loss and abandonment, with a touch of piano.

With fuzzy, indistinctiveness, it is "Blood". Solid bassline, piano and surging, soaring vocals with crystalline clarity. The chorus is rolling and powerful, rolling into the dramatic. The heavy backing music, with its slow, low and heavy qualities is more reminiscent of modern metal, interspersed with the twiddly keyboards of progressive metallic electronica. All interweaves into a powerful force of nature. Once again, we fade out with piano.

Heavy, surging rhythms and whispered vocals herald the immensity of  "Dreadful Angel". The pacing is erratic - at times slow and dreamy, others rapid and rabid. Julie's voice switches effortlessly from desperate cries to determination and then dropping down into sorrowful melancholia. The music, too, switches with the narrative - heavy and aggressive, slow and haunting. Surging in with the drama. Looming with thread and flurrying into a hectic, frantic maelstrom of drums, keyboards and warring guitars before being jaggedly ripped away and thrust into what could possibly be the afore-mentioned jazz interludes. There is even a touch of grindcore.

This dramatic, eclectic, erratic switches to pacing and pitch reminds me somewhat of the Diablo Swing Orchestra. Except that To-Mera aren't quite as awesome.

After that, we start into the looming darkness of "Phantoms". There is a hint of desolation, loss and confusion here, whilst the backing music looms with symphonic shadows and rips us away with jagged rifts. One cannot help but think about nightmares coming to life, and creatures stalking through dark corridors with blades for hands and a taste for blood:
"A thousand dreams march through the night, a thousand dreams destroy my life..."
Another slow, jazz-inclined interlude offers respite from the frantic fury. Julie's voice swoons sweet and laden with innocence. Before it is overwhelmed, steam-rollered by a mighty, spiky wheel of heavy bass, pounding drums and then its back to the jazz, intermingled with a cornucopia of keyboards.

After that furious conclusion, it is time for another gentle respite - but for how long? "Born of Ashes" starts with Julie and a guitar, soft and lilting, with a hint of folk. Beautifully emotional, haunting and golden. Dramatic and symphonic, the spirits rise in operatic, cinematic glory.

A piano flurry leads us into the haunting, ghostly shadows of "Parfum", a song that begins as sweet as its name.Quickly though, the steamroller of power rumbles in and the drums decimate all with their almighty wall of sound, backed by the raging guitars. Then fade out, and the keyboards come a-twiddling in. It ends with another rampaging rift.

Fading beauty, flitting like butterflies drifting in the starlight, "Obscure Oblivion" is as beautiful and evanescent as its name. Piano and vocals dance together in a melody of sunlight before the drama swells. Then falls back into those jazzy rhythms. Very nifty stylisation with a hint of Dream Theater.

We conclude with the longest track on the album, the haunting "Realm of Dreams" which, once again, starts gentle then is engulfed by power.The lyrics are dreamy and beautiful, the vocals spectral, delicate, with a hint of carnival music.
"The night sky descends onto the mind, leaving the capricious dusk behind..."
More erratic pacing: dramatic shifts and long, slow, soft passages. A hint of folk. Then more drama and, finally, static surges in, demolishing all in its path. Either that or I've just blown my speakers.

Erratic, dramatic; rampaging progressive metal - To-Mera certainly score points for their sophistication and their stylisation. Listening to the album in one go proves to be somewhat exhausting, however, with the dramatic tempo shifts. Not exactly easy listening! And not good background music. However, skillful, eclectic and pretty jolly good.

I'll rate this 7.5/10

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