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.
(Online August 16, 2011)