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To-Mera: Transcendental

Few new bands can release killer debut albums like To-Mera. Formed only a year ago by Lee Barrett of Extreme Noise Terror and Julie Kiss of Without Face, To-Mera quickly grew into a full band with the addition of fantastic drummer Akos Pirisi, keyboardist Hugo Sheppard, and guitarist Tom Maclean, both of whom are schooled musicians. Sheppard's keyboard and piano playing lends the songs a very dynamic edge, often delving into classical and jazz territory, while Maclean's challenging fretwork is nothing short of mind-blowing. Not only is he technically superior to most prog bands' players, he also covers a wide spectrum of styles, fusing brutally heavy death metal-like riffs with intense, harmonically rich melodic signatures.

Most female-fronted metal bands write material that undeniable gives off a gothic air, relying heavily on orchestrated keyboard parts with the occasional crunch-filled guitar work. Some listeners will be quick to compare To-Mera with the likes of Lacuna Coil and Within Temptation, and perhaps even Nightwish and The Gathering. Not that anything is wrong with these bands, but To-Mera is a completely different beast musically. For starters, they are crushingly heavy progressive metal, serving all aspects of this much stagnated genre, but they do inject calmer acoustic passages along with jazzy interludes into their craft as well. Vocalist Julie Kiss whose Eastern European accent lends her already dark voice an extra layer of depth and character is a great fit for the band. Her soft, fragile soprano-like vocals in the intro "Traces" turn into expressive and melodic singing on the haunting "Blood", putting her semi-operatic delivery on display. The somewhat thrashy intro and cool percussion bring in extra dynamics colliding with monstrous riffage and beguiling piano melodies. In its second half, the song launches into an instrumental landscape, merging slightly electronic synth work with super technical guitars and explosive bass.

One of To-Mera's strongest aspects is their unbreakable rhythm battery. Drummer Ari Pirisi has officially become my new-found talent of the year. I don't know whether he played on other albums before, but his performance on Transcendental is awe-inspiring. He has the ability to inject ultra-complex Meshuggah-style polyrhthms into the dark "Obscure Oblivion", which starts out like a quasi-ballad decorated with killer jazz piano, but then morphs into a pulverizing number marked by weird stop-start sections and strong vocal harmonies. Then there is "Parfum", punctuated by tribal drumming a la Tool meets Dead Soul Tribe in a free-flowing avant-garde environment. Lee Barrett's bass solo is thick and chunky, underscoring Maclean's precise guitar work which alternates between complex, multi-segmented riffery and solemn acoustic moments. "Born of Ashes", arguably the song that highlights Julie Kiss' vocals the best, begins with a nice acoustic guitar that lends itself to vague folk references before Sheppard puts in a soaring synth patch that slowly blankets and surrounds the whole piece. The song is then carried into a maniacal instrumental frenzy with pounding drumming and rampaging bass, Maclean's lead guitar work at the end being the apex of everything.

"Dreadful Angel" and the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired "Phantoms" are heavily jazz-infused, particularly during select moments. The former is slightly more experimental; it blends stomping bass and bone-crushing rhythm guitars with enchanting symphonic elements. The sound is simply huge and arrangement absolutely intricate. The song features a sick guitar and keyboard solo respectively, marrying atonal notes with jazz breakdowns and even a brief Opethian acoustic interlude. As if that's not enough, they seal the piece with killer death metal riffery at the very end. On "Phantoms", they blend mathematical guitars with chord progressions that take a few listens to grasp. Pirisi proves he's also perfectly capable of playing death metal type of drums with Barreth's low-end bass growling beneath. Kiss' clean vocals are simply beautiful, especially during the slower mid-section.

Though new to me, Brett Caldas-Lima is a killer producer. The album sounds incredible. Thick guitars and chunky bass, perfectly mixed vocals, and a fabulous drum sound. Add to this Sheppard's invalubale keyboard and piano performance and the result is Transcendental, the best debut album of 2006.

Track Listing

  1. Traces
  2. Blood
  3. Dreadful Angel
  4. Phantoms
  5. Born of Ashes
  6. Parfum
  7. Obscure Oblivion
  8. Realm of Dreams

Added: October 25th 2006
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Score:
Related Link: To-Mera website
Hits: 4064
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

To-Mera: Transcendental
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-10-25 07:08:38
My Score:

The band To-Mera is an incredible find based on their unique blend of both Progressive Metal nd Gothic Metal styles. After your first run of the CD you will sit back and say that this was one of the best bands you have heard all year and it would be justifiable. The group is fronted by the beautiful Julie Kiss (ex Without Face) who along with Lee Barrett, Tom MacLean, and Hugo Sheppard form this mixed English/Hungarian sensation. To-Mera takes a collection of elements that are most often found in bands such as Opeth, Yes and Nightwish and after mixing it up a little bit will deliver you a result that is a truly magical musical discovery. Kiss is a powerful, but yet haunting lead singer whose voice will at times remind the listener of Simone Simons (Epica) and perhaps even just a bit of Annie Haslam (who fronted the Art-Progressive Rock band Renaissance). Vocally she glides over the intricate webs created by the band with ease and make songs like "Phantoms" and "Born Of Ashes" absolutely incredible and repeat listens. There is a level of technical proficiency that the band demonstrates that is not often associated to the Gothic sound and this display of prowess in songs such as "Dreaded Angel" and "Parfum" could very well change the way that this genre is accepted and perhaps even the way this music gets created by other bands in the future. I have to say that this is surely a refreshing change from the often too-brooding and melancholy displays into sorrow that standard Gothic has best become known for. The Progressive angle is wisely used and makes the Goth turn upward a notch. There is a chance that this release will even find favor in the hearts of the often stoic Prog-head. There are jazz flirtations in some parts and casual piano that leads into blistering polyrhythmic drumming patterns when all the while the guitars are shredding and Julie is doing her thing. They are a group that can play their instruments and on every song they reinforce this talent in the ears of the listener showing you just what they can do. It seems quite clear that a bright future awaits the band and in a scene where there are a lot of female fronted groups To-Mera shows that they stand in a category of their own instead of being a "cookie-cutter" version of another popular act. Julie Kiss stands ready to become a force of influence for those females who are drawn to this type of music and seek their own greatness and inspirations. She has an Operatic style that is probably going to draw some Tarja Turunen comparisons as well, but I think she merits her own kudos.

There is a solid production level on the recording as well and the band took a chance on up and coming French producer Brett Caldas-Lima. He did right by the band as there are many peaks and valleys here and none of the dynamics in their music seems lost on any of the tracks. With "Transcendental" To-Mera is daring to show the world that Metal music can always be something that excites you, is ambitious and is a far more adventurous form of music that the mainstream resources would ever have you believe. To-Mera is more of a musical force of nature on their Candlelight Records debut than just a new band. You would be best advised to pay attention to what they are saying. I have a feeling you're going to like it.


To-Mera: Transcendental
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-09-27 19:55:32
My Score:

Shades of The Gathering, Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, Dream Theater, and Tristania, can be heard on the debut release Transcendental from the British/Hungarian ensemble To-Mera. Mixing progressive and power metal styles along with jazz, straight prog, as well as some death metal riff-o-rama, To-Mera have put together a pretty classy and professional sounding platter here that's a hell of a lot heavier, more progressive, and ultimately more interesting to listen to than many female fronted metal bands on the scene today. Vocalist Julie Kiss has an amazing, angelic voice, and coupled with the nimble drum work of Ari Pirisi, the crunchy guitar riffs of Tom Maclean, punchy bass grooves from Lee Barrett, and the mix of jazz and prog keyboard textures from the wonderfully talented Hugo Sheppard, makes for a very enjoyable metal experience.

From the intense mix of prog, jazz, and metal on the complex "Phantoms", to the charming atmosphere of "Born of Ashes", there's so much to like here. Sheppard's classical and jazz piano melodies lead in the wild "Parfum", a driving bit of progressive metal which also features the soaring vocals of Kiss, as well as blinding drum work, and intricate guitar/synth explorations. Each piece is lenghty (6 of the 8 exceed six minutes), and allows for plenty of room for heavy riffs, jazzy, atmospheric sections, and bombastic & symphonic prog, always led by the vocals of Julie Kiss, no matter what the situation calls for.

Factor in the excellent production of Brett Caldas-Lima (a relatively new producer from France), and you've got one of 2006's biggest surprises and hottest debuts.



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