A Good Taste of To-Mera
After releasing two successful full-length albums, British prog metal band To-Mera released their first EP with 2009's Earthbound. At only 4 tracks and a running time under a half-hour, Earthbound gives us a good taste of what this band is about without ever becoming overwhelming. To-Mera's varied musical style and constantly shifting moods never fail to impress, although I have a few small gripes that do drag down my score a little bit. Still, if you're into progressive metal and aren't satisfied with another Dream Theater clone, Earthbound may be right up your alley.
The music here is progressive metal, but on the more unique end of the spectrum. I find it difficult to pinpoint any single influence in To-Mera's music, something that's almost always a good thing. As mentioned, Earthbound consists of 4 songs. My favorite song by far is the opening, "Mesmerised", although the title track comes pretty close. The last two songs ("Arcane Solace" and "Another World") are actually somewhat drowned by comparison. They're still really good, but never really reach the mark of excellence that the first two songs presented. Compositionally, the last two songs never completely immersed me like the first tracks did.
My biggest gripe on Earthbound, however, is actually the guitar tones. I'm sure many people will disagree with me, but there are actually quite a few times where I think that the guitar is far too high in the mix, in addition to sounding too distorted at the wrong times. One good example of this is in the song "Earthbound" at the 2:05 mark. The jazzy keyboards and melodic vocals sound silly with the extreme metal guitar style. Of course, some people may like this, but it sounds a bit like an identity crisis to me. I honestly think To-Mera sounds better when they play more melodic progressive rock sections that highlight on the beautiful vocals of Julie Kiss and the atmospheric keyboards from Richard Henshall. I think they should leave the generic metal riffing to a minimum on the following releases. It may sound like an odd thing for an avid fan of Morbid Angel and Death to say, but I honestly don't think the Meshuggah-like guitar distortion fits To-Mera's style most of the time. Of course, there are a few moments where the guitar distortion adds a "punch", but most times it sounds like a lame attempt to get heavy, in my opinion.
Despite that complaint, there are plenty of great things on Earthbound that make it worth a purchase in the end. One of these things is the terrific musicianship. All of the five musicians in To-Mera are extremely talented, especially Richard Henshell on the keyboards and Julie Kiss on vocals. All of the musicians show their chops, though, and manage to incorporate that into melodic songwriting.
The production is okay. I don't have any huge complaints about the sound, but as I mentioned earlier, there are quite a few times where the guitar is way too high in the mix. Other than that, the production is pretty good.
Earthbound is a very good EP by To-Mera that is recommendable to all fans of female-fronted progressive metal. There are a few gripes I have with this release, but they are (thankfully) relatively small in the big picture. It's apparent to me that To-Mera is much more confident with a full-length album format, but they still managed to pull of an EP successfully. I'll rate Earthbound with 3.5 stars for a solid, unique, and enjoyable prog metal EP.
(Originally Posted on ProgArchives.com and MetalMusicArchives.com)
1. Mesmerised (4:57)
2. Earthbound (7:28)
3. Arcane Solace (7:00)
4. Another World (8:55)