CD Reviews

To-Mera - 'Exile' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 16, 2013    
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An album of undoubtedly challenging but at the same time ambitiously creative progressive metal music.

This is my first exposure to this critically acclaimed progressive metal band from South Oxfordshire. When I took on the assignment to review what turns out to be their third album (and their first on guitarist Tom MacLean’s own progressive music label Illusionary Records) our reviews editor Paul did warn me that their music was challenging; and how right he was! When I listened to ‘Exile’ for the first time I was somewhat overwhelmed by the myriad of styles and complexity of the music that assaulted my ears, covering everything - and I mean everything - from lounge jazz through to death metal blast beats and growls. So much so that I really was at a loss of what to make of it all!

However, I persevered and I’m glad I did as, much like peeling an onion the multiple layers of clever instrumentation gradually began to reveal themselves, exposing an album of yes, undoubtedly challenging but at the same time ambitiously creative, progressive metal music. In the opening instrumental ‘Inviting The Storm’ alone there are both eastern flavoured acoustic and viscerally heavy guitars, sweeping orchestrals, melancholic piano, vibrant percussion and what sounds awfully like a didgeridoo and that’s just the first three minutes, which probably gives you some idea of the magnitude in scope of the aural delights offered by this record. The technical virtuosity of each individual band member is exemplary; what with MacLean’s dextrous guitar histrionics, Richard Henshall’s dazzling keyboard work, Mark Harrington’s inventive bass and Paul Westwood’s truly outstanding percussion (well it would be a disservice just to refer to it as drumming!). On the long instrumental passages no-one ever becomes self indulgent, they just add their own brush strokes to the various musical textures and moods they create. Then there are Julie Kiss’ hypnotic, ethereal vocals. I can pay Julie no more of a complement than, on this showing anyway, she has every right to compare herself with the likes of other mezzo-sopranos Simone Simmons and Sharon den Adel.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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‘Exile’ is a concept album that deals with “tragedy, loss and hardship that often plunge you into a self-imposed state of exile” hence the complex soundscapes and sometimes harsh instrumentation. As such this album needs to be listened to as a whole, which is undoubtedly a greater experience than the sum of its individual parts, which, it turns out, is my biggest reservation with the material on ‘Exile’. The eight tracks that make up the sixty minutes or so of music aren’t so much songs as pieces of progressive music (there is a difference) that would make them very difficult to comprehend if they were to be listened to outwith the confines of the album; there are a couple of exceptions, however, such as the more delicately balanced ‘Broken’ and the majestic ‘All I Am’, featuring some simply wondrous guitar and Hammond interplay.

But hey this is progressive music we’re talking about after all so what does that matter…

Alister Strachan

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