To-Mera - Transcendental
Candlelight
Progressive Gothic Metal
8 songs (52'39")
Release year: 2006
To-Mera, Candlelight
Reviewed by Alex

I have to plead low self-esteem, complete self-destruction and utter stupidity on this one. To-Mera must be shocking a lot of people in awe out there, but I simply failed to connect. And trust me, it hasn’t been for the lack of trying. Time and time again I sat down with this album, trying to absorb all of its intricacies. The settings were different, the moods were too, but, invariably, soon after the first full song Blood was over my mind started wandering off. Forgive the stupid analogy, but Transcendental is like a long arduous fishing expedition, when weather is perfect, water quiet, fish hungry, where all of the surroundings are supposed to net a big gain, when the first few attempts look promising, yet the end result ultimately bears no fruit.

It is no surprise that it was Candlelight who signed To-Mera. After all, it is Lee Barrett who is at To-Mera’s helm, a renowned figure in UK metal underground, and the person who used to run Elitist (division of Earache) and who started Candlelight itself. How could they refuse signing? To forestall the critics, this band is under contract strictly due to its merits, not because of the connections, although the latter obviously could not hurt. Handling the bass duties, Mr. Barrett has enlisted the help of some very professional skilled musicians, while the vocals are entrusted to Julie Kiss, formerly of Hungarian band Without Face, which already sets up the intrigue.

With Julie’s angelic vocals opposing progressive gothic music the comparisons could have been running rampant. Tristania, Within Temptation, Lacuna Coil, Nightwish, the field is littered with the well established acts. To-Mera picked up the gauntlet, trying to create the inimitable album. Without a doubt they succeeded, as all of the above comparisons are only valid because of a female vocalist, but it is the flow and cohesion of the album that leave me disengaged.

It all started so well. Instrumental intro Traces has got be in the running for the Intro of the Year. Mysterious, very mid-Eastern, with guitar sounding like sitar, progressive percussive drumming ultimately yields to self-dissolving jazzy piano. Traces and the next track Blood had me practically salivating. Blood does a perfect job positioning quirky neck snapping progressive verse riffs against more melodic flowing double bass boosted chorus. Julie simply glides over it with her soprano smoothing over the jagged edges of those sharp turning riffs.

Yet, after Blood To-Mera’s jigsaw puzzle does not come together because of the multitude of the unfitting parts. It is not that the musicians are overdoing it technically, nothing on Transcendental is tasteless wanking, but the band’s combo of dark crushing prog a la Evergrey and Nevermore (Dreadful Angel), trip rock of The Gathering (Phantoms), enchanted forest symphonics (Born of Ashes), stop on a dime riffs and synthetic spacey keyboards of Dream Theater, French chanson (Parfum) and countless jazz breaks (fusion and bass runs in Dreadful Angel, or lounge act in Obscure Oblivion) – the mixture is simply unpalatable, just like the sentence I had to come up with trying to describe it. And it is not that one song takes on one theme, while the following track switches gears. No, the above mixture is present in just about every single song, all at once. In the end, given the fact I had listened to this probably 10-15 times by now, there is actually a formula to this all, every track on Transcendental containing, sometimes even in the same running order, a darker ominous intro, then blasting, fast & furious death/thrash, to be replaced by a Nightwishy chorus with an obligatory jazz instrumental breakdown to follow.

The ultimate dichotomy that failed to reach me is the interplay between To-Mera’s music and Julie’s vocals. Perhaps everything else would have been able to conjoin itself, if that connection was made. But Julie is simply too nice, too fleeting for To-Mera. Her voice is absolutely devoid of grit, which singers like Agnete Kirkevaag (Madder Mortem) and Johanna DePierre (Amaran) possessed. And it seems to me that a very subtle touch of such grit would have gone a long way for the album.

Transcendental may be a very unusual, intelligent, in its own right brilliant and challenging album. However, I am entitled to my opinion, and I can’t seem to wrap my puny brain around it.

Killing Songs :
Traces, Blood
Alex quoted 68 / 100
Other albums by To-Mera that we have reviewed:
To-Mera - Exile reviewed by Goat and quoted 78 / 100
To-Mera - Delusions reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
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