To-Mera - Exile
Illusionary Records
Progressive Metal
8 songs (1:05:11)
Release year: 2012
Reviewed by Goat

Well, you can't win 'em all. My review of 2008's Delusions suggested that it would take just one more album for To-Mera to hit the big time, but the British/Hungarian female-fronted prog outfit have since left Candlelight, taken up with the considerably less-well-known Illusionary Records (a project of To-Mera's guitarist Tom MacLean) and their third full-length went completely beneath my radar when it was released in September. It's a real shame that the band haven't made it bigger; apart from the obvious talent of vocalist Julie Kiss, the band shares members with acts as diverse as Haken and Fen, and should be critical darlings as both musically-skilled and photogenic prog metal heros. Part of the fault, I think, lies with the band themselves and their inability to write songs simplistic enough to lodge themselves in the head of your average neanderthal rock fan, as a casual listen to Exile will prove both a) that it's a damn good prog album and b) that it is frustratingly complex and challenging, the sort of album that you have to spend a lot of time with to even come close to understanding. If you're the type that likes to put heart and soul into an album to figure it out, then snap this up. Yet as to how good it actually is, the business of reviewing and putting a score at the end? Much harder to do.

It doesn't help that songs flow in and out of each other, several times making me misplace elements as belonging to one song when they were in the next one, making for a smooth album but a frustrating listen. Opening introduction Inviting The Storm is pleasingly enticing, Eastern melodies and percussion, a metal flourish and piano/woodwind coming to tease your ears one by one. It's a shame that first song proper The Illusionist is something of a letdown, then, starting with wants-to-be-epic strings and slow doomy riffs before kicking into downtuned riffage like something from the mid-00s, Kiss' vocals fitting the music poorly. Compared to the excellent jazzy prog metal of something like The Lie from the previous album, it's considerably lacking. That song would think nothing of throwing in a few blastbeats or an orchestral interlude - or both together - out of sheer experimental glee, and indeed, The Illusionist features perhaps the world's most ill-fitting samba interlude, jazzy basslines proving the band's skill but the results failing to entice your ears.

Being fair, it's hard to really get a grip on the band's sound thanks to their habit of constantly shifting, moving forwards hungrily, never content to rest. They have enough of a songwriting knack that they can hold everything together despite that, and songs like The Descent are perfect proof of that, mixing various straings of melodic prog metal into a complex yet beautifully listenable song, complete with a wacky Sigh-esque keyboard solo and black metal snarls (provided by Stéphan Forté of Adagio, of all people). There's a djent spot in Deep Inside, Broken opens with outright thrash riffs and distorted vocals before moving between those Eastern sounds and big doomy riffs, lovely soloing and blastbeats making appearances. The two longest songs, eleven minutes and twelve, come right at the end, and both are the sort of gigantic prog tour-de-forces that you'd expect, complete with a better-fitting samba section. The songwriting is at its best here, the likes of Surrender's vocal flourishes as genuinely uplifting as the carefully-controlled chaos of the guitars are headbangable. Closer All I Am contains the softest and most heartfelt section, Kiss loading each word with emotional weight whilst the melodic backing holds your attention in a casual, almost lazy perfection. It's a step behind Delusions, however, certainly a better album, but all in all Exile is something akin to the forward-thinking, experimental offering I'd have liked to see Lacuna Coil make instead of their current lamentable foray into 'modern rock'. Ultimately, if you're the sort of person that likes to be challenged by music and the thought of Dream Theater fronted by Cristina Scabbia is potentially a good thing, then hunt this down.

Killing Songs :
The Descent, Broken, Surrender, All I Am
Goat quoted 78 / 100
Other albums by To-Mera that we have reviewed:
To-Mera - Delusions reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
To-Mera - Transcendental reviewed by Alex and quoted 68 / 100
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