Ever wondered what a clean sounding Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) would sound like in a female version? Well the answer might well be Julie Kiss from To-Mera. She was originally from Hungarian based band Without Face and then decided to move to the UK. This was where she met Tom MacLean (guitar) and thus, with others, they formed To-Mera. They released their debut record in October 2006 called Transcendental.
The opener Traces starts with Julie then moves to the band creating an atmosphere with searing guitars and polyrhythmic drums. It sets the tone of the album as it’s an instrumental with Julie only heard in the first minute or so. The keyboard adds a nice touch otherwise not very often heard in metal. It is the shortest song by being a bit over 3 minutes.
It then moves to Blood which can be compared to Nightwish. It has an operatic tone with Julie’s singing. The guitars have an almost thrashy sound to them. The lyrics have a gothic atmosphere which gives a bigger comparison to Nightwish. Although, they bring their own sound and don’t try to be Nightwish. The instruments blend well with the singing and add a nice contrast.
Dreadful angel is my second favourite song with the chugging guitars. It reminds me of Meshuggah with the tempo changes, the polyrhythmic drums and the nearly whispering vocals. There are also keyboards added into the fray with make an almost jazzy/proggy feel to the song. It goes for nearly 7 minutes but the soundscapes add a lot of contrast. There is even a violin which brings in an almost mid-European sound to the song. The lyrics are pretty good but never really interfere with the instruments.
The next track Phantoms has searing, operatic vocals with a lot of texture. It creates the melody which the guitars and drums keep to. Mid-way through the song there is a very nice jazz part done by the keyboardist. There are a lot of tempo changes which creates a nearly melo-death type song.
Born of ashes has a slow acoustic guitar thrown into the mix. This is accompanied by Julie softly singing. It builds up to something that could be heard in a fantasy movie but it suits the somewhat mid-European sound. It also has more chugging guitars but it sounds different to the other tracks. The tempos change from soft to heavy back to soft; this creates the unpredictable nature of the album.
The start of Parfum is with keyboards which is used sparingly and adds a nice contrast to the speedy guitars. Julie adds a nice touch with her tone as it isn’t monotonous and has energy. However, it sometimes can feel out of place. The keyboards add a kind of mystical atmosphere when she sings from about the 2:20 to the 2:40 mark in the song. The song is a bit monotonous in parts and the guitars sometimes try to be too quick which becomes nearly screechy.
It then moves onto Obscure Oblivion with what could have been an Opeth start. It has an acoustic guitar riff with Julie singing and keyboards added. It becomes heavier with Julie singing ‘Run away, run away, run away’. Her vocals can be hard to understand but it doesn’t really matter as it is mostly for the melody. In the middle there is also a jazz part done by the keyboard and the guitar adds a nice riff which is kind of Slayerish just slowed down a bit.
The final track is my least favourite. Realm of dreams is dull and tries a bit too hard to be progressive. It is the longest track with nearly going 10 minutes. It doesn’t have the tempo changes, the brilliant melodic singing of Julie which can be heard in other tracks. The major highlight in the song is the start with the keyboard. The rest doesn’t have as much energy as the other songs and this is very obvious.
The album on a whole is very well thought out. The instruments can be very peaceful while others are contrasted with intense guitars and jazzy keyboards. Sometimes it can sound like it comes from a fantasy film but these moments don’t last long. It is a wildly unpredictable album and showcases a lot of talent especially as this is a debut.