Review Summary: Delusions would be a far more interesting listen if To-Mera were willing to take a chance or two.
Though described everywhere, not least their own MySpace page, as “progressive metal,” it’s very difficult to see what exactly it is that earns To-Mera the “progressive” tag. Technically superb though they are, To-Mera’s songs are about as formulaic as they come. The contrast between Tom MacLean’s brutal, time-shifting guitar riffs, singer Julie Kiss’ soft, melodic vocals and Hugo Sheppard’s jazzy keyboard interludes is effective, and very well executed, but like any formula it needs something else to keep it fresh. Over sixty-minutes, Delusions
gives the sensation of being beaten alternately with a baseball bat and a different kind of bat: any emotional reaction which could have been elicited is very quickly diminished by sheer repetition. And while there’s no shortage of repetitive, formulaic music around, whether on the pop charts or Roadrunner Records’ artist roster, it’s usually supplemented by something else, be it unusually strong melodies, harmonic complexity or some other sonic variation. To-Mera, on the other hand, simply aren’t as convincing, and it’s a giant shame given the superb technical ability of MacLean, Sheppard and drummer Paul Westwood.
The good news? Fans of the UK group’s 2006 debut Transcendental
will already know whether they agree with the above opinion, and can adjust their browsers accordingly. Delusions
is essentially a continuation of its predecessor. Westwood stepped in for original drummer Akos Pirisi shortly after the debut was released, and in the mean time the group has grown tighter and more aggressive. McLean’s once razor sharp riffing is now even more caustic; Hungarian front-woman Kiss’ high-end has improved nicely in line with the major players of the gothic metal genre; and Westwood, though not as smart a drummer as his predecessor, has at least increased the technicality factor another notch. The presence of a female vocalist will invite obvious comparisons to Nightwish and Within Temptation, but musically the group is more in line with Symphony X and, in particular, Dream Theater, while McLean’s barbarous guitar tone bears the notable imprint of Devin Townsend. There are also notable similarities to fellow multinational UK-based power metallers DragonForce, in the sense that the listener’s chances of liking the group essentially rest upon their ability to overlook the fact they only have one speed and don’t like to upset a winning formula.
Not surprisingly then, Delusions
’ best moments are stacked towards the front of the album. Opener ‘The Lie’ plays synthesised horns off McLean’s guitar riff to create a Romantic, regal effect, while the improvement in Kiss’ vocals is immediately apparent, although the distortion effect does its best to mask that. Already To-Mera’s ability to use the quiet-loud dynamic to great effect is apparent, as they slip easily from grind-influenced riffing and blast beats to a sweet jazz aside that could be pulled from a Norah Jones album. Westwood’s awkward double-bass run beneath the chorus is a little disconcerting, and suggests the group may not be as tight as they should be, but overall it’s a worthy highlight for any metal album. ‘Mirage’ sees a little more experimentation with electronics, naturally of the cheesy ‘80s variety, and more of the same core-ish riffing/blast beat/jazz interlude pattern that worked so well during ‘The Lie.’ ‘The Glory of a New Day’ sees Westwood settle in to his groove somewhat, sacrificing the endless blast beats for something a little more calculated, making it one of the more nuanced tracks on the album, and also one of the best.
Inevitably, however, it’s difficult to escape the sheer monotony of listening to the same tricks pulled out time and time again. ‘Asylum’ begins with a dramatic gothic piano sequence and ‘Fallen From Grace’ with Bach-like church organ, but both revert quickly to the style of the other tracks, as if To-Mera are willing to experiment with different sounds, but only with the in-built safety net to catch them if they fall. One can only imagine that Delusions
would be a far more interesting listen if To-Mera were willing to take a chance or two.