Review Summary: A surprisingly emotional release from the middle of Alaska. Expressive female vocals collide with harsh shouts and piano-laden post hardcore riffs.
We’re living in a time where it’s very easy for people to treat music like a disposable item to be consumed en masse and then tossed aside. The one positive of this is that there is more potential for smaller bands to reach a larger audience. Unfortunately what usually happens, though, is that these bands are only vaguely remembered as one of many “obtained” through another blogspot plunder. I mention this scenario because Thera is an unsigned band living in the middle of Alaska. Without the benefits of the internet this talented group of musicians would have a tough time expanding their audience. On the other hand, it would be a terrible shame for them to become just another blogspot plunder, because they have all the makings of something special.
Of course, everybody has a different set of criteria when it comes to what makes an album special. The albums that I consider the most special are the ones that elicit more than a passive listening experience – more specifically, the ones that seem to convey the emotional content in a way that I can actually feel. Thera’s main asset when it comes to accomplishing this is the vocals of Stephanie Plate. Her voice is very unique and the way that she delivers her vocals leaves them sounding raw, hurt, and vulnerable. Part of that feel might come from the fact that she doesn’t sound like she’s been training her voice to the point that all of the passion has been sucked away. Her range isn’t huge, but it simply doesn’t need to be. When she is singing tracks such as the phenomenal, “The Aftermath”, it is very easy to close your eyes and feel what she seems to be going through and that literally happens song after song. Her voice is contrasted with the occasional use of hoarse shouts that most resemble those of the post hardcore variety. At best they provide a push beyond what singing can provide and at worst they’re gone long before they can be considered a problem.
Musically, Stephanie is provided with the perfect setting to deliver those expressive vocals. If one were to explain the music with the most general of descriptions, then it would be easy to throw out alt. rock and post hardcore and be done with it. The problem is that there is more to it than just that. To begin with, the band makes effective use of delicate piano melodies that meld with the grittier guitar riffs and frequent melodic leads. The music is also prone to subtle transitions where they’ll move to a quiet section and slowly build to a soaring crescendo before returning back to the body of the song. These transitions and piano flourishes, when combined with Stephanie’s vocals, end up giving the songs an epic feel despite the compact nature of the songs. The band also takes special care to never ruin the emotional connection or epic feels that pervade each song. They exercise enough common sense to realize that they don’t need to arbitrarily increase a tempo or introduce random breakdowns. In fact, most of this album moves by at a moderate pace that only occasionally shifts towards anything that might be considered heavy, and it only does so when it’s going to compliment the song.
It’s hard to describe music like this to others because so much of what makes it good is intangible. It’s the feelings that it creates and the moods that appeal almost instantly. Much of the appeal found in this album is based on elements that will be taken differently from individual to individual based off their own personal experiences. For those that can connect to the songs, there’s probably nothing else that you’ll want to hear. Don’t get me wrong, though, the appeal of this album isn’t just limited to those that can find a personal connection. It’s also just as accommodating to those that can appreciate what the band were trying to go for – an epic sounding collection of songs that push the emotional vulnerability to the forefront, without giving in to self-indulgence or arbitrary elements.