Metal riffs, spacey effects, symphonic keyboard layers, wrapped around a concept - Hemina!
Hemina are an Australian Prog Metal unit that have recently made an impact with their debut Ep that has now become a full blown 79 minute epic master work in the form of 'Synthetic'. The sprawling concept album focuses on a disembodied angel who is forced to live in the modern world and even beyond into other eternities. The musicianship is akin to the metal melodic style of Dream Theater, Ayreon, Pain of Salvation and the symphonic ambience of Pink Floyd. It is about as good as I have ever heard from an Australian prog band.
It begins with 'This Hour of Ours'; a haunting sound of synths and rain falling heavily. The spacey atmosphere builds with the ethereal vocals of Douglas Skene from Anubis, crystal clear and empassioned. The piano accompanies in the next epic 11 and a half minute track, 'To Conceive a Plan' that suddenly explodes with metal distortion and a heavy tempo. Mitch Coull's lead guitar is scorching with a strong percussion beat by Andrew Craig. Jessica Martin's bass pumps along with well executed lines and the keyboards of Phill Eltakchi are extraordinary.
Together Hemina are a powerful force of prog metal and they delight in lengthy instrumental breaks and lead guitar solos. It is nice to hear Jessica's voice accompanying Skene at times.This track has some symphonic violin sounds and is driven by a rhythmic cadence. There are some loud screams to enhance the atmosphere and at 8:20 the riff chugs along well under Skene's finger blistering solo. The riff that comes in at 9:40 is a fast lead phrase that crunches with admirable dexterity. It is followed by blazing twin lead solos. The song is a grand start to this epic album.
Some keyboard wizardry is heard in the next track, 'The Boy is Dead', similar to the blistering work of Jordan Rudess. The pace settles into a quieter passage temporarily before the next metal attack. Quieter ethereal vocals are heard but it explodes suddenly into relentless riffing.
'For All Wrong Reasons' is a nice change into balladic territory, breaking from the heaviness previously. The harmonies are beautiful with Skene and Jessica's duet; 'I've seen each passing season, the places for my calamity.' As far as a ballad goes this is Hemina at the top of their game. The lead guitar soars with emotion and caps off a highlight of the album. This is segued seamlessly by another 11 minute epic 'And Now to Find a Friend', with a string section and then pounding drums and distorted guitar riffs. The synth solo is dynamic and lifts the atmosphere considerably. The vocals are passionate and there is a soundscape of keys and guitars beneath, reminding me of Queensryche or Symphony X. It takes many directions into metal and symphonic territory before settling into a very pronounced ambience with lead guitar finesse and estranged melancholy vocals.
The next track is 'With What I See', beginning softly with piano, acoustics and strings. The metal riffs take over drowning out the keys. It is a fairly standard metal song for the majority but it ends with an innovative passage of feedback and spacey synths, with waves crashing. This segues into 'Hunting is for Women' that opens with heartbeat drums. There is an odd time sig and very off kilter instrumentation. The vocals follow the melody that are more experimental ending with some weird sounds and a nice synth, but it is not one of my favourite songs on the album.
Next is 'Even In Heaven', and it is back to the metal guitars and keyboard runs. The tempo is slow paced for a while but it builds to a driving fast beat and crunching riff. This was welcome after a lot of slower material. Everything stops as the verses come in; 'life takes you by the helm, myself my soul you dwell, its yearning to see the light of day because of you.' The love song becomes a fast paced riffing head banger, with blazing guitar speed sweeps, and percussive blastbeats. The instrumental break is wonderful with mellotron style keys and an incredible breakneck speedy keyboard solo over heavy drums and guitar. The blitzkrieg lead guitar solos are also frenetic and well executed in this highlight of the album.
'Conduit to the Sky' is a short track, less than three minutes, with creepy keyboards and choral angelic vocals. It is a transition piece leading to 'Haunting Me!', that rips along with metal riffing elegance and darker multi tracked vocals, with lyrics such as; 'death is not the end', 'nothing left to see', and 'is this all I'll be.' The choppy riff leads to a twin lead solo, and an ethereal section with effects and vocal intonations.
'Divine' finishes the album with an outstanding lengthy 13 minute epic. The metal riffing is predominant in the first section, with duel lead solos and a layer of keyboard pads. The vocals are again mixed well into the sound; 'Welcome home, I've been here, the walls are so reminiscent.' Later there is a blistering fret melting lead break that is one of the finest on the album. The keyboard solo is very much like Dream Theater and the song settles into a nice quiet acoustic passage with soft vocals at 7:40. A metal riff joins and another verse, similar to earlier. The vocals are high pitched and well sung, as another lead break cracks the sound. There are some death growls to follow that are unsettling after all the clean vocals. The clean vocals soon return though and the time sig changes into a moderate tempo. Jessica's voice is heard again and then a nice reverb guitar with spacey overtones. Reversed effects add to the strange atmosphere, and the song ends on this dark vibe.
This album is certainly an epic journey with incredible guitar and keyboards, as well as a strong bass and drum rhythm machine. The vocals are appropriate and overall this is an impressive debut from this Australian band. There is enough metal here to satiate the appetite and it is brimming over with symphonic and spacey embellishments. This comes highly recommended to the prog metal fan who does not like to be constantly bombarded with speedy riffs, over produced complexity or death growls. In fact this album has a sprinkling of these but focuses on haunting atmospheres, strong melodies and downright virtuoso arrangements.