The T 666
ALTURA's first and last album doesn't really reach great heights with me (pun intended).
What we have here is another band just like label mates (at that time) and also-extinct LEMUR VOICE: a group whose main influence is, clearly, DREAM THEATER, and which at moments just can't find a sound of their own.
Just like their Dutch former label mates, ALTURA has no strong character. The music is not really exciting or interesting, and even though they display a good amount of playing skills in their instruments, it feels as if the band members weren't doing it with a lot of passion. The music lacks punch, lacks energy, lacks blood.
Of course, as every DT-student has to, ALTURA creates some difficult songs with sudden tempo changes, instrumental sections of long duration and solos and musical figures that prove that the musicians here are not new to their respective instruments. The problem here is not only the lack of originality (there are other bands that, while not entirely original, make more entertaining music), but the weak songwriting. With music that is not really unique, we should at least expect good melodies and choruses that make us want to sing aloud. Sadly, that's not the case, as most of the tracks in "Mercy" are difficult to remember, not so much for their complexity but for the absence of spirit, of a driving force that would turn run-of-the-mill progressive-metal songs into prog-metal anthems. There are bands that have achieved this without being overly original. ALTURA didn't.
The music, as said before, has strong resemblances with the art of DREAM THEATER but we can also hear other influences in the mix, mostly FATES WARNING, especially in the playing of Chad Gibson, drummer, whose style is similar to that of Zonder, and in the vocals of Rain Irving, which at times remind us of the powerful voice of Ray Alder. The rest of the musicians are accomplished but forgettable. The solos are great, yes, but just from a technical point of view. I can't seem to remember one that made me grip my heart like many other solos, even very simple, easy ones, do.
The recording doesn't really help. On its early days, Magna Carta was home to some good bands who had to suffer atrocious recordings (SHADOW GALLERY, MAGELLAN). Here we have a not-so-great band that has to endure a mediocre production: not terrible, but it lacks the spark, the fire to make the already weak music stand out.
All in all, a decent but entirely forgettable progressive metal album. There are great bands that play in DT's style. ALTURA, at least on this album, weren't great. It seems they had "Mercy" on us and ceased to exist afterward