TERAMAZE — Esoteric Symbolism (review)

TERAMAZE — Esoteric Symbolism album cover Album · 2014 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Dougie
"Design a collusion delusion A system of victim intrusion Scheming strategic manoeuvres We are bodies betrayed"

Refreshing, powerful, and extremely melodic - the adjectives I'd use at a push to describe Teramaze's 5th album. I have to admit I pretty much consider this their sophomore release as I was not party to their releases throughout the 90's, with my first introduction to the band with their 2012 powerhouse 'Anhedonia' which quite ironically generated feels of anything but anhedonia. There has been an undeniable buzz around this release and I have found it virtually impossible to escape the widespread word and hype around this album anywhere I look online; generally I wouldn't necessarily see this as categorically positive as it can taint your expectations unintentionally. Thankfully for the most part, my expectations and hopes with this album have been realised to the point that I welcome any melodic, thrash, progressive or otherwise metallically inclined music fan to check this 79-ish minute thematic conceptual monster.

The initial impressions I have when comparing this with 'Anhedonia' is a development away from the slightly more thrash-oriented direction that I suspected was the impact of the members growing up in the era where that particular sub-genre beared its greatest fruits. I use the term development as I believe it has very much naturally progressed as compared to what I would consider a departure. The addition of more progressive structures and more varied layering works exceptionally well in Teramaze's favour to create a soundscape of in your face riffs, contemplative and brooding moods, earworm choruses, and timeless unity across the entire album.

Without doubt one of the things that will grab listeners' attention is the astonishing fretboard wizardry of band leader and Dean Well's who treats us to undeniably wondrous smorgasbord of head nodding animosity (special mention to the riff at 2:02 in 'Line of Symmetry' - that will get you nodding with the mania of Jack Black), and emotive, creative, delicious lead playing that is akin to guitar heroes aplenty (Petrucci, Sfogli, Skolnick - just to name a few). The balance of great lead playing and rhythm work is a pleasure with nothing inappropriately overstated like one can sometimes expect of the genre. As a special addition, the tones are simply incredible on this album and it is glued perfectly with the bass and bonded by the fairydust keyboards that emerge to keep the sonic palette interesting (courtesy of Circadian Pulse keyboardist Dave Holley).

The production is another point of veritable quality with all the instruments presented in a crystal clear state whilst maintaining vibe and not losing out to sterility which is a sad by-product of the self-produced musical climate of 2014. The only complaint I really have is that the mastering is a little hot which is noticeable after the first track (which was mastered in my ideal sweet spot). It sits at DR6 across the whole album on average which is nothing out of the ordinary for this day and age but it occasionally gets fatiguing especially over such a long record. Thankfully moment of distortion are kept to a minimum, however there are some trace elements of weakened transients and the occasional buried vocal that loses intelligibility.

Vocalist Brett Rerekura is a joy to listen to and I am appreciative of the fact although his voice pushes the aggressive edge to fit the setting of the music, it is rich in melody and characteristic timbre and is not sabotaged with growls. Long live the singer in a metal band, I say! I detect glimmers of Layne Staley, Sebastian Bach and the rhythmic phrasing of James Hetfield. My only beef is the occasional "Aussieisms" I hear in some inflections which I am hyper-sensitive too (even though I'm Australian myself), however this doesn't detract too much from what is a splendid vocal performance across the board. There are moments of supreme delicacy especially in 'Bodies of Betrayal' which I would have liked to have heard more of as well as a bit more of that delicate side to the band overall to give this album the dynamic curve it deserved. This is of course only a minor criticism.

The album's concept, while not narrative based centres around the experiential nature of deception; especially by that of governing bodies and the powers that be. I think the title of 'Esoteric Symbolism' is perfectly apt as this is not the viewpoint or mindset of everyone and best kept as the worldview of a particular minority of people. I think for some the lyrical approach could border on conspiracy but I like the exploratory nature of them and what is truly the harm in questioning some of the taken-for-granted "truths" we hold in this ever-changing world. Kudos to Teramaze for honestly and whole-heartedly fusing their beliefs with such hard-hitting music in a way that I see as completely lacking pretence.

For me the standout tracks are 'Bodies of Betrayal', 'Esoteric Symbolism' (6:53 in this gives me goosebumps), and 'viii In Vitro' as I believe they hold the most profound emotional connection with me due to the individual moods they build. I have to admit the only track that I am not particularly keen on is the one with the guest vocals as I feel as though it breaks the flow of the album in a way that was superfluous to requirements. It came across as guests for guests sake which is probably my most direct criticism of the record.

This is an exceptional release that stands up to my extremely critical ear and was only let down by perhaps a slight lack of expression with regards to dynamics (mastering and songwriting) across such a long album. Its length to some may indeed be a bit hard to swallow in single listens, however this is par for the course for me as a fan of long form writing. For fans of Metallica, Dream Theater, Alice in Chains and anyone who wishes to have a boot up the bum and an electrode to the brain from an ambitious and highly satiating album. 9/10
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UMUR wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Great review :-). I hope to read more like that from you.

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