TO-MERA — Exile (review)

TO-MERA — Exile album cover Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
adg211288
Exile is the third full-length album by the English/Hungarian progressive metal act To-Mera. The album is the band’s first release since the 2009 EP Earthbound. In that time the members have been involved in other projects or personal commitments. Exile is released through guitarist Tom MacLean’s own label Illusionary Records and is a concept album revolving around the themes of ‘tragedy, loss and hardship’, following a protagonist who places herself in a ‘self-imposed state of exile’, throwing away ‘everything meaningful in life in order to protect herself from further harm’. To quote the press release. I’m going to be honest, I find myself much more enthralled by the music than the story to read more into it beyond what I’ve already been told.

With To-Mera having caught my attention as far back as their 2006 debut album Transcendental, an album I’d rank among that year’s best releases, the band continued to impress on the same level with their second release Delusions (2008). However I found myself disappointed with the Earthbound EP. It wasn’t that it was a bad release, but its four tracks lacked the consistency present on the albums in my view, and I was concerned that after two high qualities releases To-Mera had burned themselves out.

The break between releases seems to have done To-Mera a lot of good though, and I find myself listening to an album which holds that same ‘wow’ factor that I experienced when I first saw the music video for Blood, a track from the debut. I admit to a little apprehension after the EP, but I’m glad to find that Exile proves that my concerns were entirely unfounded. We’re talking yet another high quality progressive metal album from To-Mera and it has many claims to being their strongest work yet.

The best aspect of the album for me is that although it still has that To-Mera sound of heavy guitars (MacLean used eight string guitars for the album), jazzy passages, and the ethereal vocals of Julie Kiss, Exile is able to stand apart from the older releases as it sounds like a much more adventurous release in progressive terms. You can expect to hear stuff you haven’t yet out of a To-Mera album, such as growling vocals during The Descent (the growls are performed by Stephan Forté of Adagio), which give the music a brief black metal feel, electronic keyboards in End Game that kind of remind me of video game music and more so the songs do a lot more chopping and changing between styles than on the previous albums. It’s still very much a metal album, and by To-Mera’s usual standard it’s a very heavy one, pushing towards extreme metal even, but there’s a lot more than just metal going on during Exile.

Does that mean it’s a better album though? In truth it’s difficult to compare the album to what came before since the band has to my ears clearly taken the next step along the road of musical evolution, and Exile is a different beast of that. The prog fans I think will approve as much as I do, but To-Mera also had a level of accessibility in Transcendental and Delusions which has been lessened in Exile due to the extended use of genre hopping. Personally I see the album as another high quality release under the band’s belt. For me the only blip in their career so far has been Earthbound. All three full-lengths up to and including Exile have been top tier to me, with To-Mera one of the few band’s I’ve been happy to objectively rate in such a way. Exile is an essential prog purchase.

9.7/10

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org) on 28/08/12)
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