Being a sucker for the “new” wave of Australian progressive metal, led by the amazing bands like; Caligula's Horse, Karnivool, Chaos Divine,Voyager and Toehider, just to name a few, I already was very impressed by Hemina's previous record, Nebulae (2014, see review), an album that totally fits among those illustrious names. When Douglas Skene contacted me with the news of a forthcoming album, I really got anxious about the progression of his progressive metal band and immediately agreed to write a review for the 2016 release; Venus.
After the release of Nebulae, the band added a permanent drummer to the line-up, Nathan McMahon. He joined bass player and second voice Jessica Martin and guitarist Mitch Coull, who both complete the band, together with vocalist, guitarist and keyboard player Douglas Skene. The latter took over the keyboard duties of previous member Phill Eltakchi.
With Venus, Hemina serves us an almost seventy-nine minute album that sees a very varied pallet of sounds and matching atmospheres. For instance, the opener Fantasy, musically walks the path Voyager paved, but totally adds its own texture, for his vocal style differs very much and has a much darker alternative feel. A complete change of mood comes with the following Expect The Unexpected; one of the most suiting song titles ever I guess. During this song perhaps some influences of Anubis; a band where Doug handles the guitar duties, have entered. This results in a mellowed composition with dark, Nick Cave-like vocals alongside Doug's normal voice. Additional sax playing and a choir make this song quite the opposite from the album's opener. High Kite Ride returns to the djenty power, progressive metal with a very accessible vocal from Doug, a smooth mid-section and brilliant soloing towards a powerful end. When a djenty riff is accompanied by a saxophone, it sounds like the opening part of Moonlight Bride, a song that is very powerful, catchy and differs from others, because of the use of the aforementioned sax. Epic; that's the only word that comes to mind when I have to describe the album's title track Venus; rough, gentle, emotional, brutal; you name it, Venus combines them all into one of the best songs on the album. Jessica's voice adds the beauty to Doug's roughness and the addition of Sarah Cathleen Henderson on flute enhanced the gentle parts very well, but also makes the brutal parts sound real powerful. Should I mention the fabulous guitars on this song again? I guess I should because they are amazing, like in all the compositions on the album. Progressive alternative is The Collective Unconscious, a song that shows the complete palette of Douglas' vocal range. The nice deep dark voice gives extra dimension to this guitar driven composition. Perhaps not a perfect grunt, but a hell of a scream defines Secret's Safe. A song that again highlights the combination of the two vocalists of Hemina alongside heavy riffs and catchy melodies. If there is a song that has the aspiration to get some airplay, I would suggest the three minute song Starbreeze, although the middle of the road listener would have a hard time, digesting the strong drum and guitar combination that forms the background for a “catchy” tune. In the same impressive line as the title track and the album's final track Down Will Come Baby comes I, an over ten minutes composition that defines Hemina's style of music. Both vocalists are used to create the band's distinguished style, added with the pleasantly present djenty guitar riffs, topped with some nice keyboards, topped with a nice trumpet, sax or flute. Dream State Of Mind impresses on another level, again the versatile vocal style of Douglas' marks the song, but here the sphere gets dark, with a nice bright light of a passing saxophone. Down Will Come Baby, is like I mentioned another long epical composition, filled with drama and tremendous playing. Here some references of Devin Townsend have to be mentioned, alongside their own powerful, technical style.
After a number of listens I come to the conclusion, Hemina does differ from the bands I mentioned before, just for the intense use of the brass instruments and therefore showing they are not afraid to take some risks. I guess some of the dedicated metal heads totally reject any use of brass on one of their preferred albums. For me it's refreshing to listen to Hemina's Venus and the extra instrument's delicate use adds the half star I did not grant the previous album. Two words; Brilliancy from Australia. OK, that's three.
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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