When it comes to progressive music, Australia has always been lurking in the shadows of regular progressive countries, like the UK and the USA. There are bands like Aragon, Anubis and Unitopia; now United Progressive Fraternity, that get worldwide recognition, mainly because they have a global and accessible sound. More of my personal tastes lie in the bands that might have what you could call the original "aussie progressive style", a style that blends progressive rock and metal with vocals influence by more alternative bands-bands like Voyager, Caligula's Horse, Karnivool, Toehider, Teramaze and Arcane. Luckily the bands in the latter category are gaining public interest rapidly; well-deserved interest I would like to say. Hemina is a band that should also fit in this category, but they add something special, namely new wave influences.
Hemina was started in 2008 by vocalist and guitarist/keyboard player Douglas Skene, who by the way is also a member of the band Anubis, mentioned above. After their debut album Synthetic (2012), Hemina has released a successor by the name of Nebulae. Besides Douglas, Hemina consists of guitarist Mitch Coull, keyboard player Phill Eltakchi and bass player and vocalist Jessica Martin. The drums on Nebulae are played by Edwin Saute, who is not a regular band member.
Nebulae opens with a short impression to what is going to be presented; Before already shows the way both vocalist Douglas Skene perfectly goes together with Jessica's voice, building up the tension towards Nightlives. Here Hemina starts off sounding as Voyager or Caligula's Horse, talking guitar riffs so to speak. Douglas' voice is nice and clear and is wonderfully combined with the female vocals. This combination makes sure the overall sound of Hemina is very tasteful and accessible. Mixing up heavy and smooth acoustic orientated parts in just one composition makes Nightlives the perfect song if you start listening to this band. The continuing Freedom again has a pleasant heavy sound mixed with fine vocal lines; sometimes reminding me of Devin Townsend with cool guitar and keyboards solo parts. Let the party begin, could be the keyword when Lust takes over as here it seems the heavy staccato riffs are embedded into funk and wave music of the seventies and eighties. The sound is absolutely accessible, but the association with the aforementioned genres just goes over my head because it reminds me of music I did not like at that point. This seems to become what is Disco Queen for Pain Of Salvation; you love it or you hate it. Soulmates takes over, which is more acoustically based and again the perfect collaboration of the two voices, I guess Jessica's vocals just add the perfect element to this song, which by the way has an impressive guitar solo. Power returns with Strength, where the Voyager resembling guitars accurately mix with the band's typical vocals, blending it all to its own style. Loss sees a slightly different approach when it comes to songwriting, Loss is doomy and heavily orchestrated and takes you in the opposite direction from a song like Lust, although the end is smooth and “nice”. Hope takes you on a journey with heavy riffs, towards a more keyboard orientated section, including intriguing vocals and a weird computerized vocal part at the end. The following; Promise kicks in hard, power riffs lay down the base for the incredible blend of two great voices, making this song one of my favorites of the album. Did we have an epic yet? Otherwordly has everything to become one; mood changes, several lead vocal lines, impressive keyboards that are almost blown away by the raw staccato that are called guitars. A piano interlude totally works with the concept of this composition, topping the previous composition in being my absolute favorite.
Hemina has released an album with great diversity. Powerful compositions go hand in hand with accessible sounds and even a song like Lust. Disco Queen did not prevent me from buying the Pain Of Salvation album, but just makes me want to kick Daniel Gildenlow's butt, every time I see it played live. This will also go for Lust; when I see this live, I will shake my head, secretly smile and pay respect for the band that has the guts to record such a song. It will not affect the points, for I do love the album. Absolute highlights are the compositions that see the perfect balance between Douglas and Jessica's vocal parts.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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