To-Mera - Exile

(CD 2012, 65:15, Illusionary Records CDIR001)

The tracks:
  1- Inviting the Storm(3:02)
  2- The Illusionist(7:21)
  3- The Descent(7:54)
  4- Deep Inside(6:46)
  5- Broken(10:04)
  6- End Game(6:13)
  7- Surrender(11:05)
  8- All I Am(12:46)

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The British band To-Mera started when vocalist Julie Kiss left her previous band in Hungary. She found new musicians to explore new musical territories. One of the new members, who became highly involved in the song writing process, is Thomas MacLean, better known as the bass player of the British heavy prog band Haken. After their debut album Transcendental (2006) some line-up changes took place and after their second effort Delusions (2008) one of the founder members chose to leave due to other commitments. For their recently released third album Exile they have a steady line-up. Next to Julie Kiss and Thomas MacLean, the band consist of bassist Mark Harrington, drummer Paul Westwood and keyboardist Richard Henshall, MacLean's soul mate from Haken.

Musically, To-Mera is a heavy progressive metal band assembled around the strong and powerful voice of Kiss and the heavy guitar lines of Maclean. Exile contains long and adventurous compositions; sometimes echoes of Haken's music can be heard, but that's quite logical with two members of that band in the line-up. The instrumental intro Inviting The Storm is quite similar to Haken actually. In The Illusionist, the heavy and solid guitar riffs form the base for the vocals of Julie Kiss, who sounds as a blend of the two Dutch singers Anneke van Giersbergen (ex- The Gathering) and Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation). During this song the strong progressive metal holds a nice extra with a weird percussion part and a fabulous guitar solo by MacLean. At the beginning of The Descent I got a rather dark feeling, but Julie's wonderful voice guided me back into the light. I really love this combination of a heavy guitar and fine vocals. As an extra you get a jazz related passage in the middle-section and it seems that the vocals are delicately doubled in order to get a stronger effect. Richard Henshall adds an outstanding keyboard solo and the dark, grunt-like vocals makes this song complete.

Strong drums and fine keyboard playing dominate the next piece Deep Inside having a more modern sound with the drums in the forefront. This will give you a good impression of Paul Westwood's marvellous drumming. At the end of the song there's some fine piano playing forming a tranquil moment between the powerful sounds that surround it. The first song out of three with a running time of more than ten minutes is the epic Broken. It starts easy but powerful holding those Haken echoes again. When the slightly distorted vocals start it changes into a soft emotional atmosphere throughout the middle-section, accompanied by a stunning guitar solo. Then the music begins to increase power again that takes it to the end.

The End Game comes a bit too soon. It seems as if the end of the record is getting near. This piece is a heavy showcase of the combination bass and guitar on top of a strong base of drums. In the middle-section the high-pitched voice of Julie Kiss enters; tempo and atmosphere are now more relaxed. The final last part is dominated by some impressive double base drums and a heavy riff. The third epic song is Surrender starting softly with keyboards with great piano playing in the background focussed on Julie's vocals. After a while the guitar takes over and the song gets really heavy, but returns to the initial atmosphere with perfect keyboard sounds. The final song All I Am is my personal highlight. It starts as a kind of piano ballad wherein Henshall creates the perfect background for Julie's vocals. Then the guitar takes over following a brilliant solo. Due to the piano, this song even contains some jazzy influences showing the musicality of To-Mera.

Summarizing I dare to say that this is the most promising album featuring a female vocalist I've heard in 2012! With every song my respect for this band grew. It holds everything I like: heavy guitars, brilliant keyboard, piano and guitar solos and a perfect singer being the icing on the cake.

****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)

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