Album Title: Her Halo
Label: Mascot Label Group
Year Of Release: 2015
Another day, another good news story. Before I was sent a promo for this release, I knew very little about Teramaze if I’m honest. However, a quick look on that there Internet showed me that there was a definite buzz surrounding the band and it convinced me to take a listen. An initial listen has turned into several listens and several listens has turned into this review.
A little background can be a useful thing, particularly to contextualise the music of a band that perhaps others, like me, are more unfamiliar with than we should be.
Teramaze describe themselves loosely as a progressive/metal band and hail from that current hotbed of heavy music, Australia. The Melbourne/Geelong-based quartet has been an active band since forming around 1993, releasing four albums in that time. The band is primarily comprised of Dean Wells (guitars/backing vocals) and Dean Kennedy (drums) as well as two newcomers in the form of Nathan ‘The Blitz’ Peachey (vocals) and Luis Eguren (bass) who have both joined Teramaze since the release of previous album ‘Esoteric Symbolism’.
Apparently, the moniker of the band changed to Teramaze from Terrormaze at a certain point in their history due mainly to the band’s discovery of Christianity. Maybe subconsciously, this is why I’d given Teramaze a wide berth up until now as I’m not someone for whom religion of any kind sits easily. I don’t honestly know but, based on the output of ‘Her Halo’, it certainly wouldn’t have been because of the quality of the music that Teramaze produce as it’s really rather good indeed. And, in all honesty, you have to listen very hard to the lyrics in order to clearly hear any overt Christian message. So, with that personal hurdle overcome, let’s explore the music on ‘Her Halo’.
The first thing that needs to be said is that the music is not the most original that you’ll ever hear. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, more of an honest observation. Theirs is a melodic metal framework around which they then experiment with symphonic, progressive and even thrash metal themes and ideas. Where Teramaze really excel though is in terms of the compositional nous, the innate sense of melody and an acute comprehension of what makes a powerful piece of music that will have the listener returning for frequent repeat spins. The keys add to the richness and depth of the songs and, whilst they never get in the way or sound cheesy, they’re there throughout the album to add another dimension and a sense of the dramatic.
‘Her Halo’ kicks off in ambitious style with the epic ‘An Ordinary Dream (Enla Momento)’, the longest track on the entire 8-track record. It clocks in at over 12 minutes in length and, as you might expect, it morphs frequently during its life to create arguably the most complex composition on the record. It begins quietly before exploding into a track with real power, in part due to the cracking work undertaken by Jacob Hansen, who has twiddled the knobs with panache yet again. It was a slow-burner for me but now the central riff and strong hook-laden chorus has made a proper impact on me. It’s deceptively catchy and infectious.
However, as I’m beginning to wonder how Teramaze can justify the double-digit length, the track shifts enormously. In place of the expressive guitar work and crunchy riffs that have a satisfying bite comes a quiet section that is dominated by a lush keyboard arrangement. The sense of theatrics and drama that this creates is wonderful, particularly as it segues into a surprisingly emotional spoken-word section from an apparently elderly American man. As he finishes his monologue, a lead guitar enters the fray. It is a crystal clear, poignant and soaring solo that gives me shivers particularly when it works so well in tandem with the keyboards underneath. The riffs soon return to lead us out of the song but it doesn’t end there. The final minute or so is reserved for vocalist Peachey who, accompanied by a subtle piano melody delivers an emotional closing performance. There’s no denying the echoes of Seventh Wonder’s Tommy Karevik in his performance and, in fact, the whole section has similarities with the Swedish prog metal band. What a track and we’re only at the end of the first track.
Another personal favourite is the ballad-like ‘Broken’. It is another stunning track that benefits from more great vocals from Peachey as well as the introduction of an acoustic guitar that features pretty much from start to finish. I love the chorus and the idea of introducing it initially in a form that’s just piano, acoustic guitar and vocals is inspired; it demonstrates how strong the melody is, without any of the more metallic fripperies. That said, when the chorus hits later, along with another emotional ad technically adept lead guitar solo, it sounds even better. This is possibly one of the stand-out songs from 2015 in my opinion.
In and around these two gargantuan tracks, the quality rarely dips below brilliant. ‘To Love A tyrant’ is over seven minutes long but comes across as a more straight-forward track thanks to more powerful riffing that makes Teramaze’s early thrash metal leanings quite clear. That said there’s also room for a splash of prog-esque indulgence. The title track has a monstrous chorus that gets lodged in the brain from the off and ‘For The Innocent’ is also a striking composition thanks largely to a melody and that reminds me of Scar Symmetry of all people. Again, this is not a bad thing at all.
‘Out Of Subconscious’ is another strong composition that is reminiscent of the aforementioned Tommy Karevik’s other band, Kamelot. The chorus certainly has hints of a track penned by Thomas Youngblood and co. although there’s still plenty within the song to ensure it retains Teramaze’s own stamp.
‘Trapeze’ is an instrumental piece which, despite some great playing, is probably the weakest moment on the record if I’m being completely honest.
‘Her Halo’ is completed by ‘Delusions Of Grandeur’, another hefty composition that weighs in at just under 10 minutes. Unlike the title, the grandeur is not delusional and thanks to more professional and tight musicianship as well as more in the way of strong, memorable melodies, it’s a fittingly dramatic closing piece.
Out of nowhere, Teramaze have staked a very strong claim to feature within my end-of-year ‘best-of’ list. Any record that can deliver such satisfyingly crunchy heavy metal and blend it with great melodies and symphonics without it sounding overblown or cheesy has to receive high praise. And Teramaze deserve all the plaudits for ‘Her Halo’ because it’s simply wonderful.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.0
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld