Released: 2012, Nightmare Records
While the detractors abound, new bands continue to sprout endlessly with the ambition to play progressive metal and revel in complicated and technical music, not content to be bound by the limitations of more pedestrian metal. One new band that has caught my attention is the Australian band Hemina. The band formed in 2008 and released the AS WE KNOW IT EP in 2010. The band lists some of the usual suspects as influences, namely Dream Theater, Circus Maximus, Yes and Genesis. Hemina was an ancient Roman unit of measurement roughly equal to 10 fluid ounces. So, let me grab a hemina of brandy or some other appropriately cosmopolitan cocktail and evaluate how the Aussie’s do progressive metal.
The minimalist album art is rather uninspired and not a good predictor of the music within. One thing that stands out though is the sparkling production, particularly the powerful drum sound that has been captured, and musically the band is quite dynamic, alternating between the atmospheric and the occasional pummeling riffs. While their influences are undeniable, there are also plenty of original interpretations of the genre, such as the opening to “The Boy Is Dead” which has a very 80’s AOR quality to it. Lead singer Douglas Skene has a decent range and is a satisfactory singer that sounds similar to a cross between Matthew Bellamy of Muse and Dirk Thurisch of Angel Dust. However, he is not on the level needed for the upper echelons of this style. Epic is really the key word here though, as the album is nearly 80 minutes long. As can be expected there are many sections and pieces within each song, some that are brilliantly written and executed, while others are overlong and dull. The lyrics are likewise ambitious and sophisticated, no odes to banging chicks and drinking beer or worshipping the devil on this album. “Even In Heaven” is one of the better tunes to a get acquainted with Hemina, from the blitzing opening riff coupled with a tasteful keyboard background.
Considering that SYNTHETIC is a debut album, this is strong and admirable effort. The band could certainly benefit from pairing down some of the mellow parts and writing a few more compact and forceful tunes, but overall this is high quality material. From a technical perspective, all the requisite chops are in place, I think the band just needs more time to mature and evolve as songwriters. Progressive metal fans should definitely give it a listen, and while slogging through the whole 80 minutes in one sitting might be a tall order even for the most dedicated, there are enough tasty morsels spread throughout to reward upon return visits.