|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Dean Wells|
|Record Label: Nightmare||Country Of Origin: Australia|
|Year Released: 2012||Artist Website: Teramaze|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 54:49|
From Peyton Manning to Betty White to The Avengers against Loki, everyone loves a comeback. Nowhere is this better epitomized than in the Christian metal scene, which has also experienced its fair share of comebacks as of late. Consider Stryper, peaking in 1990 with its fourth full length album Against The Law but also left for dead when it disbanded after vocalist Michael Sweet departed two years later to pursue a solo career. Stryper, nevertheless, got the comeback ball rolling following the turn of the century when it regrouped and recorded three well received albums in Reborn (2004), Murder By Pride (2009) and The Covering (2011). Saint deserves mention as well for how it has been on the comeback trail, releasing five studio albums since 2004 when it returned after going on hiatus subsequent to its 1988 release Too Late For Living.
Australia’s Teramaze also fits the bill in regards to comeback stories. The group got its start in 1995 with the metal and thrash of its full length debut Doxology prior to following up with the more melodic based sounds of Tears To Dust from 1998 (Credit Teramaze for sticking to its musical guns in an era in which the scene had taken a modern turn for the worst). Teramaze proceeded to drop off the face of the earth until the spring of 2012 when it literally came out of nowhere to release its third full length album in Anhedonia.
On Anhedonia Teramaze draws upon the heaviness and thrash influences of Doxology while mixing in many of the melodic metal aspects inherit to Tears To Dust. The group stays true to its musical roots in this sense. Where Teramaze breaks from its past, however, is the manner in which it imbues its material with some progressive overtones (No, not overriding like Dream Theater or Neal Morse but noticeable all the same). One reviewer that described the group as being more “sophisticated” as opposed to progressive had the right idea. The point being that Teramaze brings the occasional progressive tendency but without compromising the song; in other words, they can be progressive but not to a fault.
“Without Red Hands” and “Egostic” best reflect those thrash elements, two aggressive heavy hitters that also give rise to some understated melodies. Taking a similar musical heading are “Black Circles”, as bludgeoning a piece as you will find, and “Fear Of The Unknown”, another cruncher but with some modern elements thrown in. Speaking of melody, the smoother sounds of “Proverb Le Jame” fits the bill as does the groove driven catchiness of “Acts Of Reparation”. The albums title track can best be described as quintessential Teramaze with its joining of the melodic, thrash heavy and the progressive. Further progressive leanings can be found in the technical intricacies of “Machine” and “Where The Dead Grows”.
What it adds up to is a veteran group maturing and coming into its own musically and delivery its finest work in the process. That being said, I tend to shy from the thrash genre in that I often find it heavy handed and overbearing. Not Teramaze, who compose their material with more than adequate melody in mind; yes it takes several spins for that melody to make a case for itself, but it is present nonetheless. My initial instinct, as a result, is to label the group “melodic thrash”, but that would also be one dimensional in that there is much more to Teramaze than just thrash. Hence, I felt it best that “heavy metal” would be the most accurate and inclusive moniker to use.
Helping lend to the melodic aspect to the Teramaze sound is original vocalist Brett Rerekura, who appeared on Doxology but skipped Tears To Dust (which was fronted by Clinton Johannes). I always have thought of Rerekura as a versatile vocalist, staying mostly in mid-ranged territory but also able to smooth things out or deliver some harder edged grit and angst (and more often than not showcasing both facets to his delivery within the same song). He can also let loose with an occasional scream with a modern edge to it, albeit not to a fault. Interestingly, during the groups Doxology era he would even go for a Rey Parra-like high note. Not that I am implying he has lost range, but rather his style has evolved over the years.
Dean Wells is the only Teramaze member to have performed on all three albums. Wells joins Matthew Dawson to form a monster guitar team characterized by relentless riffs in abundance but also able to deliver some melodies on the stiller side of things. Also, I have never thought of Teramaze as an instrumental band, but they take ample opportunity throughout Anhedonia to exhibit their instrumental sound- and all the while allow Wells and Dawson to stand out with their fitting soloing abilities.
On a sad note: Drummer Julian Percy passed away from a heart condition in 2009 before Anhedonia could be released. Another reviewer (whose sentiment I echo) sums things up best: “But, given the sheer quality of the music and the artistic success that this album is, what better way to honor and commemorate Percy than through Anhedonia.”
Production proves a step up in comparison to Doxology (an album I wish would be re-issued with professional re-mastering) in aligning with Tears To Dust in terms of overall definition and crispness.
Lyrics might not be as straightforward as on Doxology or Tears To Dust; subtly Christian might be the best way to describe them. Either way, Teramaze proves in no uncertain terms you can get your point across without hitting the listener over the head!
Track By Track
“Anhedonia” hits decisively from the get go to thrash-like riffs and pounding drums. Maintaining the pummeling momentum throughout its staunch verses, the albums title track smoothes out for a surprisingly catchy chorus shored up by polished backing vocals. Some progressive undercurrents can be found in the occasional time and tempo change. Lyric snippet:
So many years searching my life
Don’t let me down
I keep letting me down
Washing away, craving my time
I keep craving more time
I keep hiding away
Searching for answers
Believing the lie
Tortured by needs
Strengthened by weakness
Engraved in the mind
“Without Red Hands” proves short (3:24) but edgy, plunging its distance in turbulent fashion as unremitting double bass joins with some harsh shouts from Rerekura, a scintillating lead guitar run and occasional spoken word moment. When initiative tapers, it is for some calmer moments in which a melodic aspect plays a lead role.
“Through The Madness” slows things to a mid-paced romp. This one comes across hulking in capacity, predominant with its mega tight rhythms and instrumental proclivity but all the while giving rise to an understated melody that serves to hold everything together. Classic Teramaze all the way. Lyric snippet:
You’re everything I wish to be
And everything you have you seem to take for granted
When I saw you through the madness
You just stared at me blankly
Crucified my love
Severed from these ties again
You have taken far too long
When I saw you through the madness
And the distance in your face
If I trust in you
Will you be there diluted and erased
A more technical milieu can be found in “Machine”. This is best evident in the progressive based time signatures found throughout its length, ranging from traditional heavy metal (with malicious double bass making its presence felt) to the calmer and more even (in which a penchant for the melodic can be found). Things even decelerate at the halfway point for a passage carried at a near crawl.
“Acts Of Reparation” highlights an underlining touch of groove. Everything about this one is engaging, from the catchy as it gets guitar riffs to the accessible chorus approaching the radio friendly, what we have here is one of the albums signature pieces. A hyperactive lead guitar run helps round things out. Lyric snippet:
We will always search for something more
But it’s easier to drown inside
The fear of growing old
Some things are harder to let go too far away
Too far away from all the lies
Buried by my mistakes
Boxed in my self hate
How could I fall away
All that comforts me
All who treasure me
All that I’ve turned away
“Fear Of The Unknown” gives rise to some modern underpinnings (in terms of guitar tones and periodic harshly done scream). The song, otherwise, stands out with its beautiful vocal melodies and pristine chorus done Stryper style (almost commercial in capacity). Instrumentally, initiative kicks up quite the storm.
What we have in “Black Circles” is an aggressive heavy hitter. The song delivers quite the decisive blow, as can be found in its battering chorus and walloping double bass throughout. One of the albums best stretches of seething lead guitar adds to the embattled scene. Lyric snippet:
Show me your face
I’m spinning into black circles
I’ve lie amongst the living
I’ve taken more than my share of blame
Show me your face
I’m spinning into black circles
Now just show me your face
I’m spinning into black circles
I drew a line and crossed right over
My hands still stuck to this cruel disorder
“Proverb Le Jame” takes the more polished heading. The song settles into a mid-paced groove, with unwavering verses (in which the rhythm guitar establishes itself thick and firm) alternating with a more melodically driven chorus (that finds keyboards playing a highlighting role). Again, on of the lighter Anhedonia tracks but solid nonetheless.
Progressive metal masterpiece “Where The Dead Grow” starts slowly and ominously before breaking out to an explosion of resounding guitars. The song upholds the intricacy the rest of the way, with a sweeping chorus (quite engaging with its no-nonsense approach) and militant riffs emphasis but also not unwilling to descend into the occasional more tranquil passage. Generous portions of the seven minutes here are instrumental as well. Lyric snippet:
I’m blind another day
My bones are shallow
And now I’m standing
Where the dead grow
To see inside
The vacant lounge of being in your mind
Just look aside
While I look out front through your eyes
No one can prove to me
That this is all there is inside
But sometimes I am blind
“Egostatic” delivers hooks and heaviness in equal amounts. Some of the bands thrash elements come to the forefront here, guitars kick like a mule and drums batter away, although at a moments notice the song can drift into quite the generously done refrain. Lyric snippet:
What we are / where we’ve gone
What we’ve see / where we’ve been
Let me have just one more of a chance to begin
Let me out of this hole that I’ve dug for myself
One more chance to begin
You only let yourself be
You only let yourself
You only let yourself go away
Cause you only have yourself
With “Ever Enhancing II”, Teramaze maintains a trend it started on Doxology by recording a different version of the song (perhaps it should have been entitled “Ever Enhancing III” instead?). The Anhedonia rendering is actually my favoring despite being the mellowest of the three in that we are treated to Spanish guitar laced with keyboards and orchestration.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Anhedonia” (4:57), “Without Red Hands” (3:24), “Through The Madness” (5:47), “Machine” (4:54), “Acts Of Reparation” (5:03), “Fear Of The Unknown” (5:37), “Black Circles” (3:57), “Proverb Le Jame” (4:18), “Where The Dead Grow” (7:04), “Egostatic” (5:57), “Ever Enhancing II (3:45)
Brett Rerekura - Lead Vocals
Dean Wells - Guitars
Matthew Dawson - Guitars
Tijon Lolis - Bass
Julian Percy - Drums