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To-Mera - Exile (Illusionary Records)

By: David E. Gehlke

[6.5/10] Infiltrating the buxom beauty metal fray has been a tough go for the United Kingdom’s To-Mera. After a strong start via 2006’s Transcendental, the band ended up taking too much quirky chances on 2008’s Delusions, sounding like they were having more fun putting together crazed, serpentine compositions than actually being concerned about engaging the listener. As is the case, Exile should only appeal to that very minute percentage of metal folk who can stomach a surplus of ideas per song, along with sinewy female vocals.

Fronted by Julie Kiss, To-Mera have never quite found the right way to leverage her vocal abilities. While she’s hardly a unique character in the throng of female vocalists, she does have the right touch of grace during the rare moments when the band pares down the relentless progressive metal joyrides. Really, the moments in which Kiss resonates are few, as she gets buried in the muck of “The Descent,” a song that tries to be Dream Theater and Epica at the same time.

The few standout moments include Kiss’s swoons on “Deep Inside,” perhaps a throwback to her underrated Without Face days. “Broken” emerges as the album’s heaviest cut, but gets lulled into a haze of washy keyboards and quiet interludes that kill any chance of momentum. The back-to-back 11 minutes and change duo of “Surrender” and “All I Am” jostle with jazz metal (“Surrender”) and sweet balladry (“All I Am”), neither of which having a central idea or theme in which to focus on.

As it stands, To-Mera’s ambition far outweighs their output, as Exile sputters out much faster than a generic Goth metal album would. ‘Tis a shame, for there’s lots of talent in the ranks and Kiss could be quite the weapon if used properly. But she’s not, so consider this one a wash.


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