The Australian progressive metal band Teramaze is back at it again with their follow-up to their 2012 album AnhedoniA and 4th studio album entitled Esoteric Symbolism. Hailing from Melbourne, this Aussie quartet’s lineup for this album includes Dean Wells on lead and rhythm guitars (and backing vocals), Brett Rerekura on lead vocals, John Zambelis on guitar, and newcomer Dean Kennedy on drums (replacing the late Julian Percy, who drummed on AnhedoniA).
This 78-minute album is full of songs with strong melodies and catchy riffs that grow on you during every listen. Most of the songs hover around the 6-7 minute mark in length, so they are satisfying without being belaboring. The opening track, All Seeing Eye, is an instrumental that is a worthy introduction to the album. Starting with a low rumble and introducing a sci-fi synth and choir buildup to the strong guitar/keyboard entry about a minute and a half into the three and a half minute track that sets the tone for the rest of the album.
The second song, Line of Symmetry, segues directly after All Seeing Eye with a strong guitar chord intro with soundbytes from John Kennedy. This song starts off mellower with a slower but harmonic chorus; however, it builds into a strong double bass beat and frenetic guitar riffing that begins to alternate parts of the song with the slow, harmonic chorus or brief acoustic solo. The interplay works for this song so that the listener is not lulled into any one style of the song, which keeps it interesting and moving along. It ends strong and the outro reintroduces the Kennedy soundbytes.
Transhumanist, the third track, begins with an unapologetic fast-paced opening that is balanced by the melodic vocals that enter at the first verse. The rhythm and lead guitars support and complement each other well in this song, just as the melodic and harmonic vocals keep slower, almost half-time vocal lines to complement the generally quick tempo of the song. There aren’t any particularly fancy tricks to this song, but it is a good, solid grooving track.
The fourth song, Bodies of Betrayal, starts off right away with a spoken vocal “Don’t act like I don’t know what’s real…” as it goes directly into the music. This song’s chorus is catchy, and the vocals have grittier moments that emphasis the emotion of the lyrics, the rhyming and cadence of which flow well in this track. On the other hand, there are also some more tender moments in the song that again balance out the harder sections of the music and vocals. There are also some film soundbytes in the background of the song that provide interesting additions to the music between the vocals.
Parallels/Dual Reality, the fifth track, starts with a moderate tempo with solid power chord grooves and solid melodic/harmonic vocals throughout the song. There are also opportunities for ample solo guitar shredding and supersonic drumming to highlight their musical prowess over the otherwise general chugging drive of the song underneath.
The sixth song, Spawn, is a groove-laden track that starts right away into the song with strong rhythm but backs off for the initial verse. The catchy bridge leads into a foot-tapping chorus with smooth vocals over a busy guitar line underneath. This pattern of the soft verse and compelling chorus ebb and flow throughout the song, yet it never loses speed.
Punishment by Design, the seventh track, is one of the pre-released songs and easily one of the gems of the album. Its catchiness with the propelling forward between the guitar riffs, solid low end, driving double kicks, and simple yet effective vocal lines and layering probably makes it one of my most favorite tracks on the album. There are even a couple of moments in the song that reminds me of a little dash of Galactic Cowboys thrown in the mix. It ends nicely with a little music box-like outro.
The eighth song, entitled Dust of Martyrs, is a straightforward, driving song that is easy to listen to. This is not a flashy song, but the beat keeps you engaged. The vocals fit with the instruments so that one is not overpowering the other and they work well in the rhythmic sense as well. The harmonies again are strong on this song to push the melodic feel of the song over the instrumental polyrhythms.
The Divulgence Act, the ninth track, is available only on the physical CD version of the album. This bonus track is another strong song much in the vein of the rest of the album. The melodies make it easy to pick up, and the instruments keep a good groove throughout the song, taking time to hold back in parts only to build back into the solid groove again paralleled by the guitars and drums.
The tenth and title track, Esoteric Symbolism, diverts briefly from the general formula of the songs with the vocals in the lower range for some of the verses, but the smoother, higher range comes into play for much of the song with some interestingly accompanied harmonies. A few lulls happen throughout the track that give it a nice reprieve from the generally hard-hitting beat of the album as a whole.
VI Order Out of Chaos is the eleventh track, starts out instrumentally with Martin Luther King, Jr. soundbytes in the background. This song has particularly nicely layered vocals that come in over the busy and varied rhythms of the guitars and drums. However, in other portions of the song, these vocals also play against some growled vocals in tandem. Other soundbytes from MLK, Jr. and others dot the landscape throughout the song to accentuate the theme of the song. This song winds down at the end with both electric and acoustic guitar with light bass and cymbals for an ending that fades into a Japanese soundbyte.
The twelfth track, continuing is VII Darkest Days of Symphony, which seems to pick up where VI Order Out of Chaos left off, with a soft acoustic guitar entry and layered and counterpointed vocals carrying it forward. The heaviness increases with a little dark dissonance into full-throttle chugging for a good portion of the song’s remainder. The vocals remain solid with memorable harmonies that keep you singing along. Though the themes might be repeated a bit too long, it ends strongly with an ethereal sci-fi synth ending fading into oblivion.
VIII In Vitro, the thirteenth and last track on the album, starts off with a mess of news-like soundbytes and then as the music starts, it has a very Fates Warning-like opening that becomes one of their catchier and (at times) mellower songs on the album, with the chorus sung in the lower octave during the slow portions, and in the higher octave during the heavier portions, often repeated throughout the song. It winds down to a more mysterious ending with a few soundbytes interspersed here and there until it softly fades away.
For me, this was an album that grew on me over time. Many of the songs are similar in style, yet each is different in its own way, and after each listen, those differences became more noticeable and the hooks in the songs started to catch me and pull me in. Esoteric Symbolism seems to exhibit increasing maturity in the envisioning, songwriting, and execution beyond their most recent album, AnhedoniA. It is somewhat less thrashy and more melodic, which in some ways makes it more accessible to the average listener. The vocals and the harmonies are strong and pleasant, the guitars and drums are solid and driving, and the style is straightforward and unmistakably metal. Teramaze is definitely on an upward trajectory with each album, and Esoteric Symbolism is solid release and a good representation of their latest leap forward, and should attract an even wider audience with this disc. If they keep this up, there is no telling where their next album will lead.