Hemina, the dark, emotional, melodic progressive metal band from Sydney, Australia are back with their sophomore effort and follow up to 2012’s excellent Synthetic, titled Nebulae. The band hit the studio in 2013 after parting ways with drummer Matthew Irsak and picked up right where it belongs with its unique blend of progressive metal with soaring four-part vocal harmonies, dreamy keyboard soundscapes, intricate drum patterns, and heavy guitar riffs. For those who may be new to Hemina, the band incorporates influences from such notable bands as Pain of Salvation, Riverside, Opeth, Dream Theater, and Ayreon to name a few. The band consists of Douglas Skene on acoustic and electric guitars and lead vocals, Mitch Coull on acoustic and electric guitars and vocals, Jessica Martin on bass and vocals, and Phill Eltakchi on keyboards and vocals. Although the musicianship of the individual band members is stellar, Hemina does not rely on the usual trappings of the prog metal genre with long solos and other guitar wankery (although each band member has their share of the spotlight) and let the emotion of the music tell the story.
According to the band Nebulae is a concept album that “explores an as yet unnamed woman’s battle and adventure through lucid dreaming to find something more than she is in her waking life, and the depths in which she will dive to find transcendence. It forms an element of a master story of which Hemina will develop in further albums and which ‘Synthetic’ was also ultimately a part of.”
The short intro track Before starts the album off with Skene’s lone serene vocal over a synthesized background and builds in intensity as the vocals reach an emotional fever pitch and lead into the keyboard laden Nightlives. The keyboards and harmony guitars weave together in seamless fashion. The vocal harmonies between Skene and Jessica Martin inparticular are beautifully executed as these two voices suit each other perfectly. Skene’s vocals take on different forms throughout the song, going from reserved to high-pitched metal screams and agressive growls. The albums first single/video for the song Freedom is a heavy driving prog metal anthem with a chorus that reminds me of Devin Townsends’ quirky combination of melody and aggression. The band adopts a funky rock vibe on Lust, which features some spectacular guitar lead work, djent rhythms, and spotlights the bass playing skills of Jessica Martin. Soulmates is an amazing heartfelt ballad duet between Skene and Martin. Their voices intertwining in soaring, joyous harmony gives the listener a sublime aural experience. The song has a familiar quality reserved for the likes of Anathema and Devin Townsends work with Anneke Van Giersbergen (yes it’s THAT good!).
An 80’s synth pop vibe permeates Strength while a thick guitar riff and thunderous drums that keep the song from being to “soft”. The chorus is ridiculously catchy and the guitar harmonies during the solo are (pardon the pun) out of this world. The next song Loss has more of an urgency to it with its metallic riffs and string bends from Skene and Coull. The four part vocal harmonies along with Skene’s exceptional lead vocals add another dimension to the song. Hope is yet another sold prog metal meets djent song with killer guitar work. The beginning harmonized guitar solo intro to Promise show off the guitar duos chops in a homage to classic Fates Warning and Queensryche with Heminas’ unique spin. The albums finale is also the albums opus clocking in at eleven minutes. Skenes’ vocal melodies on Otherworldly have an ethereal dreamy quality and 80’s Depeche Mode influence is detected although may not be accurate.
The band pulls out all the stops with an impressive display of musicianship. In comparing Nebulae to the bands debut lp Synthesis, the songwriting seems more concise and the melodies are much stronger. Hemina has created an album that improves on its predecessor in every way. You can add Nebulae to the already impressive list of stellar Aussie prog releases this year from their prog peers Voyager, Vanishing Point, and Teramaze.