TO-MERA strikes me as somewhat of an anomaly in the world of progressive metal. While that may be a bit of an oxymoron, when you consider that be definition, progressive metal is supposed to be about pushing the envelope in an effort to create music that is above and beyond everything else that came before it. And while the list of bands that have been able to take a multitude of genres and meld them together into something that passes as both listenable and viable is in a perpetual state of growth, most of these acts can be easily compared with one another. This is where I see TO-MERA casting its own shadow, so to speak. By putting substance before sizzle in terms of songwriting and drawing from a widely versatile array of influences, these five musicians have given birth to a sound that's as thought-provoking as it is entertaining; even when it is, at times, a bit self-serving.All but one of the eight tracks featured on "Delusions" (the five-and-a-half-minute "Asylum") clock in right around the eight-minute mark, but every one of them delivers enough dynamic action and genre-jumping to make those minutes fly by unnoticed. The goth-metal-meets-suave-lounge-jazz vibe of "The Lie" shows a band that put some long hours into making an album that hasn't been made before. As was the case with their debut, "Transcendental", frontwoman Julie Kiss is clearly the star of the show here. While guitarist Tom Maclean gives a very impressive performance with his dazzling array of fusion-inspired solo runs, slick jazz chord changes and time-signature molestations; it's Kiss' enchanting voice that conducts this orchestra. While the opening moments of a track such as "The Lie" gives off strong forward-thinking and more than slightly gothic metal vibes, things change without warning as the blaring of synthesized horns finds TO-MERA settling back into a swanky jazz section. It's at this moment that Kiss' voice goes from hypnotic to downright sexy. While she isn't the type of singer that brings a huge variety of different voices to the table, it's those little nuances she adds when the tone of the music shifts that makes all the difference. Of all the women in today's metal scene, Julie Kiss ranks right up there with the best of them. Bringing a spacey, '70s prog feel to the album, keyboardist delivers the goods with his solos on "Mirage" and "Inside The Hourglass". Nearly two years ago, "Transcendental" flat-out impressed the hell out of me. It never became a disc that found a regular spot in my CD player, but it has remained one that I can readily go back to when I feel the need to have my proverbial ass handed to me by sheer musical ability. Keeping that in mind, I knew would be quite the feat for the band to match, let alone top, things on their second time out. Well goddamned if they didn't. More focused, calculated, varied and yes, even more progressive, "Delusions" takes the art of intelligent genre-hopping to a brand new level.
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