Hemina are part of what I might call the ‘progressive metal revival’. Sure, the genre has enjoyed a steady supply of new albums each year, but it’s only been relatively lately where I’ve noticed some of the younger bands stepping up to the plate and coming out with some really excellent music. Among others, Haken from the UK, Circus Maximus from Norway, and Distorted Harmony from Israel come to mind. Along with Caligula’s Horse, Hemina is the Australian continent’s contribution to this trend, and while it may not be a complete toppling of what has come before in progressive metal, there is no mistaking this style’s rejuvenated modernity. “Synthetic” suffers from a few of the setbacks that generally come with an ambitious band first spreading their wings on a full length, but listeners can expect to hear some remarkable progressive metal from Hemina, now and in the coming years.
Hemina was first noticed by the progressive metal community with their self-released EP, “For All We Know”. It wasn’t long before they started making waves and sowed anticipation among listeners. Fans of that debut will recognize a few songs on “Synthetic”; “For All Wrong Reasons”, “With What I See”, and “And Now to Find a Friend” have each been given a new layer of shine for this full length. Despite a relatively short two year gap, Hemina have really widened the scope of their sound. Although their somewhat-trademark blend of Dream Theater-style prog metal and emotionally driven power metal is here, Hemina throw in electronic ambiance and even some jazz into what they do on “Synthetic”.
Sure, I’d imagine most veteran prog metallers would be rolling their eyes around the time Dream Theater is mentioned as an influence, but Hemina come across as a relatively fresh-sounding act. Like many of their contemporaries in this prog metal ‘renaissance’, Hemina make their mark by incorporating powerful melodies, not in the traditionally bland ‘arena rock’ sort of way, but rather in the same sense that a classical composer would paint a hook into his craft. Vocalist Douglas Skene’s voice fits the sound perfectly; I’d compare him (favourably) to Roy Kahn’s quasi-operatic tenor in Kamelot. With the exception of drummer Andrew Craig (who is presumably too busy backing up the band with his intricate rhythms), every member of the band offers vocals in some capacity. Sadly, the prospect of a heavy metal barbershop quartet is wasted, but the warm voicework in Hemina gives “Synthetic” a warmth that helps bridge that gap between the logical and emotional sides of appreciation that progressive metal infamously so often foregoes.
“Synthetic” has some great songs on it- “And Now to Find a Friend” sounded great on the EP, and it sounds even better here- a prog metal powerhouse with plenty of twists and emotion to it. “For All Wrong Reasons” is a nice melodic reprieve from the otherwise prog- heavy bombast. However, while “Synthetic” is generally consistent and lacks anything I’d call ‘filler’, the near-eighty minute length feels like it could have used some cutting down. For all of its melodic sensibility, Hemina are a fairly cerebral experience, and taking in so much in one sitting can serve to take away from the enjoyment. Although Hemina have sharpened up their studio craft since “For All We Know”, the production here still sounds a little dull; the atmospheric keyboards sound somewhat hollow in parts, and the guitars don’t always sound like they’re given the proper air to breathe. Luckily, Hemina focus largely on their greatest strength- the vocal aspect. “Synthetic” is a powerful mix of technical riffs and beautiful melodies, and it’s no surprise that these guys have been receiving such good press in the prog world lately. At this point, Hemina feel like a band with much to offer, perhaps too much for their own good so early in the game. With this debut, they have delivered enough to get me excited, yet left enough room for improvement to make whatever second album that may come an even greater feat. I’m looking forward to it!
1. This Hour of Ours 2:12
2. To Conceive a Plan 11:27
3. The Boy is Dead 9:07
4. For All Wrong Reasons 4:55
5. And Now to Find a Friend 11:20
6. With What I See 6:38
7. Hunting is for Women 6:44
8. Even in Heaven 7:05
9. Conduit to the Sky 2:50
10. Haunting Me! 3:58
11. Divine 13:28
* Douglas Skene – vocals, guitars, keyboards
* Mitch Coull – guitars, vocals
* Andrew Craig – drums, percussion
* Jessica Martin – bass, vocals
* Phill Eltakchi – keyboards, vocals