Hemina – Nebulae
Hemina – Nebulae (2014)
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
Hemina first appeared on my radar back in 2012 with its skillful debut album Synthetic, which I had the pleasure of reviewing, and enjoyed quite a bit. The album had its issues, and Hemina became a “band with unrealized potential.” With 2014’s Nebulae, an album that started as an EP and expanded to a full length, I’m happy to report that the band has more than realized its potential, but rather exceeded all my expectations: delivering one of the best progressive metal albums I’ve ever heard.
A few points of interest about Hemina before I set out: its another entry in the avalanche of excellent progressive music coming out of Australia in the last few years. Additionally, Hemina is fronted by 4 lead singers, all with significant contributions on the record, as well as some awesome 4 part harmonies. On Nebulae, the songs are built heavily around the rhythm to great effect. The guitars on this album more often than not operate in rhythmic unison with the drums against the vocals, building a distinct sound, and placing a heavier emphasis on the groove of the album than seems typical for melodic prog.
A major development from Synthetic is simplified, catchier choruses. Where Synthetic at times felt somewhat directionless, Nebulae has an array of excellent choruses to tie together the songs and make them memorable. As mentioned above, Hemina sports 4 singers, 3 male and 1 female, and the vocal talents of band leader Doug Skene in particular really shine throughout the album. For a progressive metal album, Skene adopts a very straightforward sound. As a result, while it doesn’t seem that the prog nerdery that was so excellent on Synthetic has been drastically reduced, it does find itself focused through a much more effective lens on Nebulae.
In terms of highlights, the intro track is one of the most impressive displays of vocal aerobics I’ve heard in recent memory, and the first full song, “Nightlives” has a downright addictive chorus delivered in awesome four part harmony from all of the band’s singers. “Strength” has some of the most engaging progressive metal instrumentals that I’ve heard in years – Probably my favorite since Leprous’ Bilateral in 2011, and the driving verses in “Hope” are phenomenal, never mind the absolutely anthemic chorus. Hemina has all the brains of the great progressive metal albums, but with untold accessibility. Also, while “Otherworldly” seems much more in line with the musical style of Synthetic, it still delivers some downright exceptional vocal melody – particularly near the end of the track with Doug’s “I’ll rise, ethereal, I’ll rise otherworldly.”
Nebulae not only sets out to create a progressive metal album that’s catchy, with a strong groove and real appeal to prog nerds, it accomplishes it entirely. It’s among the most vocally dynamic albums I’ve ever heard, without a moment wasted from the absolutely stellar intro “Before”, to the haunting closer of “Otherworldly”. Nebulae is emotionally and musically gripping, and an easy candidate for the best progressive metal I’ve heard this year. I stay far, far away from perfect scores, especially where progressive metal is concerned, but after much deliberation, I can’t see myself awarding this anything less. I do look fearfully toward the future when I look like a fool, because Hemina only continues to improve the formula.
5 // 5