Hemina – Synthetic
Is progressive metal unrestrained wankery, or just trying to push new and innovating boundaries within the extreme context of the genre? What about melodies? Can you make great progressive metal by mixing technical flash with strong melodies, or have you only just accomplished a more complicated form of power metal? These are questions that I find a very real challenge in reviewing progressive metal. For my listening, the progressive tag needs to always come with some sort of innovation, or at least the ability to be somewhat unique, even if still derivative. Hemina‘s debut album, Synthetic, on first listen, could be nothing but progressive metal, but I was left to wonder if that was because of innovation, or just being so monstrously chaotic that I couldn’t put it anywhere else. I’m sure someone more musically intelligent than I would be able to discern if this were truly innovative or not, but even I can tell that this is, at the least, certainly unique.
To put it in one of those entertaining writer’s quips we swear you eat up, I can’t tell you how many times I lost track of where the album’s second track, “To Conceive A Plan”, was going, but I can tell you how many times I was bored, and that would be none. Another thing sorely missed in progressive metal is good vocal melodies. Somewhere along the line, Hemina must have got the memo that you can write in a million time signatures at once, to the most pretentious fan base on earth, but they’re probably still going to like it better if you give it a solid vocal melody. I can’t say their singer ever really steals the show, but he does enough to really enhance the technical wizardry going on underneath. In particular for debut albums, this is top form.
Worth noting for listeners that are not me: the album is also a concept album, telling the story of an angel that has fallen to earth and lives on earth… or something. Sometimes, like with Dream Theater’s “In the Presence Of Enemies”, or Theocracy’s “Mirror Of Souls”, the lyrics and concept can take a song to whole new heights, but I can’t say that I was ever really pulled into the lyrics of Hemina; which is fine, because there’s way more interesting things happening anyways. Also notable is the album’s 79 minute length. This is always a risky endeavor, especially for a newer band, but, and I can’t stress this enough, I wasn’t bored for a second listening to Synthetic, so pushing this to the very limits of a CD’s holding capacity works out well.
What’s going to make Hemina worth your listening then? For me, it fit into none of my expected schema about music, I was at no point in a “comfort zone” with the album’s structure. At the same time, it was completely enjoyable from front to back. Expect heavy atmospheric overtones with highly technical passages, excellent vocal melodies, and overall solid presentation.
Dagg’s Rating: 4.5 of 5