Widely regarded as one of Australia’s premier Progressive Metal institutions, Melbourne’s Teramaze are back with their latest album, ‘Are we Soldiers.’ This diverse offering canvasses a range of influences, but is most notable in its many nods to 90s Progressive Metal. This is a feature that unfolds throughout an album that, broadly speaking, also gets heavier as it goes along.
The dramatic, ethereal sounds of Fight or Flight open the album, gradually expanding to encompass the heavier intrusions of guitars and pounding drums. The lilting keys keep up their presence throughout the intro while returning original vocalist Brett Rerekura enters the fray. While Rerekura’s vocals are emotive, and there’s plenty of momentum overall in this track, it somehow feels oddly restrained. Guitarist Dean Wells’ soloing is melodic, but not over the top, while Jonah Weingarten’s synth and piano sounds continue to lend a nice touch of gravitas. By the end of the song though, it does feel a little lengthy, with perhaps not enough development to justify the extended time.
Are we Soldiers kicks things up a notch with crunchy guitars and a militant beat, with a more futuristic feel. The heavy riffs are matched by a surprising intensity of emotion in the chorus, with the first of several instances where Rerekura’s vocals nod to a more pop appeal. The emotiveness continues in a guitar solo where Wells really shines, and following this solo, the song develops even more clarity and depth to fill out the reaches of angst.
Control Conquer Collide steps further into heaviness and darkness; one can tell from the crunchy opening riffs that this song means business. Juxtaposing this are the surprisingly gentle acoustic guitars and synth weaving through the bridge, which seem to judiciously balance the heavier, more sinister elements as they slowly return and resolve into fast-paced, Proggy shredding between Wells and Weingarten.
From Saviour to Assassin keeps up the fast pace, with some great interactions between Weingarten and the bottom end held down by bassist Andrew Cameron. There does seem to be something missing from this track, though; some harsh vocals might really flesh out the “war again” refrain, particularly as this is a very vocal-driven track.
Teramaze bring it down a little bit with Orwellian Times, which has a vibe reminiscent of the Proggier end of Queensryche, and perhaps some Joost van den Broek influence in the keys. This track recaptures the futuristic feeling of Fight or Flight, while Rerekura’s vocals wander between cool, dramatic and plaintive. Some odd time signatures in the heavier sections drop into a more contemplative odyssey, with the track also expressing shades of Dream Theater before it’s through.
Monsters brings back the speed and heaviness while still maintaining something of a Queensryche sound, mixed with more than a touch of Dream Theater’s ‘Falling into Infinity’ – overall, it’s very 90s Prog and indicative of the broader sound of the album, with extended instrumental sections tending towards the uplifting and hopeful, and perhaps even outright showboating that at times seems a bit at odds with the lyrics.
Arguably the strongest track on the album, Weight of Humanity is heavier, busier, dramatic and aggressive. There is an intense sense of urgency, even in the more melodic and surprisingly catchy chorus. A lot of the song’s pace is driven by Weingarten’s underlying keys, while there are some very Proggy interactions between the heavy rhythm guitars and frenetic leads. A later Post-Metal influenced section really brings out the darkness and heaviness before transitioning beautifully back into the chorus.
This is followed by the most angst-ridden song, Fact Resistant Human. Weingarten’s keys are truly magical in this track, bringing masterfully executed Prog gravitas. The heaviness and drama is carried on in The One Percent Disarm, where Rerekura seems to once again wear Geoff Tate’s influence on his sleeve. The song moves suddenly and unexpectedly into disarming quietude, while the harsher vocals later in the track inject a sense of aggression the album has otherwise been lacking. This plays very nicely with the fierce Prog guitars and a heavy bottom end blasting through the song.
Rounding out the album is the ten-minute opus Depopulate, which blends heaviness, Prog and pop elements into a hypnotic track filled with shredding guitars, staccato bass, and odd time signatures. While the song teeters on the edge of messiness, it does somehow maintain cohesion through its chugging verses and practically symphonic keys. Any restraint from earlier in the album is cast away as this track seems to attempt to do everything at once.
Overall, ‘Are we Soldiers’ is a diverse album that should have something for everyone within Prog spheres. While no means perfect, there are some absolutely killer tracks that will no doubt become live staples, and it’s a worthy addition to the Teramaze discography.
TERAMAZE’S ‘ARE WE SOLDIERS’ IS OUT NOW! GET YOUR COPY HERE!