TERAMAZE - Are We Soldiers
Australia’s Teramaze are back with yet another excellent progressive rock/metal work of art. For those not familiar, Teramaze = Dean Wells. He is the consistent thread across their 7 releases since 1995. For better or worse, this band has had a steady ebb and flow of performers since their initial release way back in 1995 with Doxology. But with the personnel changes have come a diverse and eclectic bunch of powerful albums. Original singer Brett Rerekura (yes, he sang on the 1995 Doxology release – as well as those heavy Nightmare Record era albums Anhedonia (2012) and Esoteric Symbolism (2014)) returns after an absence on the brilliant/cinematic Her Halo (2015). I have to say, Her Halo remains my favorite Teramaze album – just so great on many levels – but I love it when original members return to the fold, especially when they have, and continue, to perform at the level of Brett Rerekura. And although the rhythm section has been replaced, don’t expect any let up in quality – Rob Brens drumming, in particular, keeps pace with the standard set by former drummers Julian Pearcy (R.I.P.) and Dean Kennedy. The big surprise this time around would have to be the inclusion of Jonah Weingarten (Pyramaze) on keys. He definitely adds his signature touch to these songs.
At 70 minutes, this is a complex, conceptually oriented collection of songs, each standing well alone, yet each also serving a greater purpose. Where Wells has delivered straight power metal and technical thrash on previous releases, I think musically at least, Are We Soldiers fits in the progressive mold and is very similar in style to the last record. Fans of Her Halo will find much to enjoy, yet this one feels just a bit more “song-oriented” and less “story-like” when compared to Her Halo. Wells is the main songwriter and the producer and mixer, so Teramaze is his deal. Jacob Hansen is credited with mastering, but Wells is the man – he is gifted both as a songwriter and lyricist, and his styles always seem fresh as he keeps the guitars and crunch contemporary enough to stay relevant – no old school metal references or cliché’s. And while I love old-school metal, Teramaze has a sound that stays cutting-edge. If you could cross the melodic 90’s prog metal of Dream Theater and Vanden Plas with the djenty-stuff of today (Periphery/Animals as Leaders) you can begin to imagine the soundscape. More recent Anubis Gate is a great comparison. And while there is plenty of instrumental competence and wizardry, the melodies (vocal) sustain the catchiness that makes this kind of metal both enduring and endearing. Make no mistake, there is plenty of guitar/key shred and fast-paced drumming, so I would peg this more metal than rock.
Wells’ lyrics are always complex and substantive in nature. And while they were only more overtly Christian on Doxology and Tears To Dust, his perspective remains relevant and sensitive to the undeniable spiritual nature of man. This time the theme is much along the lines of many artists in recent years – observations in how wars, governments, technology and media continue to influence and deceive the masses of humanity. The lyrics to “Weight of Humanity” and “Fact Resistant Human” stand out in this regard, but all the vocal parts – melodies and words – are truthful and inspiring.
“The world believes and never questions/But still we’ll find a way” – Weight of Humanity”
Fans shouldn’t even hesitate – Are We Soldiers is extremely compelling and engaging on every level. I love that this band keeps crafting these high-quality songs and albums without regard for gaining a popular edge on the scene. This is melodic progressive metal in its purest form, replete with heady lyrics and fantastic musicianship. The mix and production quality are first-rate, very similar to the past release on Mascot. The CD version comes with a 12-page booklet with “easy to read” lyrics and credits. My only criticism might be the album artwork, which looks a bit dated (perhaps retro 80’s sci-fi on purpose?). This has also been released on vinyl, but I haven’t had the privilege to hear this release in that format.
1. Fight Or Flight (5:36)
2. Are We Soldiers (6:54)
3. Control Conquer Collide (7:46)
4. From Saviour To Assassin (5:10)
5. Orwellian Times (7:45)
6. M.O.N.S.T.E.R.S. (5:44)
7. Weight Of Humanity (6:54)
8. Fact Resistant Human (5:10)
9. The One Percent Disarm (6:26)
10. Depopulate (11:28)