Review: Hemina – Romancing the Ether

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Hemina Romancing The Ether album

Kiss, kiss fall in love.

Hemina’s 5th record Romancing The Ether is perhaps the band’s opus. While this release is one long piece, it blows by at a brisk pace, with incredible performances, strong songwriting and structure that compels the listener to continue journeying through the ether. Releasing August 11th 2023 via Bird’s Robe Records, the Sydney, Australia based five piece use this project as the bookend to the conceptual story they’ve been weaving their entire career. The 35-minute album is divided into 6 fleshed out movements that explore the human mind and meld multiple genres together. From progressive metal, ambient, neo-soul, psychedelic rock and a theatrical style of delivery bearing shades of emo, this project absolutely deserves attention.

The personnel on this record deserve a standing ovation. Douglas Skene’s vocals are the centerpiece of the album and through him the album is given a tangible personification that most other vocalists couldn’t capture. His work on the keys and guitar play of Mitch Coull’s guitar work seamlessly. Jessica Martin acts as the secret weapon of the project as not only does her bass work deserve praise, but her vocal contributions do wonders for the final result. Martin’s bass finds a kindred spirit in her rhythm section companion in Nathan McMahon. McMahon is a swiss army knife of a drummer who fits perfectly into every track. McMahon and Coull’s vocal adages as well deserve some recognition. Every member of Hemina is in top fighting form and the product really shows the fruits of their labor.

Romancing The Ether is divided into six distinct movements. Part I. “Intention” (0:00) is an ambient beginning to the whole journey. As an isolated short number it gets the job done and sets the right atmosphere and builds up the perfect amount of anticipation. The synths, keys and strings are spectacular.

Part II. “Strike Four” (0:55) has this perfect harmonious quality that takes the atmosphere of the opening and springs forth the rest of the project to life. With the first inclination of just how incredible drumming and guitar work will be on this project, the keys continue to grow from their inklings in the opening. The emotive vocals invoke something out of a musical. There is just the right amount of theatricals, but without overdoing it. The explosive synths and peaking high notes draw comparisons to arena rock in addition to the already established progressive atmosphere. The beautiful backing contributed by Martin adds so much here. The piano interplay with the guitar and drums is so technically sound. There’s a specific segment with a spacey guitar and key solo and a tempo change brought in by drums that really marks this track as one of the standouts. Hearing this makes me want to go “off the beaten path” to see what awaits and embark on my own hero’s journey. The beautiful guitar solo that starts around the 9 minute mark is triumphant, victorious and inspiring and eventually gives way to piano leading into part III.

Part III. “Embraced by Clouds” (11:45) Has Martin opening the track. There sounds to be a vocoding effect on her voice, and while normally that would sound strange it is perfectly executed here. It’s otherworldly and brings a thoughtful folksy singer songwriting sense of grief and melancholy to the track. This is an almost perfect number. The dueting vocals are something even the likes of Meatloaf and Ellen Foley would be impressed by. From the guitar leading in and building up tension, to the expressive drumming bringing the rhythms of the song to life. The intricate and perfectly executed fills and cymbal crashes are accented by synths which evolve into this trippy synth and key solo. There is a beautiful a capella part that strips away everything and coats the listener in a beautifully layered vocal harmony. The listener gets lost in the melody until a heavy riff smashes the track back into high gear, only to quickly dissipate into a dreamy piano part with sparse drums and cymbal play. Similarly to part 1, the emotive vocal inflection returns, this is possibly the highlight of the record. It’s down right breathtaking. Specifically the 19-20 minute mark, it might just be one of the very best musical minutes of the whole year. Part III is a track that needs to be heard to be believed.

Part IV. “Dissolution” (21:47) generates immediate interest with mythic vocalizing and guitar interplay. There’s a neoclassical undercurrent to it, that is amplified by a magical arrangement of the drums, synths, bass, and an array of other instruments. It’s pure atmosphere. That element grows, changes and expands with the electronic drum and bass segment. The experimentation continues with this progressive guitar interlude to a synth bit with ominous chugging and vocalizations behind it. There’s another a capella bit that is super effective but compared to the last track doesn’t have the same resonance.

Part V. “Revelations” (26:01) is notable as its the single for the record. It’s initially colored by a pretty guitar lead in. Like before, the drums and synths work in tandem to build the backing atmosphere brilliantly. The chugging ebbs and flows and builds atmosphere naturally, and expands into some impressive riffs and a djent interlude. The experimentation on this track is really impressive, I can see simultaneous elements of power metal and emo, that are surprisingly effective. There’s a starry key solo and kickass guitar shredding and strumming segment that ushers in the song’s ending. McMahon’s drumming is so impressive here that it would make any drummer quiver behind their sticks. It’s evident why this was the solo.

Part VI. “Integration” (33:34) is the full circle moment. There’s parallels to the beginning, but things are different and this seemingly short number is given so much extra emotional impact in retrospect. It’s a pretty and resonating ending, and it succeeds by incorporating all the best aspects of the record in a short digestible way. It’s inspiring, hopeful and uplifting and felt like a very satisfying ending to a wonderful project. 

Hemina are masters of their craft. The intricacy of the music, beautiful songwriting and production are all spectacular. There’s so much to take in with this project that some might even find it overwhelming. It’s hard to really even find any noticeable flaws. The people looking for heavier tracks or aren’t interested in prog might not get as much mileage out of it, but it’s an album I can’t recommend enough. For what is essentially one long song, there’s a really great pacing and flow to each movement and the record as a whole. It might not hit the mark to be a 5 out of 5 but it’s the strongest 4.5 I can give. Its 100% worth your time.

Standout tracks: “Strike Four”, “Embraced by Clouds”, & “Revelations”

Romancing The Ether gets 4.5 out of 5 flaming Toilets ov Hell

Romancing The Ether by Hemina is out now via Bird’s Robe Records.

 

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