TERAMAZE – Eli: A Wonderful Fall From Grace

TERAMAZE – Eli: A Wonderful Fall From Grace


BAND URL: https://teramaze.com.au/

The one genre where I have always found it hard to find works worth listening to twice has always been progressive heavy metal. When I bought CDs I usually had few albums in my collection, some early Dream Theater, some early Queensrÿche, Tool (of course) an occasional unknown band, such as Persona Non Grata, and that’s about it. I have always found the long overdrawn and too complicated tracks palataple only insofar as there were quality hooks, melodies, riffs and vocal harmonies to sustain them and, mind you, I do tend to get easily distracted if things become too predictable, not a big fan of minimalism. This may sound contradictory or even paradoxical but, hey, I never claimed to be a simple chap to be around. One of the bands and albums which immediately arrested my attention was the Australian Christian act Terramaze and their 4th full length Esoteric Symbolism²⁰¹⁴ which I found so fantastic I bought it the first day of exposure. The band had a very interesting turning point in their history, having started as an aggressive thrash metal ensemble Terrormaze and then, having undergone a Christian conversion, becoming Terramaze in 1995 and releasing two albums of lyrically Christian progressive heavy metal: Doxology¹⁹⁹⁵ and Tears To Dust¹⁹⁹⁸ before disbanding in 2002 only to reform and release Anhedonia²⁰¹² before catching my attention with the aforementioned Esoteric Symbolism²⁰¹⁴ after which I lost track of Her Halo²⁰¹⁵, Are We Soldiers²⁰¹⁹, I Wonder²⁰²⁰, Sorella Minore²⁰²¹, And The Beauty They Perceive²⁰²¹ and Flight Of The Wounded²⁰²² until I was approached by Austin Griswold from Secret Service Publicity for a review of this, their 11th album, an offer I enthusiastically accepted mindful of the quality of Esoteric Symbolism²⁰¹⁴. May 24th marked the release of Eli – A Wonderful Fall from Grace²⁰²⁴, via Wells Music, a record maybe not quite as exciting as Esoteric Symbolism²⁰¹⁴ but a fantastic work in its own right, with very few flaws.

Teramaze may currently be a quintet but it is definitely fronted by its only remaining founder, the former Meshiaak member Dean Wells (guitars, 2020-vocals) who is almost certainly Wells Music owner or else it’s a huge coincidence. While his vocal ability is admirable, he has largely relinquished the vocal duties for the extraordinaire Nathan Peachey, again, after having done so once on Her Halo²⁰¹⁵, the lineup is completed by former Meshiaak member Andrew Cameron (2017-bass), Nick Ross (2017-drums) and Christopher Zoupa (2018-guitars.) Eli²⁰²⁴ (henceforth so shortened for ease of reference) is a concept album, presumably (since lyrics are available for only one song) about a spiritual man called Eli who “may not fully believe” (I Mantissa) and gets seduced by the world of fortune-telling and magic (and all the fame and financial advantages that come with it) to his detriment and downfall, having made, in essence, a Faustian deal which cost him his soul and I think the last 2 tracks: “Hands Are Tied” and the title track bemoan that downfall, but, again, this is pure speculation on my part since I have no lyrics. The album is divided into 8 tracks, of which 6 are de facto songs and 2 are an opening instrumental (A Place Called Halo) and an interlude, a spoken scene to split the album in half (I Mantissa) tracks 1-3 setting up the protagonist’s, the titular Eli, wonder-ful (spelling intended) fall from grace, track 4 his encounter with the mysterious and nefarious fortune teller Madam Roma, 5-6 his way to the top and then 7 and 8 his downfall and the aftermath.

The opening instrumental “A Place Called Halo” may owe much inspiration to Hans Zimmer (Marvel soundtracks) and that probably on purpose, but it is also evocative of Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse Of Reason¹⁹⁸⁷ for the concept of one swimming in a body of water, also probably on purpose given Teramaze’s concept of a hero who plunges into unknown waters to rise and fall. And then the mastery of songwriting is revealed in the fantastic first track proper, “The Will Of Eli” which seems to heavily borrow from Killswitch Engage’s more melodic and subtle stylings as well as Yes and Breaking Benjamin, slowly uncoiling for a satisfying hook, an excellent start with the protagonist presumably coming out of the water. The following “Step Right Up” is just that, a step up, the beginning harkening back to Anthrax’s “The Black Lodge” with Load¹⁹⁹⁶ Metallica-like riffs and one recurring riff even similar to Aerosmith & Public Enemy “Walk This Way”, maybe on purpose, and, again, ending with a great vocal hook. At this point, the aforementioned “I Mantissa” signals the end of the first half which allows for a first reflection: so far excellent but could use a faster pace from here on.

Well, you want it you got it, to use the old Toyota slogan, as the almost 10 minute “Madam Roma” is perfect, with everything you could want from progressive metal while never overstaying its welcome: heavy Middle Eastern riffs, a Machine Head-y twist with very Robb Flynn-ian growls, generally, think something between Anubis Gate and Between The Buried And Me with an excellent set up for a massive hook that will have you sing along whether or not you can relate, definitely my favorite track. As if to counterweight it, the relatively short (5:50) “Standing Ovation” was wisely chosen for a single, proving that Teramaze can be effective with fewer twists and turns while delivering memorable hooks, the kind of track that I could point to with an emphatic “That’s what I’m talking about!” in my quest for quality progressive metal, as it transitions into a Soundgardenian Queensrÿche, another perfect song.

At this point the momentum is purposely brought to a screeching halt, Eli presumably having fallen from grace. Both vocalists start out the final two tracks wrapping up the album with a piano and strings gradually building up to a crescendo where Nathan Peachey reaches vocal highs appropriate for the unfolding of drama so emotional it’s got to be an exorcism of personal demons. Interestingly, the title track, being a whopping 14:31 summary, while re-visiting a few things from the other songs, ultimately presents something new and welcome, as if wanting to leave the best possible impression before the lights go out and, having listened to it intently 5 times I find it another perfection, with nothing to add or take away.

In the end, Eli²⁰²⁴ may be short of perfection, with the first two songs, while excellent, taking their time to get to hooks and sharing a similar structure, but it is a worthy addition to a progressive metal afficionado’s collection. Heck, take it from the man who scrutinizes this genre more than any other.

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