Teramaze - I Wonder review



Reviewer:
7.9

20 users:
6.85
Band: Teramaze
Album: I Wonder
Release date: October 2020


01. Ocean Floor
02. Only Daylight
03. Lake 401
04. A Deep State Of Awake [feat. Jason Wisdom]
05. Here To Watch You
06. Sleeping Man
07. Idle Hands / The Devil's Workshop
08. Run
09. This Is Not A Drill
10. I Wonder


It's only been a bit over a year since I last reviewed a Teramaze album; It's amazing how long ago that feels now.

Are We Soldiers was the latest instalment in the discography of this sporadically prolific Australian prog metal outfit, their first in several years and first since Brett Rerekura had rejoined on vocals. Evidently Rerekura's reunion with the group got the creative juices flowing again, as the band are already back with nearly 70 minutes of new material. However, those juices seem to have been running without Rerekura, as Dean Wells, guitarist, songwriter and seemingly lone constant member of Teramaze, is credited with doing lead vocals this time around, meaning that I Wonder is the group's third album in succession with a different vocalist. There have been other line-up changes, with Nick Ross replacing Rob Brens on drums and former keyboardist Jonah Weingarten also no longer mentioned as a member. The world has changed a lot between the releases of Are We Soldiers and new record I Wonder, and so seemingly have Teramaze, but the quality has remained much the same.

I mentioned in my review of Are We Soldiers that Teramaze were playing a more modern-sounding form of melodic prog than on its predecessor Her Halo, and that remains much the case here. More akin to Voyager than Dream Theater, there are complexities and moments of instrumental extravagance here, but they don't take a prominent role in the sound of I Wonder. The band are more than capable of writing engaging material without musical excesses, however; Wells demonstrates his aptitude as an evocative, ear-catching vocalist, whether on the heavier material or the ballads, the latter best demonstrated on 80's rock-influenced "Sleeping Man" (note the 80's soft rock keyboards in the chorus), and the band also rises to the occasion. Early album highlight "Only Daylight" brings memorable, potent riffs, smooth keyboard/piano and guitar leads to spice things up, and well-judged song progression to keep interest high throughout its surprisingly lengthy runtime.

In my last review, I had mentioned that Are We Soldiers perhaps outstays its welcome, and with the same duration, this really remains the case with I Wonder. However, whilst I struggled to think of songs to lose on the last album, I feel the candidates for the chopping block are a bit clearer here. "A Deep State Of Awake" has good moments, but not enough to justify its length, and the attempts at harsh vocals don't really work that well with the rest of the band's sound. Additionally, of the several more ballad-esque tracks here, "Run" is probably the most redundant, again not unlikeable, but difficult to inspire too much enthusiasm for. Removing this track would also give a good opportunity to move "Lake 401" later on the record; it's a generally decent song, but feels awkwardly placed coming in so early on the album, particularly after the powerhouse that is "Only Daylight".

Whether these changes would be beneficial is up for debate, but I feel like they would help to keep listeners fully engaged and full of stamina by the time they reach the final tracks, whose quality is less debatable. Excluding the aforementioned "A Deep State Of Awake", the last three songs are the longest on the record, but all of them justify their length. "Idle Hands / The Devils Workshop" is the longest and heaviest of the trio, with large, powerful choruses, contorted prog-metal twists and turns, and stirring guitar leads and solos. Arguably even more emotionally resonant is "This Is Not A Drill", which towards the end finds Wells at his most impassioned and Teramaze at their most delicate. "This Is Not A Drill" really feels like an album closer, which makes "I Wonder"'s arrival a bit of a surprise each time, but the title track justifies its presence with some nice keyboard work and smooth vocal melodies, even if I would have probably moved it before "This Is Not A Drill" in the tracklist.

Although there's not much else positive to be said of 2020, it's been a pretty strong year for prog, with a number of major acts within the genre putting out solid albums, and whilst I Wonder isn't going to be the pick of the bunch, it's another enjoyable addition to the group.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 8


 



Written on 10.10.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments

Comments: 2   Visited by: 62 users
11.10.2020 - 07:15
DonMoenning
Great review, totally agree.

I want to love this album, but I can't help but be a bit disappointed by the severe lack of pace, shortage of riffs, and odd track order. Pushing things into high gear seems like pulling teeth, and noticeably absent are the unique, energetic, tech-y riffs these guys are known for. The songwriting is still top notch and Dean Wells gives a stellar vocal performance, but I really think the album missed having some truly epic and powerful moments because it's so reluctant to put its foot on the gas pedal (looking at you, Ocean Floor - really thought SOMETHING was going to happen in that song at some point). Odd choice to keep the album mostly slow- to mid-paced. Also odd to leave the best three tracks until the end, 50 minutes in.

I appreciate what Dean was going for here with a big, honest prog album. He succeeds to a degree. I just think they watered down their strengths on this one.
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11.10.2020 - 10:00
musclassia
Written by DonMoenning on 11.10.2020 at 07:15

Great review, totally agree.

I want to love this album, but I can't help but be a bit disappointed by the severe lack of pace, shortage of riffs, and odd track order. Pushing things into high gear seems like pulling teeth, and noticeably absent are the unique, energetic, tech-y riffs these guys are known for. The songwriting is still top notch and Dean Wells gives a stellar vocal performance, but I really think the album missed having some truly epic and powerful moments because it's so reluctant to put its foot on the gas pedal (looking at you, Ocean Floor - really thought SOMETHING was going to happen in that song at some point). Odd choice to keep the album mostly slow- to mid-paced. Also odd to leave the best three tracks until the end, 50 minutes in.

I appreciate what Dean was going for here with a big, honest prog album. He succeeds to a degree. I just think they watered down their strengths on this one.


Yeah, I think the length would be more justified if there was more in the way of diversity on the speed and intensity fronts. I do like Ocean Floor, but agree given its length that it had the opportunity to push beyond a promising start into something a bit more emphatic. Having three ballad-y songs (and a fourth that leans in that direction in Here To Watch You) is a bit much, particularly since they're all squeezed close together in the middle of the album

Edit: Although I have now noticed that on platforms outside of Spotify (which is where I've been listening to the album), "Run" and "Idle Hands" are swapped in the track order, which potentially works better in terms of mixing things up
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