I have been following Hemina since their 2012 debut “Synthetic”, and what a ride it has been! I honestly have a hard time believing it has been that long. The band is back with a stylish new album entitled “Night Echoes”, and, even considering the quality of all their releases, this album is definitely going to be the one that I return to the most. The album releases on August 9th.
Hemina hails from Australia, and they are part of the lively prog scene down under. The line up includes Douglas Skene on vocals, guitars, and keyboards; Mitch Coull on guitars and vocals; Jessica Martin on bass and vocals; and Nathan McMahon on drums, percussion, and vocals. You will notice that all four members are credited with vocals, and we will explore that later.
The music here is progressive metal, though there are plenty of curve balls, too. Hemina has always offered a highly cinematic, highly melodic progressive metal with lush vocal harmonies. Some of their albums feel like films, complete with climaxes and loads of depth. This album continues that tradition, but feels even more influenced by pop, funk, soul, blues, and even electronic music. While the cover might make it seem like Hemina has gone 70s/80s on us, I would argue that they have already been there since the beginning, at least in the vocal melodies, but I would also point out that the 80s tropes you might expect are not present. This album is far more creative and masterfully crafted than to resort to clichés.
“Night Echoes”, then, has plenty of riffs for the metalheads, and they are deep and dark riffs, too. But the album has so much more to offer than that. It is also catchy, quirky, and beautiful. It focuses less on mind-bending time signatures this time, and more on rich composition. You can hear the abundance of the melodies hanging in the air around you while you listen. The band often pairs these towering melodies with shadowy vox and dark riffs to fantastic effect, too.
Douglas proves once again that he is one of my favorite vocalists. His vocals are rich no matter the tone, and his high range is absolutely insane! However, like with their other albums but also somehow more noticeably here, the rest of the band sings and produces harmonies that really make this album what it is. Whether it is crowd singing, funk harmonies, or balladic duets, this album is made even more poetic and sophisticated by the interplay between the band’s voices.
“Night Echoes” addresses the story of a boy who is living through his adolescent years after the suicidal death of his father. You can hear the pain, the memories, and the longing throughout the album, and I think the title is fitting. It is also their shortest album, to my knowledge, clocking in at about 44 minutes in length. I believe that is a good thing and makes this album even stronger.
There are many songs that deserve mention here. Some just have a fantastic chorus and are simply fun to hear. “The Only Way” and “We Will” are both great examples of that, as well as of the wonderful melodies the band is offering this time. Other songs have a distinct funk vibe to them, as Hemina has done somewhat in the past. “One Short” and “Nostalgia” fall into that category, and I love hearing them.
My favorites, though, are “Flat”, “In Technicolour”, and “Flicker”. “Flat” starts as a gorgeous ballad that feels incredibly lush and melodic, and it transitions with some wonderful vocal fireworks into soulful solos and atmospheric synth. “In Technicolour” has a giant sound with myriad tones, fantastic atmosphere, and a bit of an 80s power ballad feeling to it. “Flicker” ends the album superbly. We get to hear a high-energy song that ends with Douglas’ irresistible vocal musings that are both haunting and striking.
Overall, Hemina really went out on a limb with this one, and it pays off well. I absolutely love the melodies, the approachability, and the genius pairing of various textures and tones. Hemina has simultaneously become more accessible and also more complex and eclectic. It seems like the band is gelling more and more as time passes, and so I only expect even greater things from them in the future.