Hemina – Night Echoes
So, I got curious and looked it up. A Hemina is apparently an ancient Roman unit of measurement equal to 273 mL or (9.61 fl oz for our non-metric friends). The band often posts on their social media channels about fans getting to suck up, dive in or lather their doam [sic] with Heminal juices. So, whether 273 mL of any kind of liquid was at the top of the minds of these Australians when they named their band, one can only guess. I can, however, tell you with certainty that after having seen them live at Progpower Europe 2018 and having had their 2016 release “Venus” on repeat for the biggest part of 2018, I was positively giddy to have my pre-order of “Night Echoes” fall on my doormat. Now, I know it’s been a while since then, but the album has aged mighty well in my ears.
Starting out the way they had left things on “Venus”, after a few quiet notes on keys the album kicks off with the sort of great guitar lead that we’re used to hearing from Hemina. The rhythmic groove of ‘The Only Way’ then guides the verse towards the bridge and on to the first chorus of the song. And here Hemina shows why I’ve grown to love them: the catchy chorus, with seemingly the entire band pitching in when it comes to vocal harmonies, makes it so that after just the first two spins you already start humming along the melody. And once it’s got its hooks in you; the song doesn’t let go. The trademark guitar-driven sound carries on throughout the song, with a whopper of a solo in the middle. Towards the end of the song, we get some vocal acrobatics by Douglas Skene. All-in-all a great song to start the album with, if you ask me.
One thing Hemina generally know how to do well is write lyrics that hit home. Whether you listen to the album as a whole and try to grasp the concept that’s being told through the songs (in short: a young adult dealing with his father’s suicide) or if you listen to the songs by themselves. There are always snippets that are worth listening to in a philosophical sense that make the listener think.
The next song, ‘What’s the catch?’, is a song worth heeding in that regard. Don’t be deceived by the immense catchiness that starts out, once again, with a great guitar lead supported by a Hammond organ. Douglas Skene has a way with his voice that makes the song sound almost too happy for its lyrical content. There’s a melancholic touch to it, and with the cheery guitar solo about two thirds into the song, the emotional listener gets thrown all over the place.
The emotional rollercoaster ends, in my eyes, way too soon. I’d have loved to have been thrown around for a minute or two more. And in my eyes that might also be the only point of critique on this song: to the listener, it might just be a tad short. I generally skip back to the start of this song when listening to the album a few times, before moving on to the next to create the illusion of epic proggy length for myself.
Hemina – What’s The Catch? (click here if the video doesn’t play)
‘We Will’ starts out funky, hits hard with the verse, but then unfortunately fails to impress a little with the chorus. The chorus is drawn out, and the vocal melodies are good, but could’ve been slightly more varied in my eyes. That said, the song is accented nicely with the harsher vocals interspersed throughout by Douglas.
“…if you give it…SOUL!” the lyrics exclaim in the song that follows. ‘One Short’ begins with a short bit that wouldn’t be misplaced on a Motown record. Slightly more experimental in nature than the previous songs, mixing the Hemina blend of prog metal with funk and soul influences, I think this one stands out on the album. It would speak to the listener that likes to hear the band progress and incorporate different styles with their own. But with the keyboards following the vocal lines, guitars driving the song forward, the band doesn’t lose its own sound while edging for something new.
When you like a good build-up in a song, Hemina has got you covered as well. Obviously conveying the emotional distress of the protagonist, ‘Flat’ starts out small, clean guitars and hushed vocals slowly building, picking up slowly to a guitar solo, double bass pedal drums, choirs, and eventually slowing down again with the protagonist asking the listener not to give up on them. Wonderful song, period.
Hemina – We Will (click here if the video doesn’t play)
‘Everything Unsaid’ is a song that only lasts 1 minute and 39 seconds, but in this short period, this song with just vocals and acoustic guitars manages to go from a happy memory, of a picture on a fireplace, to the protagonist feeling lonely and alone. Because of the small and intimate vibe coming from the song, it sort of feels out of place. Which likely is exactly what the guys and gal tried to accomplish here, smack in the middle of the album.
The first thing that I thought of when I heard ‘Nostalgia’ for the first time was the memory of the backseat of my parents’ car on long drives to our summer vacation destination, listening to Toto on tapes. Nostalgia indeed! The mix of funk, rock and Hemina’s brand of progressive metal brings to mind the kind of drumming we know from Jeff Porcaro and the keyboards David Paich and Steve Porcaro dreamed up in their hay days. As a major Toto fan, myself, this immediately gripped me, and I haven’t been able to let that sentiment go. “Take a trip down memory lane”, Douglas sings. And so, I did. But it’s not just Toto in this song. Hemina manage to relive that amazing era of music and put their own stamp on it. Nostalgia might be the most aptly named song on the album. I generally love it when a band takes an influence like this and gives it their own spin. They even included a short bit where every band member gets a few bars in the limelight; something that will no doubt go down well in a live setting.
The tinkering sound of a classic music box takes us into ‘In Technicolour’. Jessica Martin gets a more potent vocal role in this song. Where Skene still takes care of the verses, the chorus thrusts Jessica to the foreground. The two continue to alternate, with big vocal harmonies in between, all the while one of the more epic guitar leads on the album threads through the whole. Where the rest of the album is generally “radio length” songs that feel like they’re done in a heartbeat, ‘In Technicolour’ is the epic of the album time-wise, but feels like a radio edit. The song ends with acoustic guitar and a different version of the chorus. Which makes the next song sound all the heavier.
‘Flicker’ is the most aggressive song on the album. The song also features so-called gang vocals by several friends of the band. As with every song on this album, ‘Flicker’ features contrast and conflicting emotions. While the gang shouts that it’s too late, Jessica Martin happily plays scales on the bass underneath. The song itself is a sort of emotional goodbye of the protagonist to his father. It jumps from heavier, more emotional parts to quieter, more mournful parts. In the end, Douglas Skene rings out the album with some vocals, conveying emotion much like the ending of ‘The Only Way’, but more harrowing, mournful and almost sounding bittersweet.
Hemina – Flicker (click here if the video doesn’t play)
Clocking in at only 45 minutes and 45 seconds total Hemina haven’t fallen for the progressive pitfall of writing long songs just for the sake of wanting to fit into the progressive label. Quite the opposite, like I mentioned with ‘What’s the Catch?’, I think some of them tend to be a bit short. That leaves the listener longing for more, though, and perhaps inclined to put the album on again right away.
I believe that “Night Echoes” is an album that is a grower. Some songs will stick straight away, but there’s a few on this album that’ll need a few listens before you’re completely hooked. Hemina has progressed – though perhaps matured is a better word – in their sound. Tackling the same heavy topics with their own specific brand of up-tempo, guitar-driven progressive metal, but now with added splashes and dashes of other genres like soul, funk and even a slight edge of synth-wave. I would definitely recommend this album to everyone with a love for classic melodic prog with synths. “Night Echoes” invites you to watch the world through the main character’s eyes and ride the ebbs and flows of his emotions as he deals with a harrowing loss, guided by the ever onward chugging progressive metal train that is Hemina.