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Tanagra – Meridiem Award winner

Tanagra
Meridiem
by John Paul Romero at 03 June 2019, 12:01 AM

Progressive Metal fans, rest assured that your 2019 is in good hands as Prog quintet TANAGRA unleashes “Meridiem”. Filled with vibrant melodies, this seven-track record will take you to a breathtaking journey through an eargasmic musical psychedelic. First things first: it’s an album composed of seven songs, but has a total run time of 64 minutes. How is that possible? Well, five of those tracks are at least eight minutes long and three of which are at least ten minutes long. These kinds of songs always either go down as celebrated opuses or unforgivable sins. In the case of “Meridiem”, it's the former.

The opening track “Meridiem” will already give you chills, as it starts slowly and gradually evolves into a more exciting quest. The song is so ambient that it can carry you away easily. Tom Socia’s vocal delivery is great, he has an amazing voice control and he knows exactly how to play with it. His voice is so captivating and calming at the same time, and it blends perfectly with the complex layers of sound provided by the guitars and occasional insertion of synths and keys. The additional of acoustics in the song also added beauty of it, providing so much diversity in just one song. It is also difficult not to mention that brief but very elegant duet of acoustic guitar and piano in the middle of the song. The transitions between mild and mellow vibes to energetic, distortion driven sound is so seamless, and the overall calm and soothing song turns into a neoclassical guitar shred showdown as smooth as silk. At the end of eleven and a half minutes, you will already be deeply immersed to an otherworldly experience, and I can’t blame you if you play the song like three times before proceeding to the next tracks like I did.

Following the title track is the shortest entry in the album, “Sydria”. Unlike the first song that leaned on a calmer mood before erupting into a shredfest before the closing, “Sydria” is relentless right from the start. It is more riff-driven and Christopher Stewart is a lot busier. Also, here they start showing their power metal side with that power-metal fashioned double kicks and blistering solos. The fact that it’s too short will keep your mouth watering, craving for more – especially after the epic and really mind blowing guitar solo.

“Ethereal Alchemy” is all about technicality and astonishing poetry. The song will put a grin in your face because of the delivery of the drums and guitars, and also because of the words that come out from Tom’s lips. Let me also mention that he wrote the lyrics himself, and I think that’s the reason his singing sound so heart felt and soul-deep. And just in case I haven’t expressed my awe in Steven Soderberg and Josh Kay’s guitar works, allow me to say that these guys are tremendous guitarists. The speed and technicality of their solos is mind-blowing and if you dream of becoming a shredder, these guys can in fact inspire you to give up on your dream! Also present in the song is a surprise you’ll never see coming – Tom drops several lines in primal screams, which simply speaks for his prowess as a singer.

Unpredictability is what “Silent Chamber” brings to the table. Remember OPETH’s “The Moor”? If you have heard that song, I’m sure you’ll remember the moment it blew your face off when those punishing riffs came shortly after the rather soft and calm acoustic intro. That is almost exactly what “Silent Chamber” did, except of course that Mikael used his much heavier death growls. In this song, we start to hear the aggressive side of TANAGRA. Those screams that Tom showcased as a surprise in the previous song are mostly what he has utilized in this song. Here we also hear the guitars take complete control with those crunchy riffs and laser sharp solos. However, you can’t simply take out the bass and drums in the talks. While the guitars share the spotlight, it is the bass and the drums that provide a solid backdrop to the song.

And since we started to talk about aggression, let us not stop there and talk about the next song, “The Hidden Hand”. Aggressive and fast right from the start, what you’ll get is an unforgiving series of trem picking and blast beats. However, as the first verse approaches, the carnage smoothly transforms into yet another psychedelic musical journey. There is also a dark touch of madness present in this song, may that be in Tom’s singing or in Christopher’s drumming. For some reasons, the drum parts of this song remind me of jazz drummer Buddy Rich and one of the greatest drummers of all time, Mike Portnoy. Undeniably, Christopher ran the show in this song with his crazy rolls and complex rhythms. That is, without having to turn down any instrument in the mix. Plus, there is also a brief duel between him and the guitars, which is a thing of perfection.

“Across the Ancient Desert” is like a compilation of everything that they are all about. It has those power metal elements, those crazy trem picking, those thunderous blast beats, and Tom’s bipolar vocals. The song is simply astonishing – everything seems to happen so slowly even if the pace of the song is unapologetically fast. I can say that is because of the amazing musicianship that is on all-out display in the song. After all the surprises met along the way, this song is such a mighty summit, and can also be easily deemed as the uncontested climax and zenith of the album. The song is specifically written to drop your jaw and make you lose your mind.

To close things up, the longest song “Witness” comes into the picture. It begins with a truly epic choir before a solid bass passage just before it turns to an all-out NWOBHM delivery. However, like we have proven, TANAGRA is all about dynamism so that style flawlessly evaporates and transitions into a more European power metal style. I particularly love the layer of symphonies in the song, as it gives it a truly epic atmosphere. The glorious mood of the song is really felt in the air, even with all the sudden shifts to acoustic passages and ballad(ish) singing. And even if you already know that TANAGRA does crazy things where you least expect it, you will still be surprised by the shifts and turns in the song that will certainly keep you off guard.

There were moments where it turned into CANDLEMASS-like brand of doom, and there is also a brief but really intense breakdown. Of course, it will not be complete without the very addictively satisfying and highly technical guitar solos (have I mentioned that Steven and Josh are fucking awesome guitarists?).There will also be times that you might think your eardrums are playing with your mind. Who was that doing the head tone? Was that Tom? Wait, I was listening to prog earlier, why has it turned into symphonic metal? And probably, you’ll tell yourself at least three times “I thought that was the closing note”. What else can I say about this song? After listening to “Across the Ancient Desert”, I nearly ran out of praises. But hell, that was the best 14 minutes of my 2019 so far.

Summarizing such an album like “Meridiem” is such a difficult job because there are so many things going on in every song. But to make the long story short, here’s a hint: “Meridiem” is all about unpredictability, diversity, and complexity. The songs are heavily detailed, just like the album art (please don’t let the thumbnail up there fool you, the full 5200pixels x 5200pixels poster reveals so much detail and precision). Even if the songs are lengthy, you won’t feel the slightest pinch of boredom because of all the things going on. I also have to point out the amazing quality of sound. If you are planning to get this album in MP3 format, be sure that you’ll be getting a high-quality audio. The files are optimized not to be space efficient but to be a top-class MPEG layer 3 file that can keep up with or contest FLAC. Lastly, the songwriting – it’s elegantly crafted. I loved every lyric of every song. The album is truly a fusion of excellent musicianship and masterful poetry.

Any lover of sophisticated music must have their hands on this album – it is fucking epic! It’s a very precious gem, like a jewel sent straight from the heavens. Of all albums I heard so far in 2019, this one stands closest to perfection.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Meridiem
2. Sydria
3. Etheric Alchemy
4. Silent Chamber
5. The Hidden Hand
6. Across the Ancient Desert
7. Witness
Lineup:
Steven Soderberg – Guitars
Christopher Stewart – Drums & Percussion
Tom Socia – Vocals
Josh Kay – Guitars
Erich Ulmer – Bass
Record Label: Independent
     


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Edited 15 November 2019
 

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