TERAMAZE – Eli: A Wonderful Fall From Grace (Album Review)

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A spectacular fall from on high set to music…

Arguably the most consequential progressive metal outfit to hail from the nation and continent of Australia, Teramaze has held the unique distinction of a project in flux in virtually all respects. Originally cutting their teeth in the earlier 90s as more of a thrash/groove-based progressive metal outfit under the moniker of Terrormaze, they would subsequently adopt a Christian-based message and a more correspondingly light and traditional progressive style in keeping with that of the earlier progressive rock outfits of the 70s, thus adjusting their band’s name accordingly.

Almost 30 years and about as many lineup changes later; guitarist, mastermind, and lone founding member Dean Wells has weathered his fair share of metaphorical storms in keeping the flow of new music steady, especially following a lengthy hiatus through most of the 2000s. Their latest offering, a bold conceptual endeavor dubbed “Eli – A Wonderful Fall From Grace,” underscores not only this fold’s tenacity and independence but the organic old-school character that they’ve stuck to over the years.

Arguably the most substantial change that has transpired this time around is the return of long-term, on-and-off-again lead vocalist Nathan Peachey, freeing Wells from the unenviable task of being the lone vocalist while also juggling guitar and keyboard duties. To be clear, the latter still provides a fair share of lead vocal slots throughout the album, presenting a similarly clean cut and consonant presentation to that of Peachey and often being difficult for one to distinguish between the two of them.

The vocal interplay and rich harmonies that come to the fore remind of the seemingly bygone days when Yes and King Crimson were ruling the roost, while the accompanying music hits a bit harder, reminiscing upon the high period of Dream Theater’s early run with Kevin Moore on keyboards and occasionally a darker shade still, perhaps along the lines of Anubis Gate and Symphony X. It’s a bit less kinetic than the latter example, but between some of the wild guitar and keyboard solo moments and the chunky foundation laid down by Wells’ and Chris Zoupa’s down-tuned guitar riffs, it isn’t too much of a stretch.

The theatricality factor is pretty blatant as this album moves from a lullaby-turned Hans Zimmer-inspired orchestral prelude to a free-flowing extravaganza of infectious hooks and oddball twists and turns. Perhaps the greatest hint of this album’s storybook character is the strategic use of fleeting instrumentals like the just-described intro “A Place Called Halo” and the dreary interlude “I Mantissa” amid what is otherwise a collection of drawn-out epics.

“Eli: A Wonderful Fall From Grace” Album Artwork

Various characters are introduced via subtle ambient sounds and brief voiceover parts. Yet, the primary focus remains on the usual blend of craftsmanship and virtuoso displays that goes with a band that ventures outside conventional songwriting. At first glance, this involves a comparatively mellow blend of softer rock and ballad moments alongside a punchy, mid-paced stride that mixes a sense of subtle rhythmic and atmospheric nuance with a dominant narration coming from Wells’ and Peachey’s vocals. Nevertheless, between the extended lyrical sections are plenty of impressive guitar displays that dance between a wild John Petrucci-like shred-fest and the measured and melodic quality of early prog rock guitarists.

As noted earlier, while this band and this particular studio endeavor does lean a bit harder into the older progressive rock paradigm than many of their contemporaries in Europe and North America, they make plenty of time for the heavier fare. Arguably the most bottom-heavy offering to come out of this fold in recent memory is the deep chugging groove of “Madam Roma”, which hits hard enough to almost be mistaken for something off one of Michael Romeo’s recent solo offerings, though the vocal presentation retains its clean and smooth demeanor.

On the opposite side of the coin, “Hands Are Tied” presents this band in more of a sorrowful state of piano-driven balladry, contrasted with a long explosion of guitars during the solo section. The closer and title anthem “A Wonderful Fall From Grace” presents a heavier feel overall, albeit in more of a free-wheeling jam session that spans a gargantuan 14 and a half minutes, and is chock full of wild guitar and keyboard solo sections, alongside a ripping saxophone section. Yet ironically enough, this album’s lone promotional single “Standing Ovation” towers above all else, both due to an especially animated and hard-hitting riff set and a more streamlined and catchy structure that culminates in something that might prove this band’s metallic answer to Yes“Owner Of A Lonely Heart” in terms of staying power.

Though a career as extensive as Teramaze’s leaves the question of where an album like this stands in the grand scheme of their expansive back catalog, in terms of what they’ve laid out in the past 5 or 6 years, this is arguably the most ambitious and compelling of the bunch.

Perhaps it doesn’t quite possess the same degree of edge and intrigue as their 2 album run with Nightmare Records upon reforming in 2010, especially in the case of 2014’s “Esoteric Symbolism,” nor does it quite outdo the charm of their earlier run in the 90s, but it showcases a band that is still at the top of their game and equipped with plenty of fresh ideas.

The greater amount of time that was taken here relative to the last several albums shows how it tactfully lingers upon each idea and seamlessly leads the listener down a maze of intrigue before bringing it all to a familiar conclusion. Those who enjoy the high-grade progressive metal served up by the likes of Threshold and Redemption, among many others who came roaring out of the original way of the 90s and early 2000s, will find themselves right at home with this record.

Released By: Wells Music
Release Date: May 24th, 2024
Genre: Progressive Metal

Musicians:

  • Dean Wells / Guitars, Vocals
  • Nathan Peachey / Lead Vocals
  • Andrew Cameron / Bass
  • Nick Ross / Drums
  • Chris Zoupa / Guitars

Eli – A Wonderful Fall From Grace” Track List:

  1. A Place Called Halo
  2. The Will of Eli
  3. Step Right Up
  4. I Mantissa
  5. Madam Roma
  6. Standing Ovation
  7. Hands Are Tied
  8. A Wonderful Fall From Grace

Order Eli – A Wonderful Fall From GraceHERE

8.9 Excellent

Standing among the veteran titans of the 90s progressive metal wave and hailing from the distant land down under, Teramaze continues their impressive post-2010 reformation upsurge with an intricate blend of formal complexity and melodic accessibility, topping off their 11th studio entry.

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 8.5
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