Album length is an ongoing discussion here at Angry Metal Guy, with one side arguing for more material and the option to listen in parts or mix tracks into playlists, and the correct side arguing for self-editing, trimming the fat and creating a cohesive listening experience. Previously, the poster child for the discussion was our overlord’s own review of Iron Maiden‘s Book of Souls album, which infamously ran for 90 minutes where an hour would have sufficed. Lack of editing meant all the weaker parts clogged up everything awesome about the album and blocked the flow. Well boss, if you are looking for an aneurysm, I think I may have the album for you.
Hemina play Dream Theateresque progressive metal, setting themselves apart with an eclectic vocal repertoire and djenty syncopated rhythm guitars. The brunt of the vocals are classic clean power metal but there’s a lot of variety with choirs, female vocals, harmonization, and even some screams. And falsetto backing vocals. The clean vocals are generally competent but they don’t impress much and the rapid switching between styles makes for a dramatic mountain of lactose. Like Dream Theater, Hemina loves their solos, and the 80-minute disc is just stuffed with them, in both keyboard and guitar variety. And saxophone. Plus they use a pan flute in the closer. All of these ideas are employed to varying degrees of success in the name of love, as evidenced by the album title, examining various subtopics around the theme.
In my Existance review, I asserted my dislike of metal love songs. Love as a theme has been so played out by mainstream music there are barely any ways to discuss it that don’t involve beating dead horses even further into the mile-deep hole dug by all the previous beatings. Contrasting with other subjects works, but love never remains the main theme, shifting to loss and obsession, so I don’t think it works as a main theme anymore. Unfortunately, Venus does very little to prove me wrong. Both lyrically and musically the album is gooey like toffee pudding and just as teeth-shatteringly sweet. On “Expect the Unexpected” the band croons in harmony ‘Trust is a must / And I want you / I’m feeling sticky,’ which has the adverse effect of making the listener feel sticky as well. The saxophone solos draw from Marvin Gaye and Careless Whisper, containing all the subtlety of a bad romantic comedy. Combined with the awful cover the whole album flashes a nauseatingly sultry grimace with the horribly perfumed rose bouquet of a $0.99 Danielle Steele rip-off paperback.
Great songwriting could save the heap of cheese, but the editing, or rather the lack thereof, takes this idea out the back and shoots it in the neck. The album is absolutely crammed with ideas both good and bad, and excising the tumors would have easily dropped 30 minutes of running time. The biggest hurdle is the aforementioned second track, an extremely ill-advised cuddly soft rock song where the band croons their way through tepid clichés with husky voices and dives deep into the uncanny valley of attraction, winding up as desirable as roadkill. No singular track is quite this bad, but questionable songwriting choices litter the otherwise agreeable album and Hemina seems unable to choose between any of them, leaving them to stretch 6-minute songs past the double digits and extending the album far past the breaking point.
There’s enough material that works to construct a decent disc here, even disregarding the cliché theme and cheese curds. The solos, though overpopulated, are genuinely good and really lift up the weaker chunks. The instrumentation is generally solid and it makes up somewhat for the cringe manifesting from the vocals and lyrics. But the forest is bogged down by the trees and pruning is nonexistent. Without a concerted effort to edit the album down to its strongest points there is little reason to seek this out for anyone but the most die-hard Dream Theater-loving desperate housewife. It’s a tale of star-crossed love metal.