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"Australian prog has been around for a while mate," laughs Teramaze founder, guitarist and producer Dean Wells, musing on the recent explosion of progressive-minded rock bands from Australia, of which Melbourne's Teramaze are surely at the forefront. "It was kick started with bands like Cog, Karnivool, and now there's stuff like Voyager and Caligula's Horse and Plini and things like that."

"Funnily enough I don't really feel that we're really a part of that," he continues. "The thing with Teramaze is we're a progressive band but we're closer to progressive metal and not progressive rock. But sometimes it's not progressive rock at all, it's more like metal with big pop choruses. I mean I like progressive metal because it gives me the chance to write anything under the banner of Teramaze. But sometimes I like writing pop songs. And it does leak into Teramaze, it always has. A song like 'Her Halo' itself for example."

'Her Halo', Teramaze's 2015 album, and their first for Mascot Records, saw the band take a big step up from previous albums 'Anhedonia' (2012) and 'Esoteric Symbolism' (2014), with the UK's Prog Magazine calling the album "Exceptional" and stating it was "one of the finest prog metal releases of recent years." Four years later and Wells and Teramaze are back with a new album, 'Are We Soldiers', another step up for the Australian band. It's still Teramaze – all huge choruses, crashing guitar chords, intricate time changes and swooping melodies – but it's a bigger, brighter and even better Teramaze.

Wells looks almost relieved in his Melbourne studio, because despite the band sounding ready to take on all comers with an album brimming with bright, ebullient and confident songs, from the euphoric rush of opening track 'Fight Or Flight' to the closing epic prog metal monster 'Depopulate', 'Are We Soldiers' wasn't the easiest album to create.

"When we signed to Mascot things were crazy for me personally," he'll now admit. "My dad was dying, and then I met Jim Pitulski, who discovered the band for Mascot. He'd signed Dream Theater and Symphony X, so it was a great step up for us. But then I got sick. I was sick for about 12 months and we didn't know what was wrong with me, but it ends up that I was just completely run down. My own fault – I go pretty hard when I'm working and don't do much else. I'm only really good at music, so I just really go for it. But I did want to have more fun with this album. it's a bit lighter, it's got a groove. Before 'Her Halo' were 'Esoteric Symbolism' and 'Anhedonia', and they were much more riff orientated. Still progressive but riffy, and that's what I wanted to bring a bit back to this record."

"We'd been on a smaller label, Nightmare, who'd been good for us, but the pressure wasn't really there because the music was already written. This studio I'm sat in is where I create my music and I have things set – so I have a drum sound that sounds great, and a guitar sound that I like and vocal templates. So my demos are very good, it already sounds cool. So the demos for 'Her Halo' that we sent Mascot were pretty much done. Nothing really changed apart from actually recording it. 'Are We Soldiers' was done pretty much the same way."

"I wrote all this music nearly straight after 'Her Halo', which is kind of strange. But when I write, I write fast and a lot, and then I stop and crash. But that's the way I get the best stuff. It's real and it's honest."

There's change beyond the music for Teramaze with 'Are We Soldiers', with original vocalist Brett Rerekura returning to the fold, replacing Nathan Peachey, who'd sung on 'Her Halo'.

"I think we'd both kind of burnt out on each other," muses Wells over Peachey's departure. "I was trying to get things out of Nathan that I wanted to hear that just wasn't part of his toolbox. I mean he's a great singer and a good friend, he was just here actually. But we got Brett, the original singer to come in and do some guest vocals and he's a got a bit more grit in his voice. And he came in and sang some stuff and he blew me away so we just kept moving forward with the album.

"There's no bad blood with Nathan," he insists. "I know some fans can get real hung up on line-ups and singers, but I've had this band since I was a kid and it's still progressing to what I'm hearing in my head. And Brett just kind of sang the whole album and I'm doing a lot more singing, and we've got a second guitarist now, Chris Zoupa, so we can play it live and have two singers live as well. Chris played a couple of solos on the album, as he came in near the end when I was mixing the album. And I'm thinking he's kind of cool and offered him two solos, for 'Orwellian Times' and 'The One Percent Disarm', and he turned in a couple of really amazing solos which I kept on the record."

Wells insists that, unlike 'Her Halo, which was wrapped around a conceptual theme concerning the realities and pressure of fame, 'Are We Soldiers' lyrical content is looser, and more open to interpretation.

"'Her Halo' was a different way of writing, because we wrote the story first and then the music. With 'Are We Soldiers', while the subject matter is similar, it's a bit more abstract from 'Her Halo'. And I like writing like that, because everyone seems to get what they want from music."

"You can't tell someone a song is exactly about something when they think it's about something else. So I usually don't write specific stories but more thought processes. 'Are We Solders' is a lot of scattered thoughts where 'Her Halo' was a definite story."

A cursory glance at some of the dystopian song titles such as 'Fight Or Flight', 'Control Conquer Collide', 'Weight Of Humanity', 'Orwellian Times' and 'Depopulate' suggest at least a common thread, if not a full-blown concept. A reflection on the state of the modern world, as well as the personal tribulations Wells encountered making the record.

 I had a lot of stuff going on in my head," he says Dean. "And I'm like a sponge as an artist, I don't really have a choice. So some of the subject matter might sound negative, but it's in there and it has to come out and it might be a bit deeper, not necessarily negative. But it never really sits on the surface with Teramaze. So while there's not a concept like 'Her Halo', there's a theme to some of the subject matter."

With 'Are We Soldiers', Dean Wells and Teramaze have delivered another excellent piece of modern progressive metal. One that will inevitably build upon the progress achieved by 'Her Halo'. With plans afoot for European and UK live dates for later in the year, Teramaze are a band that are going to be occupying a lot of your time in 2019 and beyond.

"'Are We Soldiers' is a bit more weighty, and it's a long album," smiles a proud Wells. "But I make no apologies for that. I enjoy it, and I just hope other people do too."

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