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Secret Sphere: Lifeblood

For over two decades Secret Sphere have been pumping out progressive power metal and have been doing a damn good job of it. Uplifting choruses and melodies with just enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes is their style du-jour, and while they aren't reinventing the wheel, there is certainly something to be said about a band that just nails their particular niche. Their newest release, Lifeblood, is power-prog as hell, with all the fixings you could ever want from a new Secret Sphere album.

This is the band's reunion album with original and longtime vocalist Ramon Messina, who slides right back into the fold like he never left. His smooth delivery and crisp highs are right at home here, and It sounds like the band are all rallying behind him, delivering some truly inspired performances. Everything sounds great here as well; the production is just fantastic and lush, with nice loud guitars and sparkling keys. Intro track "Shaping Reality" is a great example of said keys; it sounds almost like a damn film score for a steampunk adventure of some sort. It's polished to a fine sheen and professional as all hell.

The metal comes fast and furious right after the brief intro, with the album's title track exploding from the speakers in all its European-sounding glory. Fusing Helloween's speedy dual guitar attack and the keyboard rich soundscapes of Kamelot or Sonata Arctica, it's a fantastic album opener and one that sets the stage for what's to come wonderfully. With a chorus that is the audio equivalent of a sunrise on a beautiful day, "Lifeblood" gets this party started with a bang.

"The End of an Ego" keeps things chugging along nicely, being a Stratovarius-esque brisk rocker. "Life Survivor" comes next, and veers towards the proggier end of the band's spectrum. Secret Sphere definitely put the emphasis on their melodic power metal attributes, but in songs like this one there are enough little flourishes and keyboard antics to keep the fans of prog out there pleased. Guitarist and band leader Aldo Lonobile is just a monster on this album, with extremely classy and memorable lead work all over the place. Nowhere near as showy or noodly as a lot of the guitarists in the genre, he still absolutely tears it up when need be. His solo in "Life Survivor" is brief, but killer.

"Alive" is another speedster akin to the title track, with fist pumping melodies and a "you can do anything" vibe that's infectious as all hell. In addition to another killer guitar solo, we get treated to a keyboard solo that has this one overflowing with Finnish power metal melodicism. These guys do a good job of pulling in attributes from all over the continent of Europe to craft their sound; a bit of a melodic metal United Nations, as it were. A bit of Germanic speed here, a bit of Scandinavian keys there, and the uncompromising enthusiasm of their Italian brethren all wrapped up in a neat package.

"Against all the Odds" adds in a little bit of radio rock to the recipe, which is pretty damn awesome. Sounding like a turbocharged Van Hagar song, this one also features the ubiquitous "woah-oh-oh" chant and some nifty prog complexities towards the track's end. It's freaking great.

The next track, "Thank You" is highlighted by its harmonic-laden guitar riffs and Dream Theater influenced keyboards. "The Violent Ones" starts off and goes through about 3 different movements in the opening 30 seconds. There's a bevy of chugging guitars, offset by a supremely catchy chorus and unexpected short piano interlude.

As we head into the final stretch of songs, we are greeted by what may be the most note-dense song on Lifeblood, the spacey keyboard driven "Solitary Fight". It's another fast one, with a non-stop barrage of double-kick drums and some neo-classical flourishes that would make Timo Tolkki blush. "Skywards" fulfils the ever-present quota of one ballad per album, as the genre requires by law. An acoustic and clean guitar driven song, it's probably the weakest link on the album but even then it does feature an excellent guitar solo and some nice accompanying female backing vocals.

Album closer "The Lie We Love" is the longest song to be found here, and finishes the album on a high note. A symphonic, and piano laced tour-de-force, "The Lie We Love" builds and builds with each passing second. At every turn there is an acoustic guitar or piano to segue directly into chugging guitars or choral outbursts that are just sublime.

Secret Sphere have released a spectacular album here, one that is about as much of a home-run as I can imagine for fans of melodic metal of any stripe. It's a feel-good album filled with soaring and majestic musicality, as well as blazing tempos that will elicit furious headbanging, and one that you should scoop up asap.

Track Listing:
1. Shaping Reality
2. Lifeblood
3. The End of an Ego
4. Life Survivor
5. Alive
6. Against All the Odds
7. Thank You
8. The Violent Ones
9. Solitary Fight
10. Skywards
11. The Lie We Love

Added: March 9th 2021
Reviewer: Brandon Miles
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 1364
Language: english

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