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Sphere of Souls: From the Ashes

After releasing an incredible debut album with Sun Caged, each member started leaving the band, starting with drummer Dennis Leeflang, followed by Joost van den Broek, and then by vocalist Andre Vuurboom. After a year or so, this was followed by the departure of bassist Rob van der Loo leaving guitarist Marcel Coenen on his own. Each member left in order to go their own way, which resulted in several albums and projects, including Leeflang's work with guitar god Bumblefoot; van der Broek's joining After Forever; Rob van der Loo's releasing his accomplished solo album Characters; and vocalist Andre Vuurboom's forming his new band, Sphere of Souls.

This album has been long in the works, but finding a good label and completing the band's lineup both took time. Basically, Sphere of Souls is Andre Vuurboom's solo project as all songs except one were written by him. Joining Vuurboom is his former Sun Caged bandmate Joost van der Broek on keyboards. Joost has also mixed, recorded and produced this album successfully. On rhythm guitars, there is Rob Cerrone from Vuurboom's first band Imperium; whilst Ruud van Diepen is sitting behind the drums and ex-Autumn Equinox member Kees Harrison is on bass. Last but not least, Anand Mahangoe, noted Dutch axeman, stepped in as a full-time member after laying down his solos from his home studio. Great lineup without a doubt, but what's better is the music they've produced as a unit. Surely, From the Ashes is going to please most (if not all) Sun Caged fans, offering slabs of technicality, with god-heavy rhythms, and thunderous bass lines. However, this album is darker than anything else these guys have done before, marked with beautiful acoustic guitars and atmospheric keyboard effects.

Most of the songs are built upon a solid foundation of crunch-filled guitars and dark synth lines. Add to this the amazing vocals of Andre Vuurboom whom you've never heard like this before. Neither with Imperium nor with Sun Caged, Vuurboom never sounded so expressive and passionate, delivering the lyrics and melodies with heartfelt sincerity. Perhaps this is because he had the freedom to write the most fitting music for himself, but at any rate, this album displays his finest performance to date. At times, I am reminded of the great Ray Alder when I hear certain parts in some of the songs, such as the vocal variations on the title track, a piece complete with a killer guitar and synth interplay; or the entirely acoustic song "Loss" where Vuurboom's voice is absolutely emotive and heart-breaking. Think Fates Warning's Inside Out period where Alder would delve into mesmerizing lower register vocals, the singing on this album comes close to that. I had no idea Vuurboom was such a diverse singer. For example, on the more vocal-based track "No Salvation", he uses his very smooth, almost hypnotic clean voice; while on the super-heavy "Lies Inc." (a bit similar to the song Vuurboom sang on the Freak Neil Inc. album), his vocals range from highly processed, effect-laden passages to nearly growled aggressive type of screams that, considering the insane bass and drum syncopatation and odd-timed guitar chords, recall Meshuggah, only more controlled.

The songs are rich in dynamics, often shifting between chaotic, rapid-fire riffage and calm, soothing keyboard and acoustic sections. And on numbers like "Empty", they even weave some electronic samples into their craft, broadening the scope of their compositions. A similar approach is utilised on the multi-segmented "Beneath the Surface", littered with processed yet ultimately catchy vocal harmonies, shuddering guitar work, and a very soft, tranquil acoustic break with an angelic vocal melody draped over it. "Until Death Do Us Part" belies its melodic roots, opting for a trebly bass bottom, bone-crushing rhythmic angle, and a phenomenal lead solo by Mahangoe. This guy is an amazing player, almost as good as Marcel Coenen. His solos are very well-written and played with impressive restraint. Though all good, the lead attack on "Extinct" has got to be his most emotional work on this album, perhaps also because of the way he is followed by Joost's ethereal synth lead. By the way, kudos to the amazing and personal lyrics on "Room 6" ("The more I want to change, the more I stay the same"); strangely this, too, makes me think of Ray Alder, and I love it.

Not much more needs to be said. This is an outstanding debut, just like the Sun Caged album. Let's hope they stay intact and release their sophmore earlier than their former band (who are said to put it out some time this year). As a final note, From the Ashes is less jazzy than the Sun Caged album, but has more crunch to it that could be likened to Zero Hour and Degree Absolute's heavier songs.

Track Listing

  1. From the Ashes…
  2. Sweet Sorrow
  3. Loss
  4. Beneath the Surface
  5. Empty
  6. Until Death Do Us Part
  7. Extinct
  8. Room 9
  9. No Salvation
  10. Untruth
  11. Lies Inc.
  12. Room 6
  13. Epilogue

Added: September 11th 2006
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Sphere of Souls website
Hits: 5174
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Sphere of Souls: From the Ashes
Posted by Butch Jones, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-09-11 06:01:55
My Score:

Dutch Prog Metaller's, Sphere of Souls are the mixture of ex-members of Sun Caged, Autumn Equinox and Imperium and they have banded to release their 1st CD, the aptly titled From the Ashes... (Lion Music). Formed in 2004 by ex Sun Caged vocalist, André Vuurboom and ex Sun Caged keyboardist, Joost van den Broek, fans of the previous bands that the members come from will not be disappointed. From the Ashes... is a conceptually flavored, sometimes heavy, sometimes very atmospheric CD, but Prog Metal, through and through. Fans of Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Age of Nemesis, Opeth and Symphony X will like this CD.

The vocals of André Vuurboom is what sets Sphere of Souls apart. His silky smooth delivery instantly reminds you of DT's James Labrie. Imagine Labrie without all of the constant high register notes and throw in a dash of soul, and that is what you get from Vuurboom. What makes From the Ashes.. an interesting CD is the moody waves in the which the CD flows. This 13 song CD is a ride for sure, with the 2nd half of the CD picking up the pace. Check out the romp, "No Salvation" for instance. Lead guitarist, Anand Mahangoe, other wise kind of quiet in the 1st half of the CD adding more texture than fire, begins to light it up from this track to the close of the CD. Nice!!

Expressive, spatial and imaginative are some of the words that come to mind to describe Sphere of Souls. This journey of a CD that touches on the conceptual dark places within the human mind, paints a picture of all kinds of mental consciousness. From the Ashes.. is a solid release, with top notch musicianship and great vocals. Give it a listen, you won't be disappointed!

» Reader Comments:

Sphere of Souls: From the Ashes
Posted by Steve Clements on 2006-09-11 07:00:06
My Score:

I bought this album based on some excellent reviews as Prog metal is my favourite genre of music. Unfortunately I was disappointed as despite several spins I could still 'not get into it'. I would comment that that fans of Dream Theater / Symphony X may find this album hard to digest. For me, and this is only a personal view. it lacks melody and variety as most of the songs after a while tend to blend together sounding very similar with crunchy, technical guitars at the forefront. Most of the tracks are dark and atmospheric lacking any solos to break up the wall of sound, there are some but these are short. The vocals and production are first class. I loved the Sun Caged debut but sadly this left me a bit cold. Maybe as I am not familiar with the bands Sphere of Souls has been likend to is my downfall. Be interest to hear what other fans of bands like SeventhWonder, Evergrey, Empty Tremor, DGM, Tomorrow's Eve think.

Sphere of Souls: From the Ashes
Posted by Karl Jones on 2006-07-07 14:04:21
My Score:

The first impression I get from listening to this album, is that it reminds me of early Threshold (around the Extinct Instinct period) which is no bad thing. In fact , I find that this becomes a very good album the more I play it. The vocals are quite melodic and easy to listen to. Harmonies are used in a similar way to Thresholds current albums. The slower songs Loss and Room 6 are outstanding and show just how melodic this band can be. The guitars are quite straitforward with hardly any solos and work very well in tandem with the keyboards. The sound is very impressive due to a balanced production, which helps the overall feel of the album. Highly recommended.

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