Spheric Universe Experience: Anima
Anima, Spheric Universe Experience's second disc, sees the French prog metal embarking on the sound they introduced with their debut Mental Torments. Both musically and from a production standpoint, Anima is a like logical extension to its predecessor, except that it has some faster and heavier songs. The instrumental sections on the album are longer, still carried by a strong mix of guitar and keyboard wizardy as well as grooving drum and bass battery.
Fred Colombo still extracts all kinds of weird noises from his keyboard, from modern synth elements to jazzy clean phrases. On the opener "Sceptic", he injects a modern synth line into mix providing the backbone to Vince Benaim's shattering rhythm guitars. After a brief vocal melody, the band immediately launch into an extended Images & Words-era Dream Theater worship, exchanging riffs and melodies and concluding the piece with a choppy unison solo. Franck Garcia lays down both multiple vocal parts and aggressive parts, as he did on the debut, at the end as well. His singing isn't as aggressive on this album as it was before though; he seems to have toned it down a bit. He uses more harmonies this time, but I feel the catchy melodic edge of his vocals on the previous album seem to be of secondary importance here.
This time the songs are more centred around the guitar, bass, and keyboard combination. Starting with the moody "Being", the band offers a good dose of Dream Theater-inspired instrumental music, save for the little spoken section in the intro; and lets the keyboardist steal the show on the brief "Stormy Dome", led by a neat piano melody and gorgeous string arrangements -- there is also a sweet female voice singing wordless melodies distinctly in the background. On the more straightahead cut "World of Madness", Colombo's kinetic keyboard intro is very evocative of the intro on Pain of Salvation's "Inside", but the band also brings to mind the fusion-inspired instrumental aesthetic of Liquid Tension Experiment thanks to the fluid guitar lines and Portnoy-like drum fills. Garcia also sings differently here: he goes from fragile whispers to sing-along choruses and soaring screams.
There is a good amount of spoken parts on the songs from different languages. You can hear Japanese, Italian, Spanish, and French among others; and it may be linked to the theme of the CD which I haven't examined thoroughly as of yet. Important to note is that pretty much every member has contributed to lyric writing, so Anima is certainly a band effort in this respect. The two songs I enjoyed the most on this album are "End of Trauma" and "The Key", in part because they seem like the perfect follow-up cuts to the songs on Mental Torments. Bringing forth the highly pronounced bass lines of John Drai, the songs groove with intense rhythmic awareness, sweeping keyboard melodies, and shred-intensive guitar and vocal attacks brimming with energy.
Anima is certainly a strong addition to Spheric Universe Experience's discography, but I don't think it quite matches the intensity and emotional power of Mental Torments. Still, anyone who enjoys melodic prog metal in the vein of Lalu and Tomorrow's Eve would be wise to check this album out.
- The Inner Quest
- Neptune's Revenge
- Stormy Dome
- World of Madness
- End of Trauma
- Heal My Pain
- The Key
- Black Materia
Added: July 4th 2007
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Spheric Universe Experience website
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|Spheric Universe Experience: Anima
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-07-04 08:08:32
The old saying goes, "don't judge a book by its cover", and it's pretty pertinent here. The latest from French progressive metal band Spheric Universe Experience, titled Anima, comes housed in one of the most unimpressive examples of cover art I have seen in some time, dark and drab with similar bleakness that permeates throughout the entire booklet. The music however on the band's second album is quite good, sure to appeal to fans of Dream Theater or Symphony X. With long songs filled with fiery guitar licks and heaping amounts of symphonic keyboards, images of Awake era Dream Theater abound, especially within the synthesizer work of Fred Colombo, who at times reminds just a tad of Kevin Moore back when he was interested in impressive fans with his virtuoso talents. Songs like "The Inner Quest", "The Key", and "Sceptic" contain plenty of soaring vocal melodies, intricate musical arrangements, and haunting atmosphere. The mastering was handled by the famed Tommy Hansen, and as always he does a great job here, but I would have beefed up the crunch factor of the guitars of Vince Benaim, who seems a little lost in the shuffle behind the walls of keyboards and drums at times.
Other songs like "Neptune's Revenge" and "World of Madness" are just flat out great prog songs with a slight metal attitude, the band showing plenty of maturity in balancing strong melodies with sharp instrumentation. For a blistering example of how to perform complex prog-metal, check out "End of Trauma", an epic 9-minute piece that also has a slight Pain of Salvation feel to it.
The band included a few instrumentals on the CD, the only one that really stands out is "Black Materia", a real burner that sees Colombo and Benaim duking it out quite nicely. Overall this is a solid release, and whether the band has moved forward or not from their debut Mental Torments will be strictly up to you.
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