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5 stars A revolutionary spin on progressive death metal.

PESTILENCE were an extreme metal band that drew much acclaim for their uncompromising approach to death metal but it wasn't until the release of their 1993 magnum opus 'Spheres' that they truly cemented a position in the extreme metal hall of fame with a technical jazz influenced approach incorporating a heavy use of synthesizers they transcended the boundaries of the genre and created something completely new.

For me the greatest indication of the musical integrity of this album comes from the guitar solos, you wont hear any shredding here, they are all well thought out, well paced, well phrased pieces of music which is a treat for an extreme metal band and the riffs even carry some of the same consideration. The synthesizers as I mentioned before contribute a great deal to the album as they offer up the most melodic elements and provide a medium for the complex jazz chords that otherwise wouldn't be possible and there is even a completely synth driven song on the album in 'Aurian eyes' which is a string based mystical journey. When all is said and down though this is death metal, the chunky riffing guitar tone, the double kick, the heavy pounding bass, the growls (which aren't that deep or abrasive for death metal actually) we are never under any illusion that this isn't death metal - but it's death metal with something more.

There is a good variety in the music and as such there are numerous strong tracks and great highlights, the opening track 'Mind reflections' is probably the heaviest track on the album with deep chugging and slightly atonal riffing and brutal double kick but even here the melodic synth components are very prevalent, especially in the relatively quiet breakdown sections. The next song 'Multiple beings' is another gerat song, I find it surprisngly emotional in the chorus part despite the double kick and growling. 'Personal Energy' is the most fusion song on the album, it's a lot softer than the other songs melodically and instrumentally (with no double kick and a lot of clean guitar) and possibly offers an insight into the direction the band might have taken, there are a lot of extreme metal elements here but the amalgamation achieved with the clean and melodic elements almost makes them an afterthought. The title track 'Spheres' is another great song, I especially like the solo section, it almost feels like it has a latin american groove underneath and it's one of the most melodic well composed solos on the album. Closing song 'Demise of time' is my favourite song on the album, the complex synth chord progression in the chorus is a triumphant high point on the album and is a perfect way to close out the album, the synth sounds the best in this song, it sits perfectly alongside the other instruments and contributes just as much as any of them.

Overall Spheres is an extraordinary album so much (so that the band couldn't agree on which way to take their music next so they decided to disband). It offers so many new things to the extreme metal genre, this is an absolute must have for fans of technical and jazz influenced metal such as ATHEIST, CYNIC and GORGUTS.

Report this review (#142339)
Posted Saturday, October 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Spheres" is the 4th full-length studio album by Dutch progressive death metal act Pestilence. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in May 1993. "Spheres" was the last album released by Pestilence before they disbanded in 1994. Pestilence had gained quite a positive reputation in death metal circles with their two previous albums "Consuming Impulse (1989)" and "Testimony of the Ancients (1991)", but they took a left-turn with "Spheres" that, at the time of release, didnīt go down well with neither fans nor critics. The generally bad reception of the album was a major contributor to the demise of the band.

Itīs interesting how "Spheres" was received back then, because today itīs often referred to as one of the seminal technical/progressive death metal albums of the 90s. Itīs an example of an album that was so ahead of itīs time, that it took years before people retrospectively started to hail itīs genius and groundbreaking nature.

Stylistically the music on "Spheres" is a technical form of death metal featuring, intelligible growling vocals, death/thrashy riffing, atmospheric spacey synth guitars (despite what it sounds like, no keyboards were used on this album), busy and quite adventurous bass playing and jazzy guitar solos. A very original combination of musical elements, that at times almost defies catagorization. Itīs progressive in the true sense of the word.

"Spheres" is a relatively short album featuring 11 tracks and a full playing time of 33:17 minutes, but as a consequence of the complex and rather challenging combination of ideas and sounds, itīs a perfect length for the album. Out of the 11 tracks on the album, 3 are shorter atmospheric interludes, so there are actually only 8 "regular" length tracks on the album. Itīs an album with a great flow though and there isnīt a dull second here. All tracks are worth mentioning, but the atmospheric "Personal Energy", which is placed right in the middle of the album, and the title track, which features multible solos and changes in mood, are among the highlights.

"Spheres" features a sound production, that suits the music but fans of the bandīs earlier material shouldnīt expect a powerful death metal sound. This is a bit more sophisticated and relies less on raw power and more on atmosphere and attention to detail.

upon conclusion "Spheres" is strong album release by Pestilence and it should appeal to fans of artists like Atheist, Cynic, Sadist and Gorguts. Itīs an album that divide the waters though and more conservative minded death metal fans that enjoyed the bandīs earlier material because of itīs death metal brutality and edgy riffing, might not find much to like here. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

Report this review (#147947)
Posted Monday, October 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
5 stars A very important album in the history of Death Metal to say the very least. This alongside Individual Thought Patterns (Death) were probably the highlights of 1993 for me, and both of these albums were vital preparation for the excellent year of 1995, which saw the release of albums such as the great Symbolic (Death), Slaughter Of The Soul (At The Gates), Destroy Erase Improve (Meshuggah), The Gallery (Dark Tranquility) and of course, Opeth's debut album Orchid. There are also many more great releases in this year that I have missed, but I don't think any of them would have been the same if it wasn't for Spheres. This album has been a solid influence on a lot of music since it's been released, and although only a handful of bands cite its influence, the effect it has is undoubtedly there. The reason for this is that it was, for me, the very first Avant-Garde rooted Death Metal album of all time. It features a very prominent synth part throughout also, which was rarely seen on this scene at the time.

In a nutshell, what I am trying to say with this lengthy introduction is that the importance of this album of the early death metal scene is priceless, and continues to influence me in my own compositions, whether it be metal or any other kind of music I'm writing. I suppose the main reason for this would be the addition of keyboards and the obvious fusion of modern classical music into the works, but it is not only that. The compositions are all precisely arranged, almost mathematically. There are only about as much as 3-4 riffs in each song, and seldom any more than that, but they are arranged in such a way that the music flows without feeling blocky or jumpy in any sort of way, and also remains not remotely boring.

Now to the actual songs themselves. As I said before, there is a lot that sets them aside from other old-school death metal: the modern classical music influence, the prominence of the synthesiser, the strange sci-fi mood about things... and the great thing about this album is you actually get all those features in every single song. This can only mean one thing to me: there isn't a single weak track on the album. From beginning to end you are treated to a marvellous and innovative spectacle of music and it never dies at any one point. Even the fillers work well as mysterious, well thought out songs on their own (Aurian Eyes, Voices From Within and Philleas).

However, even though there are no weaker tracks, there are undoubtedly stronger tracks which bring a little bit more to the table than the others. These tracks for me would be the opener Mind Reflections, Personal Energy, Spheres and Demise Of Time, and I will review these accordingly.

Mind Reflections is possibly the heaviest track on the album, and kicks off sharpish with a quite typical old-school riff. Blistering double bass pedals also provide a lot of energy here. Then we are taken on a tour de force of extreme music that is chaotic as well as beautiful. We also have two break riffs that act as the chorus and the bridge sections. This acts as the modern classical music influence, and in the bridge riff we are treated to our most prominent little avant-garde synth segment. The syncopation in this song is simply divine as well, and the guitar solo is probably another highlight for me. Well thought out and melodic, it stands out as the best solo on the album for me. Yes, it shreds, but it doesn't over do it at all, like a lot of the solos from this era. Great song indeed.

Personal Energy is probably the most stand-out track on the album. This is almost pure jazz right here, and is... well, lush. I imagine this is the song that truly secured Pestilence a place on the archives, and although we do have some growling in the background, it is very mellow indeed. We have a lot of very nice chords played on a semi-clean guitar tone and the drums aren't over the top like some bands fall into the trap of. We also have, yes, a pseudo-fender rhodes type solo, or it may just be on a very bright clean guitar. I can't really tell, but it is beautiful and would easily fit in on the smoothest of jazz numbers. This song is important because it demonstrates the versatility of the band. They are willing to stretch themselves, which is only commendable in my books.

The title track is another rocker. This follows in the same vein as the first track, and is built up of several syncopated riffs that act as verse, chorus and two bridges. All arranged perfectly, the second bridge is probably a highlight of the entire album. We are treated to a nice little solo before it kicks in, and then it comes. I always turn it up because it is so good. The basis of it is a Meshuggah-style one note, rhythmically complex sequence in 4/4, and it repeats four times. The special thing about it is the keyboards though. They build up after the second repitition and attack with such dissonance that is leaves you trembling until everything finally stops... and you are hit by one final powerful chord. Fantastic. Everything that sets this album apart from everything else in its genre takes place in this short, 12 second segment, and if you are going to listen to this song, please watch out for that bit. The synth solo also deserves a mention and furthermore sends the song into spacier territory.

Demise Of Time opens with some nice little synth effects, that sound a little cheap but do the job well. This is just a belter of a song. Once again, verse, chorus bridges, but the wonderful thing about this album is you find yourself not caring about the generic arrangements. The riffs are all so diverse that it doesn't matter. Two things about this song, however: the drumming is at its peak here, and Marco Foddis proves himself (to me anyway) as a superb player, albeit not exactly a household name. Secondly, the funkiest riff off the whole album lies in this song, in the... third bridge section I think, where Foddis switches to the ride cymbal and Mameli utters out a very quirky solo shortly afterwards. It is definitely a memorable moment. Once again, a sensational contribution to the world of Death Metal.

I think I've given most of my analysis. This is a great album, and a very important one also. It is a big shame it is so overlooked, but if anyone is reading this review right now I cannot think of any bigger insentive than to say it is a MUST HAVE. In fact, forget that. I'm gonna go all out and say that I think it is BETTER than Individual Thought Patterns. It is definitely more consistent, and brings a lot more to the table as well. Kudos for Pestilence for ending their 90s career with a bang, and boy, what a bang it was. I can't think of another mark to give it other than 5 stars. A masterpiece of death metal without a doubt, AND a masterpiece of progressive music.

Report this review (#227843)
Posted Wednesday, July 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Where do I start......... ?

This album was released at a time when a lot of those Death-clones (referring to the band of the same name) also released some weirdo albums which was a radical departure from the normal death metal staple diet. I am referring to the likes off Morgoth, Cancer and Death themselves. Spheres is far more radical than any other death metal affiliated albums from that time. We are talking a fusion between death metal and jazz, no less. Which is a lot to chew on. Most people only took one bite and then vomited. Hence the album not being a commercial success.

The album starts as a more or less death metal album with a lot of references to Death. I have always regarded Pestilence as a Death clone. They cannot hide this even on Spheres. The album then takes a sharp turn to the left and heads into a smoky jazz club somewhere in Hamburg. Still with a hefty death metal sound included. The vocals for example is growling. This is actually working fine in this context. The music also implements elements of electronica and prog rock in addition to death metal and a very large dosage of jazz. Does fire and water mix well ? Yes, this album is not too bad. I am still a bit shellshocked and this album demands a lot of time + an open mind. But I think Pestilence has pulled it off. I still think it has some major flaws.The divide between jazz and death metal is too great to bridge. It is like employing Britney Spears as the new vocalist in King Crimson. But as a whole; this album works on it's own terms. I kinda like it, although it is too radical for me to play on a regular basis. But onwards the musical revolutionary brigade. 3 stars given for the music alone.

3 stars

Report this review (#229268)
Posted Friday, July 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Changing perspectives...

"Spheres" has been hailed as being one of the pivotal technical/progressive death metal releases of the 90s along with Death's "Symbolic", Atheist's "Unquestionable Presence" and Cynic's "Focus". I agree completely. "Spheres" is no less than a stroke of genious.

However, what I like about it is the way that it sets itself apart from other technical/progressive death metal albums. The musical progressiveness of Pestilence on "Spheres" does not rely as much on being technical as many of their contemporary fellow technical/progressive death metal bands did.

The music on "Spheres" is very much influenced by jazz fusion which is evident in the use of a number of jazz chords and also one-string guitar riffage based on scales that are often used in various genres within jazz music. Also, the band makes use of synthesizers (allegedly only guitar synths), not to perform technically different melodies as we hear in a lot of progressive metal á la Dream Theater (nothing wrong with that, though - I love it) but rather to create spacey sounds that establish an athmosphere that has never been heard on a death metal album before that (not even on releases by Nocturnus who were otherwise well known for their use of synths in death metal). This actually works much better than one might expect - perhaps because of the very compact production of the album which does lack some bottom. The main locus of the jazz fusion influences, I think, is the guitar solos which in many cases sound like the could have occurred on a modern jazz record rather than a death metal record. One thing that makes this an unmistakable Pestilence album is that, despite this musical direction, they make use of guitar riff that consist of short and repeated figures.

"Spheres" is a weird album, to be sure, and so, I recommend it to more adventurous fans of progressive rock, (progressive) metal, and (technical/progressive) death metal. Maybe some interested jazz fusion fans might appreciate it too.

Report this review (#273588)
Posted Monday, March 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars |C+| Another worthy album for fans of the death metal/fusion combination.

This is indeed an interesting and sort of strange little "gem" of an album that I had to check out, the fan of unknown gems that I am. As many have commented, it is a mixed bag of death metal and jazz-fusion, in the same vein as Atheist, Cynic, and Watchtower, though the production and composition are a bit less developed than either, in my opinion. The jazz-fusion refers to musical timbres far more than actual composition, of which there is pretty much no jazz in terms of the improvisational style. What's more, it's more "post jazz" sounding fusion, when many jazz-fusion artists (mostly in the eighties) broke off from the traditional jazz sound and favored an incredibly more electric-based sound, especially groups like Trio of Doom or Chick Corea Electrik Band. Basically, you're going to here a lot more influences from Death than you are from Miles Davis, for certain.

At first I was incredibly turned off from this album by the opening track, which featured the not-so-well-produced metal guitar riff that repeated over and over and some less-than-appealing sounding gutteral vocals. But this album grew on me a bit, as most prog does with subsequent listens; as you get further through the album the fusion element increases, and I would say, so does the level of composition (and not from any bias; I tend to like progressive death metal as much as I like a lot of jazz-fusion). Personal Energy is probably my favorite track, as it seems the most innovative and unique, rivaling even some of Atheist's and Cynic's best tracks. And we're definitely talking about prog here, these guys do some insanely complicated things with rhythms and harmonies. I don't like the keyboard imitation of the acoustic instruments, but a band's budget is a band's budget.

In general, this is probably a great album for fans of the already mentioned bands. This is a solid album worth buying, with great musicianship and deceptively complex composition. If the death metal/fusion combo is your thing (as it is mine) this is a more than worthy album for your collection. There are a lot of really good riffs and interesting bridges of compositional style between death metal and electric fusion, with great musicianship. Some of the chord progressions get really dissonant too, in an impressive way. The second half of the album is probably best. This really falls right between a three and a four, and while I like the album, I find it more "interesting" than good. What's more, there's nothing here that Atheist and Cynic don't have superior mastery, even during the album's creation.

Report this review (#290384)
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I first heard this album when I was in middle school, at about 16 years of age. I remember I was a fan of black metal, and I was browsing the internet listening to various 30-second samples of black metal until I somehow came across this album and listened to it. At that moment I realized "$%&* black metal, this rules". Soon that album had been purchased and my mind exploded.

"Spheres" by Pestilence is one of the quintessential jazzy death metal bands of the '90s, along with Atheist, Cynic, Sadist and Death (not jazzy, but very important), so if you're a fan of any of those bands then you will find much here to enjoy.

There are a few things that stand out on this album: 1. This album has a sci-fi theme. Not only that, but the tones of the instruments sound sci-fi themselves. 2. The bass playing is incredible. Since this album, I've been a huge fan of Jeroen Paul Thesseling, and you might be too after hearing this album (also, check out his new band, Obscura). 3. These vocals are so nasty. 4. Fantastic riffs.

"Mind Reflections" and "Multiple Beings" both start off with two of the best metal riffs I've ever heard, and they go great with the confusing, spacey tone of the guitar and bass. The guitar solo on "Mind Reflections" is very bizarre and jazzy and it kind of pulls itself away from the rest of the song forcing your mind to pay attention.

"The Level of Perception" sounds very robotic to me, kind of like a pre-Meshuggah sound. "Aurian Eyes" is a post-modern sci-fi string arrangement that serves as kind of an interlude and an intro to "Soul Search" which continues temporarily with strings before it dives into the same insanity that the previous tracks consisted of.

"Personal Energy" is a much more subdued song in the metal realm when compared to the rest of the album, sounding entirely more like jazz-fusion. It's a fantastic and beautiful song and definitely one of the best tracks on the album. "Voices From Within" is another short interlude, but of the serene jazz-fusion type, and that leads into the title track that takes us back to metal, but "Spheres" offers a great keyboard solo at the end followed by those fantastically cheesy and wonderful '80s sounding jazz synth noises.

"Changing Perspectives" is probably the most bizarre track, and definitely the noisiest. This is what being sucked through a black hole would sound like if followed by metal-minstrels with sitars.

"Phileas" is another short jazz-fusion interlude, essentially a bass solo by Thesseling (fantastic), which is followed by this album's conclusion track. "Demise of Time" includes more of the fantastic metal riffing that was present at album's starting point combined with the jazz-fusion elements that got stronger as the album progressed. There couldn't have been a better way to end an album of this sort, except by maybe the apocalypse brought upon us by aliens hearing this album. What hath man wrought.

Jazzy death metal doesn't get much better than this here, folks. A definite masterpiece of the genre.

Report this review (#434594)
Posted Saturday, April 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 for sure

Pestilence is a dutch metal band that release some quite respectable albums in late '80's to early '90's , one of them is for sure their forth release named Spheres. Graced by a great cover art , first thing that comes in mind after listning to this album is how great keybords sounds here on this album, but after I read the booklet where is written big and clear "there are no keybords on this album" I begun to re listen again and again to know what is going one, musicaly. Now I know this album since it hits the stors in 1993 and is one of my first album I've got on CD. Still enjoing very much this kind of metal, death metal with jazz interplays, very much like like Death on Individual Thought Patterns, Atheist and Cynic , quite technical, hursh vocals melted over some fantastic musicicnship. One of the better albums from this scene, from early '90's Pestilence never gained a big popularity like other names like Death, Atheist, Cynic and even some of the passages remind me of Psychotic Waltz without that mean vocals, so they disbanded in 1994 and re united after a decade of silence releasing couple of albums in recent years. This album stood the test of time well, some pieces are killer like for ex maybe the smoothest from here Personal energy, excellent track where Pestilence realy shines. Finaly while is a good towards great album, some unenjoyble moemnts are present, to my ears is to much the same, talking about riffs and compositional direction, I mean sometimes I don't know if I'm listnig to one or another piece because the structure of the piece is the same, only the back ground synth guitars gives to the piece a more diverse sound, the synth guitar that I thought in first place are keybords, intristing and very well done moments on synth guitar. So, 3.5 is the best I can do, no more no less, even is good for sure, I prefer Death, Atheist or Cynic. Nevertheless one of the front albums of the genre.

Report this review (#447806)
Posted Saturday, May 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Spheres' - Pestilence (9/10)

The early 90's can be seen as the golden era for death metal. Particularly in the south- eastern United States, bands like Death and Atheist were taking the young genre to heights of perfection, fusing classical music and jazz into the gritty, extreme sound. On the other side of the Atlantic ocean is Pestilence, a band that sounds quite a bit like the aforementioned groups. Hailing from the Netherlands, this band takes after the American pioneers, adding on a few elements onto the existing style, and comes out with an absolute masterpiece of progressive death metal. 'Spheres' may not be as widely regarded as the magnum opuses of Pestilence's US counterparts, but it is just as exciting of a listen.

Upon my first listen to this classic, my first intuition was to draw the comparison of Death's 'Symbolic' album, released around the same time as this. The growled vocals seem to be crossbred between Chuck Schuldiner of Death, and Kelly Shaefer of Atheist. With these sorts of comparisons, its a surprise that Pestilence isn't from Florida, as opposed to Holland. On a purely musical level, this band is very closely related to them. The guitarwork is composed of dark, jazzy-infused metal riffs that will get your head banging and thinking at the same time. Also an important aspect of this brand of death metal is the heavy presence of the bass guitar. Thesseling's bass performance is very jazz-influenced and clean, contrasting the guitars, filling the mix, and giving something to listen for on subsequent listens. The album is very short, lasting little over half an hour, but the tracks flow together as if 'Spheres' was a single piece of music. I may have preferred this album to last a little longer, but the brevity is only reason enough to take it for another spin right after.

While Pestilence is very close in sound and style to the Floridan death metal scene, they do bring one very unique element to the table, that being the use of synthesizers. In tandem with the proggy death metal madness, there is a back up of strange synth sounds that gives the music a spacey, sometimes otherworldly feel. 'Spheres' would have turned out to be a very capable death metal album without this addition, but with it, it creates that much more of a distinctive musical experience, and makes me feel like I am part of the album art, lost in space amidst the debris. Pestilence could be called a clone of the American bands, but I do think they bring enough fresh material to the table to be worthy on their own merits. Not only that, but they manage to take the progressive death metal style and make something of it that really amazes me, perhaps even moreso than Death or Atheist ever did. This is a really incredible album.

Report this review (#554290)
Posted Friday, October 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Sothoth
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars One of the strangest death metal albums out there that is still firmly entrenched in the 'death metal' sound, Spheres immediately challenges the listener with its unusual production qualities combined with odd tempo rhythms and anguished vocals. It's an interesting beast, and an interesting stylistic shift for the band which would not revisit this unique approach to metal in the future, at least until now.

Utilizing a producer whose forte is not exactly abrasive metal, the focus is more on making sure each instrument is heard clearly than pummeling the senses, and the guitars don't weigh in with a particularly 'heavy' distortion. In fact, they sound warm enough to cozy up to by the fireside. Bass playing is fretless and audible, and quite an excellent display of showmanship at times by a man who much later would be part of another band with sc-fi leaning recordings named Obscura for a period of time. Drumming is busy and difficult while neither being particularly jazzy nor blasting away with fast thrashy tempos. There's a sort of mid-tempo vibe to this entire endeavor while creatively bouncing around with its time signatures.

The vocals help keep the death metal flame within this group alive, consisting of unusually throaty growls that remind me of Death's vocalist or Lemmy from Motorhead in the throes of one screaming mad seizure. Notable proggish cut "Personal Energy" stands out from the rest of the tracks with its mellow flow and distant robotic vocals providing atmosphere.

Another feature of this record is the synth usage, although in this case it's synth guitars rather than apparently "uncool" keyboards (which they had used in their previous effort). The band emphasizes that no keyboards were used in the liner notes for this album. Great, except that some of this synth guitar layers alone come across as a bit cheesy at times, like a score to some 1970s low budget sci-fi flick involving model spaceships dangling from strings chasing each other in front of a black curtain backdrop.

As a progressive metal album, it more than qualifies and possesses an individual sound that has hardly been duplicated since. It's also a style that can wear out its welcome, since many of these tracks have such similarities that the overall distinction of the album loses that aspect when it comes to individual tracks excepting the instrumentals and "Personal Energy". The vocals themselves can get a bit irritating at times, not because of growling itself, but this sort of "throaty" wail branch of growling is not exactly my favorite design of the form.

An interesting and odd interpretation of extreme metal.

Report this review (#809119)
Posted Thursday, August 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pestilence - Spheres (1993)

Dutch technical and heavy death metal group Pestilence had already made some pretty heavy trash records before embarking on their one and only truly progressive/fusion death metal album. For many fans of the progressive metal genre it is seen as a revolutionary album, I myself don't know to much about the development of this particular breed of metal.

Pestilence sill has death metal growls, heavy drums and guitars, but some keyboards have entered the mix and time signatures and harmonies have developed quite a bit. The album also sounds a bit more 'electronic' then other albums of the band. All compositions are short and have a more or less traditional form. This isn't much of a problem, because the riffs are all very complex and the harmonic findings are revealed only after a few spins. I'd say it took my at least five listens to acquire some tolerance towards this aggressive maze of riffs and painful shouting. After this a really well composed album begins to appear and I feel enjoyment listening to the inventive use of the death metal elements. Some interludes with keyboard sound a bit dated, but let's not forget this was recorded almost twenty years ago. The production doesn't impress me a lot, but another album of Pestilence also sounded way better on a vinyl and I only have digital copy of this one.

Conclusion. Not an easy entry, but surely a good album for the technical death metal scene. The words jazz and fusion seem a bit out of place, but one does find some extended chords now and then. A well, three and halve stars. Dutch heritage.

Report this review (#858730)
Posted Wednesday, November 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pestilence radically changed up their sound on this release, launching themselves into the deep end of the sort of technical jazz death metal that Cynic and Atheist were also experimenting in at the time. They actually acquit themselves rather well, though I can see how this may be a jarring release for some people - even though the preceding Testimony of the Ancients was quite technical, it was nowhere near as avant-garde as this, and that may put off some listeners. Still, it's entirely worth it to get another entry in this small little jazz-death subgenre, and in retrospect Pestilence should be glad they undertook this experiment.
Report this review (#1637284)
Posted Sunday, October 30, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars YES and YES again!This album is a milestone in thrash music!It's very complex,it's innovative,courageous and rich in it's musical expression!That's the ultimate prove how thrash/death music can be enriched with new ways of expression by some very competent musicians which have the purpose to explore new territories in music!It's something that can be called jazzy fusion death thrash metal wit a twist!The sound is very unusual,it's like space metal with great intermezzos and an totally bizarre approach for thrash/death metal in that times!Young ambitious bands like CYNIC...ATHEIST....DEATH were trying to bring in music the technical aspect,combining the impressive technical skills of the musicians with the brutality of the music made!The vocals are still a difficult to dig aspect of the music,but the music itself is brilliant ,amazing sometimes!That's the king of album which will never sound old and dusty!It's atemporal and timeless and will be forever considered like a milestone album in the history of music,for it's innovative aspect!5 stars for the originality and courage to break musical barriers!
Report this review (#1912197)
Posted Wednesday, April 4, 2018 | Review Permalink

1993 was a hell of a year for progressive extreme technical metal, with bands like Pestilence, Cynic, Death, and Atheist all taking it to new levels in different directions, simultaneously. The year is packed with gems. This is far and away one of them.

If you find yourself a fan of Return to Forever, Alan Holdsworth, Weather Report, or electric period Miles Davis in any aspect whatsoever - there is considerable gold here for you. This review isn't going to be a typical song by song analysis, but rather a slightly different take on why this usually-dismissed recording is actually a very good representation of the highest forms of novelty and experimentation taken in the genre. It transcends typical death metal without losing any of that resolution and intensity of the signal, while somehow making a genuinely scary sounding guitar-synth heavy sci-fi sounding album at the same time.

First, a brief personal history with the album. I acquired an original 1993 Roadrunner Records pressing of this album, back in approximately 2007. Being that this review is written in 2020, it's funny to think I got said disc at the midway point of my relationship WITH it. That means I've had plenty of time spinning this disc - often several times in a single sitting (car rides to and from band practices over the years)!

This album divides listeners, especially those that consider themselves diehard fans of brutal music. I think it's a shame to dismiss the experimental gymnastics occurring on this record, because the songwriting and consistency absolutely commits 100% to what it's setting out to achieve.

I'd argue that it's such a divisive recording precisely because it hammers the archetypal elements of these genres down, so much so, that any listener coming from a strictly-metal background won't know what to make of it. Usually, a negative response is garnered due to the synth guitar effects (which just sound like a good Roland Jupiter synth with modulation anyway), or the often labeled "lifeless" guitar tone. Yes, I'm arguing that all of these things took early 90's technical death metal in a very unique direction, equal to both Cynic "Focus" and Atheist "Unquestionable Presence".

I will close my review by mentioning I was at one point in daily communication with Patrick Mameli of Pestilence - I was their web administrator from 2012-2018. He was very patient answering all my fan boi questions about the album! Again, this is essential jazz fusion metal. Get it now!

Report this review (#2440546)
Posted Sunday, August 23, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a record that I haven't been able to put down since I first heard it. Every morning I wake up and tell myself that I'm just going to play the first few songs and try something new, but every single time without failure I just have to play this guy start to finish. The atmosphere and intensity of this record is something that really stands out about it, the death growls sounds fantastic here and there's a great contrast within the short and sweet track listing. The riffs and grooves across this record are instantly memorable, and there's plenty of heavy keys to accompany the windy riffage.

This is a record that holds no punches, it takes off running instantly with the aggressive and driving Mind Reflections. There's an awesome instrumental breakdown/guitar solo passage halfway through. Running at a mere three and a half minutes, it feels like there's so much packed into this song and that's gonna be a common theme you see across this record. Multiple Beings follows that up keeping that momentum, this track almost has some of those nasty Kevin Moore organ tones, yet this record predates Awake by a year which is what I really have in mind while hearing it. The hook of this song starting around 1:20 is so mesmerizing to me, the guitar riff is so off-kilter and hypnotic. Once again the instrumental passages are extremely well developed and simply put, creative! The following track The Level of Perception is one of my favorites for sure. Super heavy and unrelenting, the riff that kicks in at the 0:22 second mark is unbelievably cool, but its really the unconventional and frantic instrumental switch up half way through that sends this track into the stratosphere for me. Following this is the short and eerie instrumental Aurian Eyes, I love these brief instrumental interludes throughout. For one I think its sort of bold and balsy to include in the context of the scene and the albums they were coming off of, but on top of that I genuinely think they add a lot to the record on all fronts.

After this seriously impressive opening, the waves just keep on rushing in with Soul Search. Another super aggressive track with some more sweet accompanying keys. This one gives me some Death vibes with some very explosive guitar soloing within the latter half. However, the next track Personal Energy absolutely blows my socks off, I just cannot stress how unique and brilliant this track is. It almost has some Pink Floyd vibes to the instrumental, but there's some really strong elements of Jazz Fusion at the forefront of this song as well. The thing that mostly blows my mind here is the vocal delivery, this is not a song I could even fathom placing death growls on top of, but against all odds is works gloriously. I just can't praise it enough. Towards the end it takes off into orbit with a beautiful jazzy synth solo that smoothly builds and gently eases right back into the main hook seemingly effortlessly. Coming off of this the short meditative interlude of Voices From Within which works splendidly.

Up next is the kick-ass title track flipping the death metal switch back on. The chugging guitar riffage that starts at 1:50 gets me every time, I love those spooky dissonant synths that come in on top of it. The ending of this song has a very unexpectedly shreddy synth solo and it's additions like this that add so much personality to this record. The next song Changing Perspectives has a very doomy and distressed sounding intro, it really sounds like the world is ending. Some of the tones sort of have that middle eastern sitar sort of sound to it and it just comes through sounding so menacing. I can't even describe what happens at 2:19, the guitar just lets loose and it feels like the song begins melting around me. The final short instrumental interlude Phileas works once again very well in the context of the record, it gives me the vibe of a safe room before the final boss, which in many ways that's what it is. Is has a feeling of being towards the end of the line, as if closure is right on the horizon. Demise of Time is the closer and it always leaves me feeling so completely satisfied. My favorite section begins at 1:35 where it kicks into this filthy riff, but it only gets better as it kicks into this obscenely cool groove. The album ends, and I always feel like I was just taken on a journey through an otherworldly hellish place, with glistens of light shining through the cracks.

This album has blown me away from my first listen and it's become not only one of my favorite metal albums, but one of my favorite albums of any genre or style, period. 5 Stars, and essential of progressive death metal/technical death metal.

Report this review (#2506371)
Posted Tuesday, February 16, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars Up to this point they were brilliant death metal band, but not on this album. Death metal was not enough for them. Not anymore. People call this jazz-fusion metal or other more or less fitting names. Jazz-fussion? Naah. I don't know, maybe it's Post metal? Space metal? The truth is it's simply different and unique. It comes from the era when metalheads were reaching out for another, unexpected inspirations and the genre was at it's peak of creativity. We had Cynic "Focus", Sepultura "Roots", Atheist "Elements", Pan-Thy-Monium "Khaooohs", Morgoth "Odium", Tiamat "Wildhoney" to paint you a picture. "Spheres" was as unique and brilliant as any of these grounbreaking records with clear tech-death metal roots still somewhat present but with much wider pallette of sounds. The guitars sound restrained and claustrophobic rather than crushingly heavy, far from typical death metal sound and revolutionary in it's own way. The synthesizers (guitar synths for that matter) unobserved before in the genre provide array of blops and bleeps and space soundscapes. Voice is closer to black metal shrieking (not quite though) than typical growl. It floats above all those quirky highly technical rhythms played on sterille, cold, deadly precise drums and riffs adorned with interplanetary soundscapes. To me it's a visionary work of genius and a five star album of progressive thinking metal. There is no other record like this.
Report this review (#2597846)
Posted Thursday, September 30, 2021 | Review Permalink

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