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Pestilence - Spheres CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.18 | 125 ratings

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The Pessimist
Prog Reviewer
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.

The Pessimist | 5/5 |


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