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Monkey3 - Sphere CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.00 | 125 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars I suppose that "psychedelic/space" is the most appropriate subgenre in which to classify Sphere, but at times it could just as fairly be called progressive metal. However you slice it, I really like this new album by the Swiss quartet Monkey3.

I'm pretty new to contemporary space rock; the only 2019 releases classified as such on progarchives that I've listened to closely are Entropía by Invernadero (Chile) and |||| by Liquido di Morte (Italy). (Other spacey albums I've enjoyed from 2019 include Transmission by US "Krautrock" group Darsombra and Drone Activity by Ulver, the Norwegian foursome listed under "post-rock.") On one hand, these albums are miles away from Pink Floyd and Hawkwind, the UK-based space-rock pioneers who emerged in the late 1960s. But on the other, I find it fascinating that aspects of the relatively obscure Ozric Tentacles,* also from the UK, but founded in the 1980s, are still discernible in modern space-rock albums. On Sphere, the Ozric influence is clearest via rhythm, specifically the cadences and the use of the rhythm section.

Like much of ||||, several of the songs on Sphere shift substantially over their durations. "Spirals," for example, is an energetic tune that moves from space-rock to nearly anthemic hard rock. If I knew more about contemporary video games, I might say that the second part of this song might work in that genre also. Similarly, "Prism" begins as sludgy atmosphere before eventually evolving into straightforward metal, à la Trans-Siberian Orchestra or Dream Theater, then slows down as a soaring guitar solo, reminiscent at times of David Gilmour, pervades. And most of "Ida" could be a backing track for a neo-prog act like IQ - - until its last minute, which is pure symphonic metal.

The strongest songs here are the opener, "Spiral," and the album-closing pair, the concise "Ida" and the Ozric-invoking "Ellipsis," the latter of which is killer stoner metal, dude.

The middle of the album isn't quite up to the level of the beginning or end, though it's not bad at all. "Axis" is a bit slower and less imaginative than "Spirals," and it sets the stage for the next two songs: the slow-moving "Prism," and "Mass" (apparently featuring Asia guitarist Bumblefoot), a bit of a slog which hardly portends the closing nineteen minutes.

Coincidentally, I consider each of the four 2019 albums I mentioned earlier (from Invernadero, Liquido di Morte, Darsombra, and Ulver) worthy of three stars. Sphere isn't wildly better, but it's clearly deserving of four stars. I'm interested to hear more from Monkey3.


*Full disclosure: I'm not an expert of all things Hawkwind, Floyd, or Ozric; my claims are based on those group's best-known works, or, in the case of Pink Floyd, their output during their psychedelic/space phase.

patrickq | 4/5 |


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