Spheric Universe Experience—Anima (2007)

Spheric Universe Experience—Anima (2007)

Spheric Universe Experience—Anima (2007)

Details

Recorded and mixed by Charles Massabo. Mastered by Tommy Hansen at Jailhouse Studios, Denmark. Drums and bass recorded at Coxinhell Studio, St-Aygulf, France (June to July 2006). Guitars, keyboards and vocals recorded at Kallaghan Studio, Vence, France (July to August 2006). Produced by Spheric Universe Experience.

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Band

  • Franck Garcia—Vocals
  • Vince Benaim—Guitars
  • John Drai—Bass
  • Fred Colombo—Keyboards and English voice on “Being” (track 2) and “The inner quest” (track 3)
  • Ranko Muller—Drums

Additional musicians

  • Ludovic Phiriet-Arcaleni—Italian voice on “Neptune’s revenge” (track 4)
  • Carmen López—Spanish voice on “World of madness” (track 6)
  • Yo Ishikawa—Japanese male voice on “Heal my pain” (track 8)
  • Aurélia Borg—Japanese female voice on “Heal my pain” (track 8)

Tracks

  1. Sceptic
  2. Being
  3. The inner quest
  4. Neptune’s revenge
  5. Stormy dome (instrumental)
  6. World of madness
  7. End of trauma
  8. Heal my pain
  9. Questions
  10. The key
  11. Black materia

Review

Anima is the second (of currently four) full-length album from French prog metallers Spheric Universe Experience (SUE).

Theirs is a very Dream Theater-influenced flavour of progressive metal, complete with soaring vocals, complex time signatures, retro keyboard flourishes, and John Petrucci-style guitar chops. Other than Franck Garcia’s vocals which are quite noticably not those of James LaBrie, on first listen you could easily be mistaken that you are listening to DT.

Curiously, this is one of the few French bands that I’ve heard who sing in English rather than French.

I’ve listened to this album a number of times now and I can’t really fault it: the songwriting is great, the songs are complex and beautifully performed, the production if first class. But… it just sounds so derivative. To my ear, there is little that makes Spheric Universe Experience stand out as much more than French Dream Theater Experience.

Conclusion

If you are a Dream Theater fan then there is a very good chance you will enjoy this album. I can’t help think that this could be something more. But as it is, it is still something rather good.

Review score: 80%

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Small—No Power Without Control EP (2006)

Small—No Power Without Control EP (2006)

Small—No Power Without Control EP (2006)

Details

Produced by SMALL. Engineered and mixed by Francis Caste. Mastered by Allan Douches at West West Side Studio, New York City.

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Band

  • Tersim Backle—Vocals
  • Wanted—Guitars
  • Psychiatric Ward—Bass
  • Unknown—Drums

Tracks

  1. Forlorn
  2. Few drops
  3. Stray highway
  4. Wild child
  5. Influence(s)
  6. Entwined mind

Review

It’s funny how an album cover can influence your expectations of what it might sound like. This cover is white, simple, sparse with what looks like a few droplets of water on the front, and now with added fractals on the back cover. I wasn’t expecting much from the EP, to be honest.

No power without control, the only release from French metallers Small, is very much in the ballpark of Philip H Anselmo-fronted groove metal bands Pantera and Superjoint (formerly Superjoint Ritual) and I daresay is a little more consistent than the latter. Guitars and drums are tight, the bass skips along distinctively behind, and Tersim Backle’s vocals are voiced gruffly but there is depth and character to them. It all comes together very nicely.

The EP opens powerfully (and, I guess, if the title is to be believed, then also controllably) with “Forlorn” (track 1) that features a bouncing, tick-tocking riff that recurs throughout the song. The riff morphs and adapts throughout the track adding interest and variety. It’s an impressive opening.

“Few drops” (track 2) kicks off with bass and drums before a flurry of ranting vocals powers the song forward. Behind it the guitars start and stop creating space. Things slow down for a very latter-day Pantera-style riff. This is good stuff.

“Stray highway” (track 3) opens with white noise, and a slightly distorted, picked six-note riff. The song doesn’t have the same strong hooks as the first two, and is quite progressive in its rambling journey but it’s still a good track.

“Wild child” (track 4) features an interesting bendy riff that gives way to a ‘machine-gun’ riff that then morphs into a kind of metal-ska bouncing riff that powers you through the song.

“Influence(s)” (track 5) dances about for a bit with a call and answer-style riff. Then power. Barking vocals. And a twisting and turning riff that goes in stops and starts.

The final song, “Entwined mind” (track 6) has perhaps the most melodic vocals of any of the tracks on this EP, and again uses a very bouncy, almost ska-style riff that slows down and digs in every now and then into a ticking riff.

Conclusion

I’m impressed. This is one of those releases that I wish that I’d discovered months ago, simply so that I could choose to listen to it more.

It is undoubtedly influenced by Pantera and Superjoint but it is certainly not the poorer for that. In the absence of any new releases from either this is a welcome addition to my collection.

Review score: 98%

Hypnosis—Shadoworld (1999)

Hypnosis—Shadoworld (1999)

Hypnosis—Shadoworld (1999)

Details

Recorded and mixed by Fred Foulquier in March 1999 at Studio Le Phare, Merignac, France. Produced by Fred Foulquier and Hypnosis. Released on Black Lotus Records, 1999.

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Band

  • Cindy Goloubkoff—Guitars and vocals
  • Pierre Bouthemy—Guitars and vocals
  • Patrice Abila—Bass

Tracks

  1. Scars
  2. Introspection
  3. Dreaming
  4. Frozen shadows
  5. Fear in your eyes
  6. Garden of delights
  7. Dead souls
  8. Alone in your head
  9. Scapegoat
  10. Ashes left behind

Review

Another late review. A combination of returning to work after a three week break, but mostly because I bought Soulfly’s last two albums and found myself listening to them back-to-back on repeat (Last.fm reports 171 tracks played in the last seven days).

On my first listen through I didn’t really connect with this album; probably another reason that I’ve delayed writing a review. Giving it a second listen… I’m no closer to liking it, unfortunately. But I can’t exactly put my finger on why.

Or at least I can but I can’t quite put it into words. This album draws together various sub-genres of metal that I, if not avoid, certainly don’t entertain. It’s almost like folky pop-metal.

Conclusion

There is the odd riff or solo here or there that I quite enjoy. It’s not that any of it bad per se. It’s just that it’s not to my taste. It’s like, I could drink a can of fizzy Vimto if that is all that was left and I was thirsty enough, but generally I don’t even notice it on the shelves in the shop.

Review score: 55%

Hantaoma—Malombra (2005)

Hantaoma—Malombra (2005)

Hantaoma—Malombra (2005)

Details

Recorded in Spring 2005 at Abellion Studio and Winterized Studio. Mixed and mastered at Winterized Studio by Thomas and Lafforgue. Released on Holy Records, May 2005.

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Band

  • Arixon—Vocals
  • Roques—Vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, fiddle, bouzouki, mandolin
  • Lafforgue—Vocals, electric guitars, shawm, bombarde, flutes, bagpipes
  • Deinos—Bass
  • Thomas—Drums

Tracks

  1. Vent Follet 04:29
  2. Malombra 04:03
  3. Hantaoma 04:22
  4. Maluros 04:36
  5. La Ronda dels Mòrts 06:38
  6. Para lo Lop 04:13
  7. Cançon dels Segaires 04:06
  8. Negra Sason 04:14
  9. A la Montanha 02:19
  10. Flama 07:32

Review

So, this past week I’ve learned that Hantaoma is Gascon for ‘ghost’, and is actually pronounced fantauma, and that Gascon itself is a dialect of Occitan, a Romance language that is spoken predominantly in Gascony and Béarn in southwest France. School lesson over, back to the metal…

Having listened to this album a good number of times over the last week I still can’t quite decide whether I like it or not. My interest in folk metal has for a long time started and stopped at Skyclad,—particularly the first album which is simply folk-thrash genius—and to be honest has not gone much beyond that. I have a few The Clan Destined tracks (Martin Walkyier’s band after Skyclad) and, of course, Splinterskin but nothing more. And it’s not that I don’t like folk music per se, I have plenty of folk-related music (Richard Thompson, Jethro Tull, Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, Hedningarna), it’s just … *shrugs*

There are moments on this album  that I do appreciate, but as I write this I now realise that I’m on track seven already and I can’t quite remember what’s happened  so far. A bit like when you’re driving and you suddenly realise that you can’t remember the last five miles.

There are so good, solid metal riffs such as during opener “Vent Follet” and “Hanaoma” (track 3) but about half way the traditional folk instruments kick in and that’s where I start to screw up my face a little. It’s not that it doesn’t go well with the music… it’s just *shrugs* at times it has a tendency of sounding like something from Fiddler on the Roof.

Ironically, my favourite track on the album is an acoustic one, and possibly the one that sounds most like a folk song. “Negra Sason” (track 8) has quite a rumbling Russian feel. Or as my son Isaac (4) put it, “that sounds like when the [The Hobbit movie] dwarves are throwing the things”.

Conclusion

And so, having listened through once again I’m still in two minds about the album. It’s definitely not something that I would switch off if it came on but I’m not sure I’d go in search of it unless asked.

That said, that may well be a possibility give that my son Joshua (6) has just told me that he gives the album a full 10/10. His younger brother and I (despite the dwarves throwing things) give it a (still respectable) six.

Review score: 60%

Happy Face—Le Tigre (2005)

Happy Face—Le Tigre (2005)

Happy Face—Le Tigre (2005)

Details

Produced by Happy Face. Engineered. mixed and mastered by Benoit Brionne. Recorded October–November 2004 at Newdream Studios, Descartes, France. Released on Anticulture Records Ltd, 2004.

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Band

  • Guillaume Duhau—Vocals
  • David Tisserand—Guitar
  • Alexis Hadefi—Bass
  • Julien Rahami —Drums

Tracks

  1. Prophétie des fouines
  2. Le tigre
  3. Close the door
  4. Wrugh
  5. Jupiter
  6. Chat
  7. Poudre de perlinpinpin
  8. Finito perfecto
  9. Le long (version courte)
  10. Round un
  11. Sakade
  12. Machine à coudre
  13. Jazzy night (for ever)
  14. Velour

Review

When I pulled Happy Face from my shelves this time last week, judging on the name alone I really wasn’t expecting it to be the (English) name of a French death metal/grindcore band. Let it never be said that the metal community has no sense of humour or that the French don’t understand irony.

Having slid the CD into my PC’s optical drive I then had to decide what software to use to rip it to MP3. I’ve been a longtime user of WinAmp, but it’s in transition just now waiting for a new version to be released and the Gracenote music database look-up feature has expired. So for the first half of the week I’ve been using Apple iTunes, and for the second half the rather splendid Music Bee. If I could be bothered and I had the requisite programming skills I would definitely write my own music player as I’ve really not found anything that meets my needs anywhere close to 80%, let alone 100%. If you are a Windows user, what do you use? Leave me a comment, please.

Anyway, let me pretend that I’ve found my ideal music player, put on my happy face and return to un visage heureux

All grindcore albums are inevitably going to be compared to a certain West Midlands metal band at one point or another… and on my first play through of this album Happy Face definitely put me in mind of Napalm Death, early Fear Factory such as Concrete (1991). And Stormtroopers of Death: “Wrugh” (track 5) sounds inspired in part by the Milano mosh!

There isn’t much variation to this album, to be honest. The whole album lasts a little under 25 minutes, and it’s one blast-beaten slab of staccato-ed grindcore after the next. This is the kind of extreme music I used to listen to a lot more as a teenager.

The guitars sound very down-tuned (many of the tracks riff along a low B: 7-string guitar, maybe?). There aren’t solos as such, just the occasional squeak and squeal. It’s a very bass-y sounding album, and very rhythmic: organically industrial sounding, if that’s not too much of a contradiction.

The vocals are gutteral, like Spike Milligan’s Goon Show character ‘Throat’! With the odd scream thrown in for good measure. You can’t really make out any of the lyrics; well, I can’t. They may be in English, the cover booklet doesn’t give it away, either. Although given that the liner notes are all in English it’s a good guess.

Conclusion

What more is there to say? It’s a darn heavy album in the genre-ballpark of Napalm Death. I dare say if you like them then you’ll like this too.

I liked the album. I’m not ecstatic about it, but it’s a quality album, well recorded, well written, and interesting enough without becoming entirely formulaic or predictable.

Review score: 70%

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