SPHERE OF SOULS - From the Ashes ...
Release Date: 2006-04-21
by: JASON SAGALL metalexpressradio.com
| Sphere of Souls' 13-track debut release, From the Ashes ..., succeeds in bringing its own identity to Progressive Metal. Although the album exhibits intelligence, theme, melody, accuracy, and atmosphere, what it needs to round out its own musical sphere is, ironically, more soul.
Former Sun Caged vocalist Andre Vuurboom wrote the music and lyrics for the album; he also delivered the vocals and played rhythm guitar. Joost van den Broek, also formerly of Sun Caged, co-wrote one track and handled keyboards and all production duties. The remaining line-up includes Kees Harrison (ex-Equinox) on bass, Ruud van Diepen on drums, Rob Cerrone (ex-Imperium) on rhythm guitar, and Anand Mahangoe on lead guitar.
Generally the music is in the vein of Sun Caged. While it tends to show more maturity in terms of composition and arrangement, it lacks the fire of guitarist Marcel Coenen, as exhibited on Sun Caged (2003, Lion Music). Mahangoe shows technical proficiency and gives a basically admirable performance, but in the final analysis, the lead guitar work doesn't quite take charge as it should during the solos. Too much reverb adds to the leads' intangible feel.
Contributing to the overall sterility is Vuurboom's voice, which is comparable in quality, range, and style to Tony Harnell in TNT's post-80s, Pop-flavored years. That is, the approach is on the conservative and light side, with a smooth feel typical of Pop. The vocal melodies are memorable, if you want to remember them. The thin vocal quality, however, may overpower the strong melodic flavor, depending on the individual listener's taste. In any event, the melodies make an impression as a defining characteristic of the music, for better or worse.
The other defining characteristic is the music's atmosphere, which is usually on the dreary side and strangely monolithic, a result of the combination of a congested distortion sound on the guitars, spacey keyboards, and lackluster singing. It all rides a paradoxical line between entrancing and uninteresting. Despite an occasional, uplifting (and rather welcomed) Dream Theater-ism, Sphere of Souls' music may prove to be an acquired taste for most.
Forget about catchy guitar grooves. This is not about grooves. Forget about riffs. If there is virtue to be had here, it is in the atmosphere, melody, and general thematic quality. Think Alan Parsons crossed with Mr. Mister, turned heady Metal. Then give From the Ashes ... a listen.
|Sphere Of Souls - From The Ashes (Lion Music) By: Joe Florez www.live4metal.com
||This is the debut album from six phenomenal Dutch performers who come from other bands that are somewhat famous in their homeland, but not across the Atlantic. It’s obvious that they come from a prog background and continue to play in this vein, but they manage to mix things up to prevent this listening experience from becoming boring. The title track is very beefy in sound, as there are plenty of riffs that are rich and thick and very metallic, but always manage to carry a melody. Keyboardist Joost van den Broek inserts this unique vibe that’s a mix of the ambient, spacey and trippy that gives this album some extra depth and interesting dynamics. Lead vocalist Andre is a good crooner who never goes outside
|of his range. Sure, he hits his high notes, but he’s not obnoxious about it; he wants to hold your interest and not make you want to hit the eject button. The guys don’t hesitate to toss in a ballad early on in this offering. It’s an acoustic number that adds a smooth and calm vibe that comes off as peaceful and tranquil. The more upbeat tracks outweigh the softer material, but it’s all good. It’s very competitive out there to stand out in this genre, but a few things save them. First off, while not the most original band on he planet, they offer variety in their music which includes change ups on a consistent basis, going from mid to slow and back again to keep things fresh. Secondly, the musicianship by everyone is Grade A due to the fact that the guys don’t get overly technical with their material. The drummer is ambidextrous while he strikes his skins hard, but is efficient. The solos on each of the tracks kick ass. This is a no frills band. I expect great things from these lads as time goes on. An impressive debut.
www.lionmusic.com | www.sphereofsouls.com
Sphere Of Souls – From The Ashes… (Lion Music, 21/04/2006)
Impressive debut album from Dutch progmetal band Sphere Of Souls, featuring ex-Sun Caged members André Vuurboom (v, g) and Joost van de Broek (k). The band, six members in total, is completed with virtuoso Anand Mahangoe on lead guitars, Rob Cerrone on rhythm guitars, Kees Harrison on bass and Ruud van Diepen on drums. “From The Ashes…”, a concept album that takes the listener on a journey through the dark, contains 13 tracks ranging from rather ‘atmospheric’ to quite ‘heavy’. Never mind the loss of Sun Caged, because Sphere Of Souls is an excellent (though not always easy to fathom) continuation. Another goodie from our good friends at Lion Music.
Sphere of Souls: From the Ashes
After releasing an incredible debut album with Sun Caged, each member started leaving the band, starting with drummer Dennis Leeflang, followed by Joost van den Broek, and then by vocalist Andre Vuurboom. After a year or so, this was followed by the departure of bassist Rob van der Loo leaving guitarist Marcel Coenen on his own. Each member left in order to go their own way, which resulted in several albums and projects, including Leeflang's work with guitar god Bumblefoot; van der Broek's joining After Forever; Rob van der Loo's releasing his accomplished solo album Characters; and vocalist Andre Vuurboom's forming his new band, Sphere of Souls.
This album has been long in the works, but finding a good label and completing the band's lineup both took time. Basically, Sphere of Souls is Andre Vuurboom's solo project as all songs except one were written by him. Joining Vuurboom is his former Sun Caged bandmate Joost van der Broek on keyboards. Joost has also mixed, recorded and produced this album successfully. On rhythm guitars, there is Rob Cerrone from Vuurboom's first band Imperium; whilst Ruud van Diepen is sitting behind the drums and ex-Autumn Equinox member Kees Harrison is on bass. Last but not least, Anand Mahangoe, noted Dutch axeman, stepped in as a full-time member after laying down his solos from his home studio. Great lineup without a doubt, but what's better is the music they've produced as a unit. Surely, From the Ashes is going to please most (if not all) Sun Caged fans, offering slabs of technicality, with god-heavy rhythms, and thunderous bass lines. However, this album is darker than anything else these guys have done before, marked with beautiful acoustic guitars and atmospheric keyboard effects.
Most of the songs are built upon a solid foundation of crunch-filled guitars and dark synth lines. Add to this the amazing vocals of Andre Vuurboom whom you've never heard like this before. Neither with Imperium nor with Sun Caged, Vuurboom never sounded so expressive and passionate, delivering the lyrics and melodies with heartfelt sincerity. Perhaps this is because he had the freedom to write the most fitting music for himself, but at any rate, this album displays his finest performance to date. At times, I am reminded of the great Ray Alder when I hear certain parts in some of the songs, such as the vocal variations on the title track, a piece complete with a killer guitar and synth interplay; or the entirely acoustic song "Loss" where Vuurboom's voice is absolutely emotive and heart-breaking. Think Fates Warning's Inside Out period where Alder would delve into mesmerizing lower register vocals, the singing on this album comes close to that. I had no idea Vuurboom was such a diverse singer. For example, on the more vocal-based track "No Salvation", he uses his very smooth, almost hypnotic clean voice; while on the super-heavy "Lies Inc." (a bit similar to the song Vuurboom sang on the Freak Neil Inc. album), his vocals range from highly processed, effect-laden passages to nearly growled aggressive type of screams that, considering the insane bass and drum syncopatation and odd-timed guitar chords, recall Meshuggah, only more controlled.
The songs are rich in dynamics, often shifting between chaotic, rapid-fire riffage and calm, soothing keyboard and acoustic sections. And on numbers like "Empty", they even weave some electronic samples into their craft, broadening the scope of their compositions. A similar approach is utilised on the multi-segmented "Beneath the Surface", littered with processed yet ultimately catchy vocal harmonies, shuddering guitar work, and a very soft, tranquil acoustic break with an angelic vocal melody draped over it. "Until Death Do Us Part" belies its melodic roots, opting for a trebly bass bottom, bone-crushing rhythmic angle, and a phenomenal lead solo by Mahangoe. This guy is an amazing player, almost as good as Marcel Coenen. His solos are very well-written and played with impressive restraint. Though all good, the lead attack on "Extinct" has got to be his most emotional work on this album, perhaps also because of the way he is followed by Joost's ethereal synth lead. By the way, kudos to the amazing and personal lyrics on "Room 6" ("The more I want to change, the more I stay the same"); strangely this, too, makes me think of Ray Alder, and I love it.
Not much more needs to be said. This is an outstanding debut, just like the Sun Caged album. Let's hope they stay intact and release their sophmore earlier than their former band (who are said to put it out some time this year). As a final note, From the Ashes is less jazzy than the Sun Caged album, but has more crunch to it that could be likened to Zero Hour and Degree Absolute's heavier songs.
- From the Ashes…
- Sweet Sorrow
- Beneath the Surface
- Until Death Do Us Part
- Room 9
- No Salvation
- Lies Inc.
- Room 6
Added: May 4th 2006
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz www.seaoftranquility.org
Related Link: Sphere of Souls website
Sphere Of Souls - From The Ashes
Lion Music (LMC171)
Rating - 9/10
Review Dougie www.hardrockhouse.com
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, I bet Queensryche and Dream Theater wish they could charge commission from every band they have influenced, that would be worth a bob or two. Sphere Of Souls are yet another band in a long line who draw heavily upon those two bands on this, their debut album. Other names that spring to mind on first listening to ' From The Ashes' are the likes of Rush, Saga Iron Maiden and It Bites.
Given the fact that 'From The Ashes, out via Lion Music, is a concept album, preconceived odds were well and truly against it being anything fabulous, especially as all the members of the band come from other outfits and the press release describes them as the ultimate amalgamation of Dutch prog-metal talent - I wonder what Arjen Lucassen would have to say about that! Luckily the musicality on display is stunning and add to that the fact that I’ve listened to this album at least twelve times and I’m still finding something new and interesting is a testament to how good the song writing is - preconceived ideas out of the window then.
The concept that Sphere Of Souls serves up is all about the human soul and history repeating itself - I think and given the strength of all of the songs on the album it is hard to single any individual track out for praise. That actually may also be for the best as I would recommended that you listen to the album in its entirety as all of the songs are interwoven and definitely works best as one contentious piece of music. A great start and an album that has blown me away, one of the best prog metal debuts ever!
Let us know your views on 'From The Ashes'
From the Ashes
Beneath The Surface
Until Death Do Us Part
André Vuurboom - Vocals/Guitars
Kees Harrison - Bass
Rob Cerrone - Guitars
Anand Mahangoe - Guitars
Joost van den Broek - Keyboards