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(67:49 / Sensory Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Sceptic 6:31 2. Being 2:31 3. The Inner Quest 5:37 4. Neptune's Revenge 6:59 5. Stormy Dome 1:32 6. World Of Madness 7:06 7. End Of Trauma 9:28 8. Heal My Pain 7:06 9. Questions 3:49 10. The Key 10:25 11. Black Meteria 6:38 LINEUP: Vince Benaim - guitars John Drai - bass Nico Muller - drums Franck Garcia - vocals Fred Colombo - keyboards
Prolusion. SPHERIC UNIVERSE EXPERIENCE (SUE from now on, not to be confused with the familiar variant of Suzanne:-) hails from France, though the band members' names suggest they're rather from Switzerland where Frenchmen, Germans and Italians live side by side, or even from the United States, because one of the musicians has a Spanish name. "Anima" is their second official release, following "Mental Torments" from three years ago.
Analysis. The term "classic Prog-Metal" is usually associated with Dream Theater, which overall suits my personal vision of the matter too, though with a couple of reservations. In my honest opinion, Dream Theater personifies classic modern Prog-Metal with a strong symphonic sense, which automatically implies a wide application of keyboards (which in turn distinguishes that band from the likes of Mercyful Fate / King Diamond, Fates Warning, Voivod and Watchtower, all of whom began playing intricate heavy guitar-driven music before them). If I were about to be as brief as possible, I'd say I've just given you an idea of what you can expect from "Anima" by SUE. The Dream Theater influence is obvious in much of their music, though it is really striking for the most part only within the vocal sections, since singer Franck Garcia's approach has a lot in common with James LaBrie, his non-accented English intensifying the impression that SUE is an international collective. Other than that (kind of omnipresent) influence, there is really nothing to blame here. Three of the eleven tracks on the CD are instrumentals, one of which, Stormy Dome, is a serene keyboards-laden piece, as also is the song Questions. I don't think there is a necessity to list all of the other tracks, as they are much in the same vein, possessing virtually all the qualities that symphonic Prog-Metal is famed for. The band is strong all round, appearing to be in every respect on a par with their mighty mentors. Each of the players is a highly proficient musician whose performance is excellent in terms of virtuosity and precision alike, their technical fireworks never leaving a sense of being ostentatious. That said, Vince Benaim and Fred Colombo (who are the primary songwriters in SUE) are both clever prog-metal thinkers, as it is mainly due to their efforts that the band doesn't completely fall into the category of direct followers of Dream Theater, having kept a certain identity to their sound in most of the purely instrumental arrangements. Vince's guitar techniques embraces various metal influences, NWBHM included; Fred's keyboard work is not monochromatic either: just lend an ear to his piano on Black Meteria or World Of Madness - there are quite a few light jazz flavorings on both. Curiously, atmospherically symphonic landscapes can be found on each of the last five tracks, while of the first four songs (just songs), well, none allows the listener to relax.
Conclusion. The high quality of the compositions and the performance makes "Anima" one of the best Dream Theater-stylized creations released over the last two years. There is plenty here to pique the interest of both tried symphonic prog-metal adherents and newly initiated as well. Recommended.
VM: September 19, 2007
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