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The UK progressive metal scene has been dominated by the veterans Threshold who were one of its founders, and are still going strong in the new millennium. Before them there was this amazing act Inner Sanctum who sadly never managed to release a full-length, but their works (demos and an EP) from the late-80’s and early-90’s are a must-have for all lovers of the complex and the intricate. From those old days the name Seer’s Tear comes to mind, a one-album wonder whose only “precious” effort “Precious” (1998) is a fine collection of elaborate doomy hymns. The old-timers Holocaust shouldn’t be forgotten, either, as they changed the rules of the game with the colossal “The Sound of Souls” (1989), and produced a string of strong progressive albums in the 90’s. If we throw in the name of the quirky progressive rock/metallers The Beyond, one of the originators of the math movement, then the picture from the old days seems to be almost complete…
The new millennium brought other talented acts like Spires, Biomechanical, To-Mera, The Thinking Principle, Swords of Dis, Prospekt, Counterhold… and Linear Sphere. The latter are not a very regular presence on the scene the album reviewed here already 13 years old with only one follow-up so far, “Manvantara” (2012). Anyway, the guys are by all means an important part of the progressive metal arena with their multi-layered, labyrinthine tapestries for which one needs to have the patience and the requisite level of comprehension since they are by no means the most digestible listen in the world. “Reversal” is a nearly 11-min long opener which gives freedom to a lengthy ambient intro before heavy doomy guitars start twisting around accompanied by mean raspy vocals and quite proficient leads with a fusion-like aura. Sinister surreal landscapes follow suit the pace remaining slow-ish until jumpier more dynamic jazziness ala Cynic in the middle. “Father Pyramid” has an atmospheric riff-driven opening, but the creepy macabre moments commence before long their psychotic serpentine nature recalling Psychotic Waltz and the 90’s works of Holocaust, a quiet lead-driven passage alleviating the dense oppressing atmosphere. “Ceremony Master” is a vortex-like shredder which carries on with the bleak sceneries with bigger assistance from the bass player and more jazzy/funky additives the latter also bringing more dynamic sections, the virtuous leads the only “light in the tunnel” with the vocals becoming even meaner and more vicious strangely recalling the ultimate banshee in metal, the Living Death vocalist Torsten Bergman, only lower-pitched, of course.
“Division Man” is served with a more dramatic pounding edge, but the suggestive doomy configurations emerge later to make this piece an unnerving minimalistic dirge until a surprising faster-paced stroke dissipates the “darkness” for a bit. “Marketing” is an essential tool for all marketing professionals… kidding of course, but its balladic inauguration stretches to whole 4-min before the staple heavy seismic rhythm-section takes over giving way to more energetic technical appearances which completely vanish on the following “Life of Gear”, a fusion-like pacifier which contribution to the more energetic side of the genre arrives in the form of jarring, scratchy riffs that can be bypassed by some due to their momentary, ephemeral application. “From Space to Time”, apart from being one of the longest closers in metal history clocking on nearly half an hour, is an appetizingly dynamic offering with plenty of nuances covered throughout also giving quite a bit of room to the lead guitarist to exhibit his skills; expect the obligatory balladic digressions, the more aggressive riff “salads”, some really surprising attached clean singing (this guy can actually sing!) which should definitely be used more frequently, and stylish djent-like chugs with echoes of Meshuggah.
A very diverse, unpredictable listen that may not find its fans from the less patient side of the audience who may also not appreciate the seeming lack of faster-paced moments. Its consistently dark tone gives it a somewhat doomy “halo” also binding it with the exploits of Zero Hour the two bands separated by the more regular use of the jazz/funk gimmicks here, and the marginally more virtuoso-prone utilization of the lead sections. The ominous vocal bravado is another characteristic feature which merits are debatable as the more pronounced singing on the last composition nearly turns into a highlight showing how more dramatic and compelling the musical delivery can become with more passionate performance behind the mike. And the band were taking notes apparently as on the sequel “Manvantara” the more passionate vocals are much more prominently featured working just fine with the more dynamic musical approach, and this adjusted combination may be the better option for some. Progressive metal has a very strong representative in the face of this original outfit whose descends upon the scene are not very frequent, but surely keep their competition alert of any unheralded non-linear visitations from their camp.