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I remember being in a merry frame of mind when I bought this back in 1993, because the previous album 'Testimony of the Ancients' had presented me this fantastic, atmospheric death metal band. The cover promised a lot, continuing in the vein of the precursor, with familiar spheres. I got home and sticked the CD into the player. I had one thought about this when the album was playing: "What the fuck?????!!!!" Pestilence had moved onwards, a lot. But for me, it was too much: technical jazzy space metal was their thing now. I never got into the album when it came out, and sold it after a few weeks or months. Roll over a few years, and in the late 1990s, I had the chance to pick it up for a very cheap price, and thought to give it a second chance. After all, my music collection had expanded from safe styles to something more adventurous. Who knows, 'Spheres' might have left a seed of alteration in my brain, which took effect later, because 'Spheres' sounded partly awesome, partly way too much out there.
'Spheres' is not a regular CD player visitor. This is not an easy-listening album. You just don't listen to it in the background. 'Spheres' can sound totally crap when not given full attention. Hmmm, so what's left of the Pestilence of the yore? Guitarist Patrick Mameli's vocals are agonized and guttural, think of mixture of Kreator's Mille Petrozza and former Pestilence throat Martin Van Drunen. There's some great double bass drum work and a few riffs are still death metal in style. But that's it, basically. Sometimes the band go through hazy space (prog) rock, then they find themselves in a pink fairyland. Then again, there are unexplored black holes with extreme powers, too and they are a majority on this album. So, it's really not a fluffy ride, mind you.
The rhythm guitar tone is obscure, blurry, and it's not heavy at all. The lead guitar work usually goes through guitar synthesizers, which are used a lot. Plus, all the guitar synths (no keyboards are used at all on this platter, by the way) are a bit "wicked", to say at least, not many clear melody runs. More like random, but still, not. Twisting yet wonderful rhythms do not make this any clearer. It's all very technical and not in usual easy songwriting style, sometimes working against it. Still, if and when one can get into the songs, and when it happens, this is a joyous adventure! Lyrically, 'Spheres' move in inner space, all the lyrics are written by the drummer Marco Foddis.
Usually, this is perversely satisfying. This is a difficult album for me. Some days I might praise it and some days not. You should give it a spin and see, whether you want to take the challenge it offers or not. After the great 'Testimony of the Ancients', 'Spheres' was a too big step, for both the band and the fans. This should have been released under a different name, I think. But, I heartily think it deserves the score I'm giving it, because as I already mentioned, this is a joyous adventure on the right day and a very unique album.
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2008)